Many hair stylists have to struggle through difficult working conditions — bullying from other clients or employers, long hours, or a hectic schedule. But what can you do when it feels like your own body is making it impossible to work?
HSA ambassador Nicole has shared her story, detailing a lifetime of hair styling. She says she put unrealistic expectations on herself when it came to her workload and capability.
“I never had enough time to get done what was needed, let alone time for myself to stop, eat, or reassess the day.”
Overtime, this developed into an intense medical condition. “My body started to develop illness and disease, such as back and hip pain from being on my feed for long periods, shoulder problems from repetitive motions” and “digestive issues dues to the lack of time I allowed myself to stop and eat.”
Nicole was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at 28, a condition that causes widespread pain, fatigue and problems with memory and concentration. There is no cure for fibromyalgia — only ongoing management of pain and symptoms.
Nicole was in constant pain, and unable to work. “I could no longer continue with the way I was working as a hairdresser, or living in general.”
She embarked on a long journey of recovery, which included pain management clinics, medication, and exercise. But Nicole still couldn’t find a way forward. “Things had to change. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
Instead of just pushing through, she began to assess her daily life. “I began packing food for working, having breaks when needed, going to the toilet when I needed to instead of ‘hanging out’, observing how I was standing while doing a client’s hair, having short walks before and after work.”
She also redefined what work performance meant for her. “I began to accept I didn’t have to know or do it all; that everyone had something to offer and when we all worked together everything that was needed would be achieved.”
By taking a step back from those immediate stresses and emergencies, prioritising her own health, and accepting her limitations, Nicole saw an immense change. “Not only did I feel less stressed and exhausted, more was actually achieved (without trying) and completed with a clarity and understanding of others and myself.”
“Having developed a quality and foundation of self-care, I now have a foundation for me that enables me to be me, no matter where I am or what I’m doing.”
We all know it; hair styling is hard. It’s harder than most people realise. Not only is the salon environment physically demanding, but there’s also the mental stress of working with difficult clients (and some employers). It’s no wonder that hair styling often leads to burnout and has such a high turnover rate.
When you’re in a high-pressure workplace, taking time out to look after yourself feels impossible. But your own health and well-being, like Nicole’s, could really suffer in the long-term. That’s why it’s so important to take a step back sometimes, and look at the bigger picture. Is it really worth putting your body on the line?
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help when you’re struggling. If you’re not sure how to broach the question with your employer, HSA can help mediate an uncomfortable situation. We help members who need clarity on their rights, support, or just someone to talk to.
And if you do need to take extended leave from work due to an illness or injury, you have still have rights. As well as your ten days of paid sick leave per year, you can also take up to three months of unpaid sick leave, and be protected from dismissal. So if your employer fires you while you’re on leave, they’re breaching the Fair Work Act and can be taken to court and fined.
We #demandrespect for hair stylists when it comes to illness in the workplace, because we should not have to compromise our physical or mental health for the sake of a job. There is legislation in place to protect us, and yet many hair stylists continue to be exploited.
If you’re struggling with your health and don’t know what to do, we’re here for you. Join HSA and our team of experts can help you get on the right path. Get your card ready and hit us up at: https://hairstylistsaustralia.com.au/join