Hitting the Wall
Preventing Burnout in Our Industry
By Donna Dodier
I believe our industry is spectacular and unique. It’s a relaxing social atmosphere, an often life-changing emotional one-on-one connect where we create relaxing journeys for strangers and friends alike. It is always evolving, changing, and bringing forth new cutting-edge innovations to help society look their best, feel refreshed the experience the euphoric feeling of relaxation at its finest.
As our busy season arrives, our work environment becomes demanding and chaotic. Spreading ourselves too thin for too long may cause us to reach a destructive point that is very damaging not only to ourselves, but to our clients, the spa, and fellow staff members.
To understand the term “Burnout,” Wikipedia defines it in two ways: Burnout is a type of psychological stress. Occupational burnout, or job burnout, is characterized by exhaustion, lack of enthusiasm and motivation, feelings of ineffectiveness, and also may have the dimension of frustration or cynicism, and as a result, reduced efficacy within the workplace.
What causes an individual to get to the point of mental and physical exhaustion depends on many factors. Every person handles work overload and stressful situations differently. If your absolutely happy and balanced both at work and in your personal life, that is the best of both worlds. Unfortunately this is not always the norm. Learning “Life Balance” is imperative in achieving a fulfilled sense of well being. We cannot always be happy shiny people, but we can recognize our limitations, embrace our strengths, work on our weaknesses, and set boundaries.
The Chosen Ones
Who is most susceptible to hitting the wall? Typically, it is the most dedicated, excessively ambitious, most professional, and highly motivated individuals who often experience this crash. They have to prove not only to themselves, but to their fellow employees and management that they can do it all, taking on many tasks, executing them to perfection. While being professional, motivated, positive, and dedicated are all desirable qualities in our industry, the “work-life” balance must be present to create a healthy workplace atmosphere. If just one individual within your business experiences exhaustion, its effects can impact the entire team.
Situations that can cause an entire staff structure to weaken may be subtle, may not specifically lead to collapse, but can negatively alter the strength of your team. Such issues that warrant noticing are -colds/flu/injuries or a “sick” staff, causing “extra” workload for the others, continuously being short staffed, lack of efficient delegation, confusion of employees roles and responsibilities, negative competition, jealousy, drama, lack of organization, repetitive injury syndrome (ligament and muscle fatigue from repetitive motions such as filing the feet, buffing nails, massaging etc), limited or inconsistent staff meetings, staff negativity, pressure from higher ups. It’s important to remember that crashing can be either mental, physical, or many times, both.
Happy Employees + Happy Clients = Success
We work, we please, we tire. Repeat. Repeat. Day to day. Like the Duracell battery bunny. Even though we are surrounded by melodic dreamy music, enveloped in the heavenly scents of essential oils, and presented with a beautiful spa décor to work within every day, it is still a job, it is work, and our goal is client satisfaction. We are the fix it dream team offering solutions for individuals with tired aching bodies, aging tired skin, and all the little petty dislikes of their looks they want replenished. That’s pressure, not to mention how we also absorb a client’s energy, whether it be negative or uplifting. By day’s end, that’s a lot of emotion that has accumulated and passed onto us. We are indirectly psychiatrists, peacemakers, dream weavers to the outside world coming in. When we are not strong and healthy, we cannot possibly be a success in the profession we aspire to.
It is everyone’s responsibility within the spa to recognize that we are human first and foremost. We falter, we make mistakes. It is how you handle situations that make the difference. Management, as well, is not invincible or immune to stress or mental exhaustion. When management feels overwhelmed it is a challenge to efficiently lead with energy and passion and it will come full circle, having a trickle-down effect. A business cannot be “healthy,” so to speak, if the core (the staff) or management is not.
Recognize the problems, stop them in their tracks, create solutions for yourself, management and staff. Like a ship…if a few gears are overworking and sustaining heavy burdens to a point of collapse, it can ultimately stop the entire ship from sailing. All parts must be oiled, work synergistically, and no few parts should carry the weight of many or it will cause a total shutdown. Think of three words-Balance, Harmony, Synergy- all working beautifully for the common goal. Happy Employees, Happy Staff. Happy Clients.
The Red Flags
For upper management, such as directors and spa managers, the emotional aspect of burnout is greater. They deal with daily conflicts, complaints, balancing the budgets, driving revenue, maintaining, and keeping day-to-day operations running smoothly, multi-tasking, putting out fires, and problem solving.
Typically for therapists, it is a physical burnout that appears first which leads to a drained mental capacity down the road. Therapists will exhibit different initial symptoms, such as short temperament, arriving late, appearing disheveled and unkempt, feelings of resentment towards others, feeling under-appreciated, depressed, anti-social, and withdrawn. Below are universal red flags for everyone.
Chronic fatigue – may start with lack of energy then move on to feeling absolutely drained
Concentration Issues – Cannot Focus, becoming forgetful, the workload or “to do” lists piles up
Cannot Sleep/Insomnia– Starts off slow but leads to lack of sleep for days in a row
Health Symptoms -Anxiety, Heart Palpitations, Gastrointestinal Issues, Low Immune System/ Sick all the time
Physical Health – Therapists often feel muscle aches or repetitive injury strains
Appetite – You over eat to satisfy a void or do not eat because of lack of desire OR lack of time
Behavioral Changes– Not happy, quick to snap, angry, aggressive, defensive, listless
Solutions – Give It Value
“Identify your problems, but give your power and energy to solutions.” Tony Robbins
My father always made statements when I was younger that I still apply today to my life. One in particular has always resurfaced “If you still have solutions and still have options, you’re okay, when you run out of both then start to worry.”
Giving power and positive re-enforcement to the solution (not the problem) gives us empowerment. Negativity flourishes in many circles of our society, don’t ever let the enemy take hold or let it enter the spa. Remember that the issues of burnout or crashing in our industry has early signs and is very real. Do not ignore them, sweep it under the rug, or toss aside. It will hurt you in the end. Stop the fire at the spark. Here are key components to staying balanced in the spa workplace to possibly help prevent work stress and imbalances.
Oxygen and Deep Breathing –Cleansing breaths oxygenate our body tissues and can be exercised anywhere. We have a habit of shallow breathing and just changing this every day can give you energy and better health
Nutrition for Sustainable Energy– Sugar is an absolute culprit to many diseases and weakens our immune system causing susceptibility to viruses and bacteria to invade and strike (Colds and Flu). Sugar also initially spikes our levels only to drop lower than we began causing a mini sugar crash. Having low blood sugar will create lack of energy for the therapists. Eat proteins, nuts, fruits, yogurts. Smaller snacks throughout the day for sustained energy. Having sugar highs and lows added with stress taxes the adrenal glands, which are supposed to balance the bodies stress mode. Adrenal fatigue is fired by releasing too much cortisol (stress hormone). This is the fright and flight mode. Too much of the ups and downs taxes your stress response mode and is a vicious cycle which effects the health of these glands.
Hydration– Staying hydrated is imperative. It helps lessen headaches, keeps our joints and muscles lubricated, releases toxins. Water is best. Juices have way too much sugar. Coffee is too stimulating. Coffee actually dehydrates the body. Try to limit coffee. Although it has antioxidant properties, adding the sugar, creams and chocolate syrups cancels its benefits. Try a green smoothie juice with some fiber like flaxseeds for energy.
Holding Staff Meetings –No matter how short or long, be sure to have consistent manager / staff meetings. Discuss issues, stay positive, create effective thoughtful problem solving, show appreciation and gratitude. Address small issues before they grow into large obstacles you can never recover from
Communication – Expressing to the staff that working together is important. Keeping respectful communication open is healthy for any relationship in life. If any staff member feels they cannot openly discuss issues, problems or situations then that wall of communication causes internal breakdown and with that, evolving mini circles of cliques, chatter, gossip.
Here Comes Trouble – There are the peacekeepers and the troublemakers. There are always potential employees that interview perfectly to only later disrupt the peaceful flow of the spa. Quarterly evaluations can open discussion of bad behavior and possibly letting go of the non-compliant. Keeping those personalities/individuals will only cause resentment from your “core” staff.
Being Noticed – Show appreciation by giving little notes, buying lunches, offering services, offering healthy snacks in the lunch area, recognizing that your “core” people are the heart of the spa. They are the blood that runs through it. Without them, there would be no services to offer. The worst feeling in any relationship within the workplace or home life is to be unappreciated, not respected, not valued. When someone is appreciated for what they do, it comforts the soul, uplifts, inspires, and gives them purpose.
Balance Schedules Wisely- Many spas have break / lunch policies, but do they follow them? Many believe they DON’T need breaks. Massage Therapists’ physical workload gets heavy and quality is lessened by the 8th massage. If that therapist continues this workload for too long, bye-bye wonderful therapist. An esthetician’s extremely long day without a break could result in an eyebrow wax mishap, a nail technician’s arm could slip from repetitive actions of filing the feet only to scrape or bruise the ankle. Over-tired, exhausted technicians are disasters waiting to happen- and every so often a lawsuit. On another note, a bad review spreads faster than 20 great reviews. It sad but true. Some can handle more than others, although everyone needs to occasionally step away to regroup, re-nourish, and refresh.
Take Vacations-They are there to use. They are needed. Shut the phones and computers off. Re-Energize, Re-Focus, Relax.
Suggestion Boxes – At staff meetings, some are shy and not as vocal as others, but they want to be heard. They may feel uncomfortable about mentioning issues that are causing stress in the workplace. Spas offer anonymous survey forms for their clients. Why not have them for staff? These forms must have respectful comments/answers. Management may see a trend in an issue that may not otherwise have been presented.
Bullying – It happens. I have witnessed it in our industry. All staff must feel comfortable reporting any form of bullying. The stress and mental anguish/ burnout from the effects of bullying is real. Bullying can be as subtle as gossiping behind one’s back, making the person feel uncomfortable, unworthy, and unappreciated. This leads to the person being bullied to try to over please the others who like them. They over compensate. It’s tiring.
Creating balance in the workplace is often a challenge, but can be accomplished when all people involved recognize each other’s different personalities, limitations of physical workload, and goals. We are all unique in our capacities. Addressing this will help to prevent the possibility of our hitting the wall of exhaustion. Staying nutritionally balanced, physically healthy, and mentally focused will lead us to the path of personal success, happiness, and self worth within an industry that ultimately would be non-existent without us.
“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life” – Marc Anthony
Donna Dodier – Baby Foot Peel – Account Executive
Licensed esthetician 16 years, educator, writer, lecturer, and consultant on the subjects of LED Photo Rejuvenation, Infrared Body Treatments, spa retail management and wellness. An HSN co-host and frequent Health Talk Radio guest, Ms. Dodier’s passion for animal and human longevity continually inspires her in the research to promote and educate on nutraceuticals and holistic alternatives.
Contact Donna at email@example.com