Tips for Protecting Your Energy at the Chair


We’ve all heard the joke that hairdressers/barbers are really therapists who also happen to do hair. It stems from the fact that our guests feel comfortable enough to offer up their challenges, concerns and opinions about their personal lives, as well as their views on current events.

As much as we want to be a compassionate resource for those who sit in our chair, hearing these stories and rehashing the negativity of the news with every client can really take its toll on our own well-being. So, how do we create a space for ourselves and our clients to still be seen and heard without sacrificing our own mental health? We can look to professional coaches for the answer.

In my own personal coaching sessions, I wanted to learn how to protect my energy while staying empathetic and present to the challenges of others. So, I reached out to Dr. Suzanne Henwood, who is not only a mentor to me, but has trained hundreds of coaches across the globe.

Suzanne, how can hairdressers and barbers learn from coaches about how to protect their energy while still staying present and empathetic to their guests?

Dr. Suzanne Henwood: One of my favorite techniques is to create an energetic bubble where I am in charge of how I feel within that bubble, and I also get to choose what is allowed to permeate the surface. Some days, that bubble might need to be clad with armor when I don’t want to absorb the energy of the others in the room. But most of the time it looks like a child blowing big iridescent and wobbly shapes that are light and airy, which allows me to maintain connection with those around me. I do feel at this time it might be smart for us to strengthen our bubbles a bit and reconsider what we want to block from entering—maybe it’s social media, too much news, other people’s opinions, etc.

This would be great before starting a day at the chair—maybe sit in the car for a few extra minutes and visualize that bubble from head to toe. And, really take the time to feel how we want to feel inside of that bubble, as well as what we permit to transfer through. It sounds quite comforting to me.

Dr. SH: Yes, and we need to recognize that we are like a dense forest where all of the trees are connected through their root system.

Whether we like it or not, we are all connected, and we do tend to feel the energy of others. It’s wonderful because it’s a reminder of that connection, but if someone has an incredibly intense or unresourceful energy, it can be overpowering, and we can get sucked in.

We know through the research of the Heart Math Institute that we can directly affect not only our own heart patterns, but also the patterns of others. Our power to remain calm comes from building our own energy in such a way that we do not get overpowered by other people. A simple practice is to begin balanced breathing. Here's how to do that:

  1. Start by bringing your focus to your breath and your body. Notice whether you’re breathing through your nose or mouth. Pay attention to the temperature of the air as it comes in and as you release it. Feel how it moves the ribs and the tummy.
  2. After a few breaths, bring the pattern of your breathing into a balanced state where the inhale is equal to the exhale (5 or 6 seconds in and the same count out is ideal if it is comfortable).
  3. Continue to breathe softly, evenly and through the nose while you draw focus to your heart and bring about a positive feeling that is easy for you to connect to such as gratitude, connection, appreciation or love.

As you continue to breathe in a balanced way and focus on that resourceful feeling in your heart, a multitude of physically, mentally and emotionally supportive things are happening within you. The pattern of your heartbeat changes and a whole-body reaction is set up to bring calm and strength. This could be done in your bubble and repeated throughout the day, allowing you to stay fully present with your clients, while maintaining a healthy emotional and mental space for yourself.

What about at the end of a long day—how do we leave that energy at work and have some recovery time before the next day?

Dr. SH: You can use the same balanced breathing technique at the end of a tough day to re-amp those positive feelings. You may also benefit from some type of movement . For me, it’s a walk on the beach. I’m fortunate enough to have two different beaches close by. New research shows that our heart will respond to the ocean waves, so it’s no wonder that we feel so much peace while walking next to calm waves or feel energized by larger more intense waves. Be sure that this movement is intentional and mindful by combining the walk with breathing and positive feelings. And trust your intuition—some may need stillness or meditation, while others may need more intense exercise.

This is all very approachable advice that also doesn’t require tons of time.

Dr. SH: It really doesn’t! Balanced breathing for just a few moments and simply feeling your feet on the floor can create a grounding sensation that can last for hours. You can also gently guide conversations so that they move away from the heavy stuff.

Find out what your client values—their children, work, hobbies—and try to ask questions that bring them back to those topics. Hopefully it can redirect the conversation to something that lifts both of you up.


Carruthers (@andrew.carruthers) is a culture ambassador for Sam Villa, founder of The Journeyist and mBIT Coach/TrainerCarruthers. Every week, he shares tips for wellbeing during Wellness Wednesday. See full calendar here.