Dog groomers share their secrets to maintain their mental health.
Looking after your mental health is so important and often gets overlooked - we are all guilty of letting life get in the way and running ourselves to the level of burnout. As a groomer of a well-known, busy salon, with 2 kids, 3 dogs and an inability to know when to stop, I have experienced burnout first-hand, about 3 times. I sometimes find it hard to prioritise what is important and what is not, but I am slowly learning that it is important to make sure you switch off after work and have a healthy work/life balance.
I used to be a ‘yes’ person and I would say yes to any customer to help them out. I was a sucker for a sob story and bent over backwards when people were “desperate for a groom for x, y and z reasons” but I have learnt first-hand that even the most loyal customers, and even staff, are going to put themselves first. It took me a few years to realise that I needed to ensure I look after my body and mind and not prioritise constantly pleasing others at the expense of my own health. I still do love making others happy, but I also include myself in that now and it’s changed my life.
I now exercise 5 times a week. Becoming physically active was initially hard to make time for and even now I sometimes have to really squeeze it in. Now a little jog or cycle clears my head, and allows me to embrace positive emotions, so I can focus better on work, and I also sleep better.
Having young children whilst owning a business is hard work and I personally feel that all my time with my kids is so precious, so I don’t stress about the minor stuff anymore. I used to be so concerned about having the perfect house, an empty washing basket and a stunning garden, now I have learnt that we are all alive, fed, clean, happy, and healthy and this is more important. I hired a cleaner as found myself stressing about it a lot and this took the worry out of spending my free time in a way I wanted. Could I do it myself? Yes. But it was an important factor to make sure I use that free time to make memories with my kids instead of cleaning the house. It is so easy to overlook your own health and wellbeing, but it is so important. We cannot look out for, and support someone else when we cannot even support ourselves, whether it be staff, friends, family, or children.
My 5 top things to do when I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed are:
- Move furniture/organise my house
- Book something nice for myself like afternoon tea or a massage.
- Dog walking
- Make good memories.
I have spoken to some groomers local to me, to see how they ensure good mental well being as we are all different and all find different releases.
Katie Dowding - Centre Stage Dogs
I work from home - so the most challenging part of my job is not being able to "switch off" . Customers ring day and night, well after what I would consider an acceptable time of day to be contacting someone about work (not an emergency), and they have little or no respect for your weekends either. I know you can get a second phone number for work, but I'd then spend equal amounts of time worrying that I *wasn't* answering the phone.
The second most challenging thing to my mental wellbeing is the lack of permanence for anything I do. I groom a dog and 6 weeks later it trots back up the drive, looking scruffy and unkempt. I make beds - that look identically scruffy each morning and I cook dinners that simply result in empty dirty plates to be washed. Nothing is there "forever", where I can look back months or years later and think, "I did that".
So, I took up painting. I was not very good to start with but am steadily getting better and better. For me, it’s like a physical form of meditation that brings peace and tranquillity and a sense of purpose to my life. I look back through my notebook at drawings I did months ago and take pleasure that the dog I painted in the picture still looks immaculately coiffured or the white horse I painted is still stain free. Because you know "in real life" you'll have had to do that work at least half a dozen times since then.
Painting or sculpting should come naturally to a dog groomer. We know the shapes we're looking to produce, or how to balance a dog. Painting uses all of those skills and a few new ones. I'd recommend it to anyone.
Find Katie on Instagram: @centrestagedogs
Laura Cook - Lucky Friend Pet Grooming
So, I run a multi-site company with several groomers, and it’s mobile-based, so all round headaches! The admin involved is one of my biggest headaches.
Being a very popular service in our area we have a lot of calls, emails, text messages, WhatsApp messages, Facebook messages, Instagram messages…… it goes on and on.
I am a self-confessed workaholic and am guilty of working until I burn out (more than once) so structuring the workload is vital for me to be able to switch my brain off. The worse feeling for me is having a mega busy day grooming dogs, training our assistants, and then heading home to deal with a million calls and messages, or spending my days off doing the same.
I now book my day with ‘catch up’ gaps. This might only be a 10- or 15-min slot in between dogs, sometimes it’s half an hour. But I always schedule a half-hour slot in the morning to catch up on messages that came in over the previous evening (you’d be amazed how many people want to book a dog in at 11.30 pm!), that way I can start the day with messages clear and focus on the dogs. Then I have a short slot, maybe only 10/15 mins at lunchtime/afternoon to deal with any replies or things that have come in over the day. Finally, I have half an hour at the end of the day, usually when the girls are cleaning down, so I can finish booking any appointments, deal with any enquiries etc BEFORE I go home.
Once I get in my car at the end of the day that is it, phone off, leave it in the car if necessary. It’s so important to have that break from work. If I don’t have those little catch-up slots booked in the diary, I end up feeling stressed all day and then it affects my dogs, I go home feeling swamped, and go to bed and don’t sleep well because I’m thinking about work, and I then wake up panicking that I’ve got loads of dogs and millions of messages!
Find Laura on Instagram: @luckyfriendlondon
Nicky Kazan - Barkshear Grooming in Eton
It never crossed my mind that running a dog grooming business would have such an impact on my mental health and well-being. When I left a busy Events Management Agency, I wanted my next life challenge to be less of a challenge, and I thought dog grooming would be perfect. How wrong was I? Yes, it is perfect for me but it’s no walk in the park and definitely not for the faint-hearted. We work with dogs all day so our job is often perceived as one of the loveliest and easiest jobs anyone could do because I play with dogs all day, don’t I?!
This is so far from the truth. Bottom line, we are using VERY sharp scissors/equipment around live animals who would rather be playing chase in an open field. On the opposite side of the scale, we have their human owners who want their animal’s hair to look absolutely perfect, as well as doing this all in a timed slot because at the end of the day we are running a business. It’s a lot to deal with and a lot of pressure on one’s shoulders. You train to be a dog groomer, but you also need to know how to sort your self-assessment, deal with PAT testing, and the biggie customer service etc.
I started off on my own, and actually looked forward to that “me time”, however it started to get very lonely. I then employed a lovely lady and now I’ve employed another. I can’t explain how much better it is for me and my well-being to be part of a team. I’ve realised I’m very much a team player.
However, the one point I have learned after 7 years of running my business is balance. Balance is the key to my mental well-being. I used to go crazy at Christmas, burn myself out and cry at the end of every Christmas rush. I soon realised this was so unhealthy, not just for me but for my family too. Having a healthy balance means I am setting my own business boundaries and can meet all expectations. I’m not beating myself up 24/7 worrying that I’m not fulfilling my client’s needs as well as those of my accountants, the landlord, my employees (the list goes on)! It’s taken a while to get to this point, but I honestly urge all new and old groomers to find their own balance, for the sake of their own mental health. That, and I walk every day with my dog listening to podcasts and sipping coffee, my happy place!
Find Nicky on Instagram: @barksheargrooming
Nicola Garnett- Paws of Perfection
Hi, I’m Nicole. I run a grooming salon in Maidenhead called Paws of Perfection. Running a dog salon, having a 7-month-old baby and 2 dogs can be mentally and physically hard. But we must remember to sometimes put ourselves first. It’s ok to take holiday or to take a day off to just to be at home. As groomers, we often take on too much and forget about ourselves. But without ‘us’ everything would fall apart. To help with my mental health I make sure I now work to live. Not live to work. To let off some stress, I find long walks with my baby and dogs help. Also, I’ve learnt housework can wait. My baby and business need me, so I spend spare time with them. Yes, I love my job, but balance is key x
Find Nicola on Instagram: @pawsofperfection16
Corrine Harrison – Hakuna mutt ta da trading as 2 left paws Crowthorne
Mental health is very important to me. I have been through some traumatic events which have enabled me to focus and find what activities I can do to help my mental health. I am a true believer in a healthy body, healthy mind. I find I can be miserable over little things if I haven’t exercised and released endorphins through my body. I cycle to and from work which really helps me start my day with the correct mindset and allows me to switch off at the end of the day. By cycling, I can easily keep a divide between my work life and my personal life.
Find Corrine on Instagram: @2leftpawscrowthorne_