Behind The Chair: Burnout

Mar 06, 2023

BTC Burnout: 

-What is burnout? 

There have been multiple times in my career when walking into work has made me feel nauseous. I would have physical symptoms that were almost paralyzing. My limbs would feel heavy and shaky and I’d be in a fog most of the time. I would cry sporadically or find myself saying angry things under my breath all day long. I would curse the job and people that pay for my lifestyle, provide for my family and let me take vacations. I was filled with resentment and rage toward the very thing that I worked so hard to achieve. I hated going to work and I hated feeling that way. I thought there was something wrong with me. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this career, maybe I was ill. Now I know there is a name for those feelings. I was struggling with burnout and it is very common. 

Everyone experiences burnout in different ways. Some may experience feelings of anxiety, depression, overwhelm, irritability. Others may feel exhausted, disconnected, hopeless, unmotivated and passionless. And some may even have physical symptoms like fatigue, body aches, stomach issues and headaches. This is all very normal. It is our nervous system signaling to us that we are entering the danger zone and must make a change! Many people accept and manage these symptoms their entire careers. It doesn't help that we live in a society that praises hustle. With so many catch phrases like “no pain no gain” and “if it comes easy it will go fast” its hard to think about life any other way. We are programmed to accept burnout as part of life and to stop complaining about it. But there is a better way. By understanding the causes of burnout we can start to make changes in our habits, mindset and schedule to fend off these symptoms and return to a life that we want to actively participate in. 

-What causes burnout? 

I have come to notice several factors that usually play a role when a stylist is dealing with burnout. 


Nothing makes me yawn more than a day of gray coverage and trims, but that's my own personal preference. We all have services on our menu that do not bring us joy or satisfaction. Although they impact our bank accounts and may be a necessary part of our job they bring no excitement to our lives. Having these services peppered throughout our day may be completely manageable, but when that is the ONLY thing on the book day in and day out it becomes problematic. Boredom may also show up during a slow season when you are sitting more than usual and not using your time wisely. Often boredom shows up when there is nothing new on the horizon. It’s an important part of our career to always be learning and growing. When there is no education, personal development, event or promotion to look forward to or work toward we will likely feel discontent or even just complacent. All of these situations breed boredom and suck the passion out of life. Experiencing this on a daily basis can lead to symptoms of depression, fatigue and despair. 


As we talk about this topic it is important to say that we are all individuals who derive our energy from different places and store and generate it for different lengths of time and intensities. None of us should compare ourselves to others in terms of our energy levels. What is “normal'' is what is normal for you. Burnout often happens when we are trying to keep up with those around us. 

Although we all have an internal engine not everyone's engine is powered the same way. It may be very insightful to find out what powers your engine. What energizes you? What makes you feel alive? What depletes your life force? And beyond the source of our energy we all have a different size gas tank. Some of us may be able to go for longer than others without a break or refill. The important element here is acknowledging how you are powered and what your min’s and max’s are. Knowing the minimum amount of energy input and maximum amount of energy output you need in a given day/week/month to create balance for you is crucial! We will talk more about this later. It is a skill worth learning but it will require a high level of self awareness and introspection. 


This is the opposite of boredom. There are a few common reasons we experience overwhelm: -We are being asked to do too many tasks and not given the proper time to complete them. -We are being assigned tasks that are above our skill level. 

-We feel an obligation to say yes to everything and have not been empowered by our boss, co-workers, or ourselves to say no. 

-We have allowed no time for anything that brings us joy. 

This all can add to an experience of overwhelm and a sense of being trapped with no options. Feelings of suffocation and anxiety often accompany overwhelm and our fight or flight response may be activated and cause us to react in illogical, irrational ways. 


Whether it is the clientele or coworkers, a toxic work environment may be one of the biggest contributors to burn out. If there is poor leadership or if you have a nasty, extremely competitive, back-biting and gossipy team you may feel burnout much quicker and with much more intensity than others. Many of us stay in environments like this because it is familiar and we have learned to manage it. Many also think that all work environments are like this. THEY ARE NOT! This type of atmosphere can be soul crushing and the sooner you get out the better. The same goes for clientele. If there is a disproportionate amount of clients that drain your life force vs those that inspire positivity you may face the challenge of burnout more often. 

Lack of achievement and appreciation: 

Many in management and leadership got there because they have a special sense for what is not working and can see a way to improve it. This often comes with a critical eye for problems and when their gaze is directed at you it can feel extremely stressful and hurtful. It may feel that you are always getting criticized and your hard work is never being recognised. When you are working for an unbalanced leader this can be extremely draining. Especially if you are a high achiever and always put in extra effort and never get positive feedback. Most can only tolerate this for so long before burnout sets in.

Burnout is also felt when there is no sense of achievement or growth. If we feel stagnant in our work and are not pushing ourselves to learn and grow we may succumb to burnout. 

-How to manage burnout? 

The first thing we must do to combat burnout is to find out the cause by asking the right questions: 

What mental, emotional and physical symptoms do I experience? 

When do I experience them? 

Who is around when I experience them? 

Once we gauge what situations bring on these feelings we must allow ourselves to do something about it. No one will change our situation for us. This may come as good or bad news depending on how you view it! We are in charge and have the power to make the changes that will take us out of burnout and survival and allow us to create lives we want to live and careers we want to inhabit. 

Here are some actionable steps to combat the common causes of burnout: 


Make it a priority to attract clients that will make your work exciting. Fill your books with services that get your creative juices flowing and fill your artistic cup. 

If you are in a slow season at work, challenge yourself to fill your time with revenue building activities. Use your down time as an opportunity to attract new clients with complimentary services, updates to social/web, and education. Ask yourself: “if I am not making money behind the chair what are some activities that I can do to ensure that I am busier this time next year?” 


Building self awareness around what depletes our energy and what increases our energy is paramount in preventing exhaustion. Oftentimes when we are experiencing exhaustion it is already too late. We are foggy and our mind cannot process how we got here. We must be 

preventative and create a strategy during a time when we are not burnt out, tired and stressed. Part of building this strategy is by observing ourselves in action and using trial and error to determine what causes us to become tired and what causes us to feel vital, rested and healthy. Next we must design our schedule to have a balance of these things. This sounds simple but may take some time to become really aware of what they are and the effect they have. 


The most important thing to remember when it comes to overwhelm is not to panic. When our nervous system takes over and we feel the pressure to fight or flight we must remove ourselves from the situation and breathe. Another option is to come back to the situation in our heads at a later, calmer time. When we can think clearly we are able to make concrete changes so we don't put ourselves in those situations again. This is one time that being very certain of our

boundaries is important. One of the biggest contributors to overwhelm is a breakdown in communication with those asking things of us. This applies to when we ask things of ourselves as well. Usually if overwhelm is coming from a boss, coworker or even our own standard of achievement a simple conversation can tip the scales in our favor and help to lighten the load. Asking for more time, less tasks or help in learning a new skill can take the pressure off. And lastly,the perfect recipe for overwhelm is all work and no play with no break or end in sight. Make time daily to include rest, joy and fun in your schedule. 


This is one of the simplest yet hardest things to change. This takes more than a mindset shift to fix. You may need to grow in confidence, and certainty to change your environment but in the end you must actually be brave enough to leave something you know and start over. On the other hand it is one of the more controllable positions we are presented with depending on the situation. If you are dealing with a toxic boss your only option may be to move on entirely. If you have a toxic work team you might be able to make changes with open conversation and getting management involved. I would first ask how much energy you are willing to invest before you move on. The one aspect of your environment that will follow you everywhere but that you have total control over is a toxic clientele. At different times in our careers we are able to tolerate different levels of client negativity and that is completely ok! You will know when it is time to let someone go and it is important not to delay. If you are in a salon where the management will not allow for you to refuse a toxic guest I would look for employment elsewhere. 

Lack of achievement and appreciation: 

If you love your job and want to stay in your current position there are plenty of ways to address this issue. Start by giving management honest feedback about how the quality of your work and productivity would be affected if there was some measurement of achievement. Suggest quarterly evaluations where they address some of your wins along with things that need improvement. If you have a good relationship with your leadership this may be all it takes to get the recognition you desire and deserve. 

Look for ways to grow outside of your salon. Take on a new specialty that will allow you to stand out among your peers. Join a group where you can get feedback on your work. Create a supportive atmosphere among your teammates to recognise and value each other's milestones. If you are not making any progress within your current situation and continue to get harshly criticized it may be time to look for a more supportive environment to be a part of! 

Ultimately, there are reasons for why you are feeling the way you do. And, more importantly, there are answers. It may not be easy and it may not be immediate but the change you are looking for is available to you. The world needs your strength and this industry needs your passion. Let those facts motivate you to beat BTC burnout.