IS YOUR MIND LIKE A TORTURE CHAMBER DURING THIS PANDEMIC, ZAPPING YOUR CREATIVITY AND TAKING YOU DOWN?
I have been a hairstylist for 47 years. And in that time have been in many stressful situations.
We all have.
But since the pandemic hit, I have experienced a whole new level of stress, anxiety and emotions. And I know I am not alone.
This pandemic has robbed both life and quality of life.
I can tell you personally that my emotional state has been like a roller coaster. One day I am hopeful, then the next could be gloom and doom…although really nothing has specifically changed to sway me either way!
Then I had an epiphany about something… I asked myself:
What scene was my own mind playing out?
What was my internal dialogue?
When was I most prone to going down that dark path?
What triggered the dark thoughts?
I was, at times, turning my mind into a torture chamber…ALLOWING MY THOUGHTS TO OVER TAKE MY EMOTIONS…not realizing that I alone had the power to escape.
I remembered something I read years ago by a prominent author,
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as WE are.” -Anaïs Nin
So we see things through our own filter, be it negative or positive. (hence, the half full or half empty glass)
SO I AM NOW FOCUSING ON MY MIND, what it sees, what it thinks, what it eats…as a means of emotional survival.
“I have known a great many troubles, most of which never happened.” – Mark Twain
Ugh…the places we allow our thinking to go, worrying about things that mostly won’t ever happen.
HERE ARE THE 7 STEPS I’VE USED TO OVERCOME THESE NEGATIVE EMOTIONS AND TAKE CONTROL OF MY MIND
Step 1 – Breathe
We all know that when we fly if there is a change in cabin pressure you put on your oxygen mask first before putting it on your child, so you can best help them. The opposite would be our knee jerk reaction. Unless you are breathing properly you can’t operate at 100%.
I started reading articles about breathing because I noticed my breathing was quicker and shallower. My worried thoughts were constricting my breath and causing me to be more anxious.
At times I felt my heart racing, especially when I was overwhelmed with keeping my staff and clients safe. I did not want my clients to sense my anxiety, because that would add to their anxiety from being in the salon with other people.
I’ve been an equestrian since childhood…I know very well if you get scared or anxious while you are on your horse, the horse feels it immediately and responds by becoming anxious, too!
The trainer will then shout out to the rider, “BREATHE”!
You must take breathing breaks throughout your workday to get out from behind your mask and get some much needed fresh air into your lungs.
So here are a few steps to relaxing your breath…
Go outside or to a room you can be alone to be able to remove your mask.
Inhale a deep breath for 4 seconds, and exhale that breath slowly for 8 seconds…I close my eyes to block out any distractions.
I think of a scene that relaxes me even more, for me I think about my favorite time of day as the sun is setting over the farm where I board my horse.
It could be imagining a scene at the beach, or anyplace that makes you smile or relax.
You are re-setting your mind by replacing a negative image or thought with a positive one.
NEVER LET YOUR THOUGHTS OVERTAKE YOUR EMOTIONS.
Do this several times until you feel your heart rate relaxing.
Do some stretching to relax your entire body.
You can find many online stretches that you can do from a standing position to open your chest and to facilitate deeper breathing.
I first close my eyes and turn my head from one side to the other slowly while breathing. Then up and down.
Sometimes just standing up straight and placing both hands on my head, breathing deeply and opening up my chest, will help right away.Then just placing my hands on my hips and bending from the waist from the left side to the right side while deep breathing, then twisting from the waist from left to right while breathing also help to give me a quick fix.
Step 2 – Limit The Amount of News You Watch
So many news channels strive on sensationalism, bad news, and negative images.
They survive by getting high ratings because they can sell their ad space. They tend to exaggerate the news to keep more viewers engaged.
During Covid I felt held captive by all the horrible news. A constant diet of bad news was getting me into a funk!
But I still wanted to keep informed, and not bury my head in the sand. The answer, start by limiting the amount of news you watch or read PER DAY…and choose your news programs carefully.
Also, limit your “bad news” conversations with your clients. Yes, they all want to weigh in on their thoughts and experiences during the pandemic, but then guide the conversation elsewhere…like how about about their hair?
Recommend change to lift their spirits, or talk about new products or techniques to engage them into a fresh conversation, keeping it positive…after all they are there for their hair!
Consider this; outside of work stop discussing the bad news all day. Not that you shouldn’t discuss it at all, of course we need to process all this info by discussing it with those whom opinions we respect and value.
Be very selective about whom you choose to discuss the pandemic, the violence, and politics with. You don’t need to be drawn into an argument.
No one ever won me over with an argument, but intelligent fair discussion is healthy…but again not all day long.
And certainly not before bedtime!
It will disrupt your sleep, and SLEEP is so important to our health.
GET PLENTY OF SLEEP!
Step 3 – Laugh
We’ve all heard laughter is the best medicine, but did you know that line actually comes from a scripture in the Old Testament?
In fact it’s from the book of Proverbs which focuses on wisdom.
“A merry heart does good like a medicine”. -Proverbs 17:22
According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter is a powerful form of stress relief and has profound psychological and physiological benefits.
It actually increases endorphins released by the brain and decreases your stress response, alleviating tension.
After dinner on our down time, my husband and I replaced the news by renting comedies…in our case mostly romantic comedies.
We also limited movies that had a lot of violence due to the fact there was, and is, so much violence going on everyday in the world.
Even dramatic films and tv shows are now less appealing because with EVERYONE’S emotions running at an all time high I didn’t need to watch anyone else’s drama play out…so that cut out any reality shows which continued to feed that negativity that I wanted to eliminate.
I’m not saying we should all live under a rock. I don’t, in fact I live in New York which always runs on high anxiety and a fast frenetic pace. My choice is to remove the EXCESS waste that is taking up space in my head and adding to the anxiety of the pandemic.
Let’s hold on to whatever sense of humor we have, and remember…
LEVITY IS GOOD MEDICINE!
Step 4 – Remove Toxic People From Your Life
I actually use this example in my E Book, “How to Rise Above Drama in the Salon”…
Picture yourself standing on a chair, and someone is standing on the ground next to that chair. Take that persons hand in yours, and try to pull them up onto the chair you are on, just using your one hand. Pretty hard to do.
Now take their hand again, and this time ask them to pull you down off the chair you are on, onto the ground they are standing on.
Pretty easily done.
The lesson: it’s easier to pull someone down than to lift them up!
So it is with negative people, they have an easy time dragging people into their toxic negativity while it is so difficult to take that person and lift them up to where you are…IF you are that positive person.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to lift them up, but after a while you’ll know if it’s a losing battle.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH LIGHT HEARTED, POSITIVE, KIND PEOPLE…that will help lift you up when you have a dark moment, and vice versa.
My advise, if you become part of a conversation at work, and certain co-workers are having a negative talk about a situation (one where they are reporting a seemingly bad situation but not offering a good solution)… try and steer the conversation to the bright side of things…like the fact that you all actually still HAVE JOBS.
You could also just politely excuse yourself from the conversation and go someplace to focus on a positive thought.
Step 5 – Order A Mannequin Head
In other words, now that we are not functioning at 100% capacity, take the opportunity with the extra down time to expand your skills. There is a wealth of education available online, especially due to the fact that classes, shows and workshops are really not happening right now.
Keep your creativity flowing by trying some new techniques, whether it be cutting, styling or color. Maybe you have always used the excuse that you have no time…this is a great time.
Mannequins are affordable and tax deductible!
(don’t forget to get a stand if you don’t already have one)
I know many of you are now dealing with your kids online schooling, but try to carve out some time for your own career growth. It will motivate that creative gene you love to nurture, re-ignite your passion for hair and inspire you for when you are behind your chair. Your excitement and passion will excite your clients when hearing you talk about what new things you’ve learned! Excitement is contagious.
Share your new knowledge with your co-workers, encourage them to take advantage of online learning as you have so you can compare notes on your down time and recommend your favorite videos.
I keep a mannequin at home at all times to play with hair and to develop new thoughts for photo shoots and teachings. I can literally spend hours playing with hair, same as I did 47 years ago…it never gets old for me.
Step 6 – Move Your Body
If you don’t already have a physical activity that you do on a regular basis, find at least 20 minutes a day to make sure you move your body.
There’s a saying in the horse world…motion is lotion! If you keep a horse in their stall they get stiff, but riding them or letting them run in their paddocks lubricates their joints.
Same with people…not to mention the positive endorphin release you get when you are in motion, whether it be a simple walk, yoga, bicycle ride, whatever suits you.
THESE ARE ALL STRESS RELIEVERS.
Meditation and prayer are also excellent, as the spiritual part of who we are also need to be exercised. It could be argued that our spiritual life greatly enriches every aspect of our lives.
Always a tough hurdle for me is eating healthy. It is SO true that what we put in our bodies greatly effects our moods, our health, our longevity.
When I’m busy, I tend to make bad food choices. I’ll be busy working and not eat all day only to come home and binge.
When I’m eating properly and consume small portioned meals throughout the day I have an entirely different mindset, never feeling sluggish because I’m properly fueling my body. When I’m eating refined sugars or processed foods it weighs me down, LITERALLY!
REMEMBER TO SCHEDULE A MEAL BREAK DURING YOUR WORKDAY TO RE-FUEL AND RE-CHARGE…and stick to it as much as possible.
If a client is trying to get squeezed into your meal break, it’s usually our tendency to want to get them in that slot but you can and will find another spot for them.
Remember we are all trying to create this “new normal” until we can safely go back to normal.
Step 7 – Identify Your Triggers
I had to recognize what triggered my stress and anxiety.
I had to work on things I could control, not the things I had no control over. I am keeping my staff, my salon and my clients as safe as possible. Beyond that, I can do no more.
I am adhering to social distancing guidelines. If there are still clients that do not feel comfortable coming in, I cannot control that. THAT WAS PREVIOUSLY A TRIGGER FOR ME.
But… they will be back eventually.
JUST THINKING ABOUT THE LOST MONEY FROM BEING CLOSED 3 MONTHS WAS A TRIGGER!
I had to just realize that I could not control that, and focus on the positive. I am healthy and I’m moving on. We will recover.
Emotions are running high everyplace, even in the supermarkets!
When people around me are overreacting to something ridiculous, THIS IS A TRIGGER to lose my patience. I breathe, think about how unimportant this really is, and move on…when I really want to scream, “what kind of moron are you?”
Happiness, a lot of the time is a choice, we all have to choose happiness and get through this together, the best we can.
Sadly, I lost my mom during the pandemic. Whenever we lose a loved one, we grieve and then move on, always having their love in our hearts and knowing they would want us to always choose happiness.
SO BREATHE, LAUGH, KEEP MOVING…AND LET’S MOVE ON…aaaah (exhale)
About Mary Brunetti
Hairstylist Mary Brunetti is known as much for her celebrity clientele—she most recently created Bette Midler’s onstage look for Bette’s Broadway show “I’ll Eat You Last”—as she is for training world-class hairstylists. For the past 15 years, Mary has implemented her unique training program at the Sally Hershberger salons in New York City, where she is the Director of Education.
Brunetti has been called upon to style the hair for many celebrities, including Mariah Carey, Mariska Hargitay, Debra Messing, Eva Longoria, Carrie Underwood, Jane Krakowski, Brooke Shields, The B52’s and Giada De Laurentiis, to name a few. She was Ricki Lake’s personal hairstylist on The Ricki Lake Show and made numerous appearances on the air as a makeover expert throughout the show’s 11-year run.
A well-known editorial stylist, Brunetti’s work has been published in Vogue, Elle, Vanity Fair, New York magazine, Town & Country, Modern Bride, People, Mademoiselle as well as all the leading industry trade magazines. Mary has styled hair backstage at Fashion Week for world renowned designers such as Donna Karan, Nicole Miller, Naeem Kahn and Vivienne Westwood.
She is a veteran platform artist and former member of the Trevor Sorbie Artistic Team. The first woman to be named North American Hairstylist of the Year at the prestigious NAHA awards, Brunetti has since served as a judge for the past 25 years.
She was the technical hair advisor for Bravo’s Shear Genius television show. Intercoiffure USA/Canada, the association of elite salon owners in North America, named Mary as Artistic Director of their high profile artistic team from 2010 -2014. Mary’s latest recognition came in 2015, when she was given the industry’s most coveted title, the Leo Passage “Educator of the Year” award.
Mary owns her own salon, Brunetti Hair & Beauty, in the resort area of The Hamptons and consults with top salons around the country on how to implement her tried and true training program.
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.