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How’s YOUR mental health post-lockdown?

Bethnan Brennan

After Bethan Brennan from Cresswell Barbering Co reached out on Insta asking if we’d heard from other barbers having a difficult time being back at work post-pandemic, MB thought the subject needed more light shining on it.

Here Bethan explains honestly how she’s been feeling now she’s back barbering. Spoiler alert: it’s not been all fun n’ fades. Anyone else relate?

 

How are you feeling in your head now you’re back at work?

I’ve got really mixed emotions. I’m super happy to be back with the rest of the team and hearing what all our clients have been up to during the last four months. But a large part of me is extremely nervous, overwhelmed and scared. Going from being at home with just my other half to being around so many people over night after being told to stay home for so long was terrifying.

 

I thought the fear of being around people would subside over the week but it just seemed to get worse. In the middle of the week I broke down in to tears when I got home. It was from a combination of being exhausted from long hours on my feet, making sure all the extra long hair was cut back perfectly, ensuring our service was still as impeccable as before, making sure the rest of the team were coping with the extra pressure and following all the new guidelines and policies we have in place. And all of this was on top of being scared and worried about everyone’s safety and being around so many people again. It all just got too much for me. Then I felt silly for getting so worked up and like I was the only person feeling this way.

 

How does other barber’s social media make you feel?

I’m actually trying really hard not to look at social media as a whole now. During lockdown I took a break as it was all quite doom and gloom.

Unfortunately social media plays a massive part in my career. Using it well means I can let people know if I have any spaces for appointments, I use it as a portfolio to showcase the best of my work, I can network with other people in the industry around the world and even gain new clients. However it also has some downsides.

 

All I’ve seen is super happy barbers all buzzing to be back at work smashing out some incredible cuts. Meanwhile I’m having panic attacks most mornings.

I often find myself putting my own work down in comparison to other people’s work and this week has been even harder. I end up feeling like a fraud and questioning if this is still the career for me after 12 years cutting.

 

Do you think other barbers are feeling the same?

I hope that I’m not alone in my daily worries, panic attacks and tears late at night. Surely I can’t be the only barber feeling like this? I think a lot of us feel like we have to be this professional robot at all times and not show when we are having a hard time. This leads to us to put a massive front, both in person and on social media.

As much as mental health awareness has come so far in the world, the barbering world included with fantastic things like the Barbers Lion Collective that give barbers advice and tools to know how to help their clients, there still seems to be a barrier stopping our clients from seeing us as humans. It’s a pandemic on its own to be fair.

There’s nothing worse than feeling like the whole world is on your shoulders. You could be struggling financially, going through a rough breakup, dealing with a death, struggling with self confidence, feeling like a disappointment, struggling with massive changes in life or any of the million things that people deal with daily and can freely open up about to anyone, barbers included. Yet when you walk through that door and start that first cut of the day when they ask “How are you doing buddy?” you simply smile and say something along the lines of “Yeah man, I’m fine” and move the conversation on from fear of being judged. That then extends into your online presence because who wants to see sad things right?

 

I think a lot of barbers are worried that if we show we are human and fragile like everyone else it will somehow make people lose faith in us and our skills. Worrying it might cause people not to sit in our chairs or we might not be offered that next big opportunity because of it. Which is so wrong.

 

What’s the hardest thing about being back?

For me surprisingly it’s not getting to grips with the new health and safety policy, it’s not all the PPE and extra cleaning, it’s not the extra long hair. It’s the extra stress of so many people’s health being in my hands, suddenly being around so many people and making sure everyone is happy. All while still making sure all my cuts are as perfect as possible and trying my hardest not to cry mid-cut from all the stress!

Trying to manage my anxiety at work is probably the hardest thing over all. I try to make sure I take regular breaks, drink and eat and I use CBD oil to help keep me calm when I feel myself start to panic.

 

What’s the best thing about being back in the barbershop?

Honestly all stresses, worries and fears aside… seeing everyone again is the best. Hearing what everyone has been up to, seeing photos of all the lockdown babies my clients have had, seeing how all the children have changed over the last few months (some of them have shot up and don’t need booster seats anymore!).  It’s a real community at Cresswell Barber Co and we think of all our clients as family.

 

What has changed at work post-lockdown?

We have made a point of following the government guidelines and going above and beyond them in places. All staff wear visors and a fresh pair of gloves for every client. Our waiting area is now outside under a marquee where everyone must be 1-2m apart. Clients use hand sanitiser and are given a mask before they can enter. Everyone’s hair is washed before their cut and we use disposable gowns for every client.

We have a lot of NHS workers from Southampton General Hospital come in to us and they have all been extremely impressed with the level of hygiene and PPE we have in place in the shop and comment how it’s on a level with what they expect at work.

So many clients have said how safe they feel coming in to see us, especially as there are many other barbershops near us failing to even follow the basic guidelines. Because of this we’ve even gained some new clients purely because of how seriously we are taking the safety in the shop.

 

What have you learnt from lockdown? (positives and negatives) 

One of the biggest things I have learnt is that life is for living and not all about work.

I think a lot of us in the industry realised how little of a life we had out of the shop. Missing meals, family moments, hobbies, the list goes on and on. I definitely plan to have a better work life balance from now on

I want to make sure I take the time for myself in life now and do the other things I enjoy. Keep up with my art, travel a bit more and spend quality time making memories with my loved ones.

I also realised that I don’t have to work myself into the ground to make enough money to live. Yes, I have gone without a few luxuries the last few months and I’m not going to lie, financially it’s been a struggle. Especially as my other half is a chef, another industry to have been massively affected by lockdown. But we now know we can budget, spend a little less and still have a happy life together.

I’m extremely grateful to have such a supporting partner at home with me who knows I have bad days and sometimes I need him more than normal. If it wasn’t for him being so kind, helpful and considerate I probably would be much worse right now mentally.

I’ve learnt to take myself off the pedestal that I put myself on and reminded myself I am in fact a human. I can’t be perfect all the time. I don’t need to make everything better for everyone. I make mistakes. I can’t be responsible for everyone else. I get tired. Sometimes I’m sad or angry. And yes I get stressed. But that’s all normal and it’s totally acceptable to have low days.

 

Bethany’s Be Kinder Tips

 

  • Instead of hiding my feelings from my clients I’ve started to be honest and not lie when they ask how I am. If I’m having a bad day I tell them. If my anxiety is really bad I explain why I might be a bit quieter than normal. It also means they see me as a human with feelings and not a barber robot that is just here to cut hair 24/7.
  • Get help with your mental health and take it as serious and your physical health.Our brains are on-the-go non-stop and it’s easy to neglect your mental health. Seek help from your GP, contact a mental health crisis team or even call Samaritans to just talk through your feelings. It helps, trust me!
  • It’s important to find ways to manage stress and anxiety. I meditate often, take long hot baths, go for walks in the forest, practice mindfulness and I’ve even found that using CBD oil as an alternative to anxiety medication helps calm me down and even stop me from having a panic attack. Find whatever works for you.