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    Stress is well-known to groomers. Our responsibilities are many and we work with precious living animals. However, stress can be managed. The grooming environment has other cautions for our health as well. Every groomer knows how physical our is but once again, informed groomers can manage both health and stress issues. First, here are our sponsors that make this Industry Resources section possible. Thank you for supporting our sponsors.

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    By Barbara Bird
    Originally posted in her GroomWise.com Blog, from her Atlanta presentation in 2008, and now archived here in Resources. Barbara's web site is www.bbird.biz. Please visit her site today.
    Copyright 2011 Barbara Bird All rights reserved

    How does stress show up for you? It is important to be able to identify your own signs of stress. What signals do you get at work that tell indicate that you are in a stress mode? Here are some symptoms of stress that have been identified by mental health professionals.

    HOW STRESS SHOWS UP - SIGNS OF STRESS

    Cognitive Signs: Memory problems, indecisiveness, Inability to concentrate, trouble thinking clearly, poor judgment, seeing only the negative, anxious or racing thoughts, constant worrying, loss of objectivity, fearful anticipation.

    Emotional Symptoms: Moodiness, agitation, restlessness, short temper, irritability, impatience, inability to relax, feeling overwhelmed, sense of loneliness or isolation, depression or unhappiness.

    Physical Symptoms: Headaches or backaches, muscle tension and stiffness, diarrhea or constipation, nausea, dizziness, insomnia, chest pain or rapid heartbeat, weight gain or loss, skin breakouts, loss of sex drive, frequent colds.

    Behavioral Symptoms: Eating more or less, sleeping too much or too little, isolating yourself from others, procrastination, neglecting responsibilities, using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax, nervous habits (e.g., nail biting), teeth grinding or jaw clenching, overdoing activities, exercising, shopping, hobbies), overreacting to unexpected problems, picking fights with others.

    The pressures and demands that cause stress are known as stressors. One person’s stressors may not be all that bad for another. What is stressful depends on many factors, including personality, general outlook on life, problem-solving ability, and available support systems. What are the stressors in your work situation? Identifying your stressors and your signs of stress are key elements in stress management. Stress management is critical to career longevity as a pet groomer.

    External Stressors – Pet groomers share some common causes of stress. Difficult pets, clients with unrealistic expectations, being overbooked, all can push a groomer to the edge. A disorganized workplace, poorly performing equipment, unreasonable employers, coworkers who don’t pull their share of the load or who themselves are acting out their stress, are factors which can create stress.

    Internal Causes of Stress –Not all stress is caused by external pressures and demands. Your stress can also be self-generated. Internal causes of stress include: Uncertainty or worries, pessimistic attitude, self-criticism, unrealistic expectations or beliefs, perfectionism, low self-esteem, unexpressed anger, lack of assertiveness.

    Effects of chronic stress – The human being is designed to withstand short bursts of acute stress. Prolonged stress or “chronic stress” that doesn’t let up can challenge even a well-adjusted person’s ability to adapt. When sustained or severe stress overwhelms our coping resources, serious mental and physical health problems can result.

    Emotional effects - Chronic stress grinds away at your mental health, causing emotional damage in addition to physical ailments. Long-term stress can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to everyday pressures and less able to cope. Over time, stress can lead to mental health problems such as: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse. Health effects - Recent research suggests that anywhere from 60 to 90 percent of illness is stress-related. The physical wear and tear of stress includes damage to the cardiovascular system and immune system suppression. Stress compromises your ability to fight off disease and infection, throws your digestive system off balance, makes it difficult to conceive a baby, and can even stunt growth in children. Hypothyroidism, adrenal problems, chronic fatigue and other hormonal imbalances are common to pet groomers and are related to chronic stress. It can also result in high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Chronic stress is not something that should be accepted as “part of the job”, and should be dealt with or avoided.

    TIPS FOR STRESS MANAGEMENT

    - Don’t be a passive victim of your stressors.

    - Practice Deep Breathing – Stop for a minute and take several deep, full breaths. Deep breathing can actually reduce the physical impact of stress.

    - Aromatherapy works – The Scented Groomer, available through Show Season, has several essential oil products blended especially to help control the effects of stress.

    - The Five Minute Vacation – When you have time, spend a few minutes imagining in detail a vacation retreat spot. Visualize the surroundings, whether it be mountain or beach, and find the sights, sounds and smells that might be there. When you notice yourself losing to your stress response, you can visit your vacation spot for five minutes and get some relief. Don’t just hide out in the bathroom, take a vacation!

    - Don’t Be a Lone Ranger – Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. Get a groomer buddy and join a support group.

    - Music therapy (note: it only works if YOU like the music)

    - Take a Spiritual Bath –Did a difficult customer or a coworker give you grief? “Wash away” your stress by an imaginary cleansing of your aura, and swoosh off the negative energy into a sink basin or your tub. If this is too far out for you, just splashing the face with cool water can help.

    - Manage Your Mind – Work on your internal stressors to minimize their impact. Create positive thoughts to substitute for negative or pessimistic “tapes” that run you; practice self-praise to replace self-criticism; control perfectionism; honor yourself; practice being assertive with clients.

    - Attend Trade Shows & Seminars – Take home equipment, tools, techniques or ideas that will make a positive impact on the stress you experience at work. Have a plan on how you will implement change. Remember that change, even positive, can be stressful. How can you engage others around you to deal with the stress that your change might involve?

    Actively planning for stress and its management makes the effects of your stressors less powerful.

    By BBird, as presented at Atlanta Pet Fair 2008, all copyrights apply.

    references: Ellen Jaffe–Gill, Melinda Smith, M.A., Heather Larson, and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Understanding Stress: Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Effects, www.helpguide.org
    Published on 02-12-11 07:31 AM

    by Melissa Verplank www.melissaverplank.com Copyright 2011 All Rights Reserved

    Eight ways to overcome anxiety and channel nervous energy to perform your best

    Whether you are looking to certify, enter a grooming competition or other highly visible display, the seasoned pros seem to have total control over their situation: calm, cool, and collected in their thoughts.

    Looks, however, can be deceiving. Beneath the surface of total control, even the most seasoned, show-savvy competitors get butterflies in their stomachs. They experience the same sort of show jitters and performance anxiety that plagues those who compete at lower levels. But seasoned stylists eventually learn to use those gut-churning sensations to their advantage. They productively channel their nervous energy rather that allow negative thoughts and feelings to overwhelm them and interfere with their performance.

    Everyone gets nervous. It’s normal - even the elite in the pet styling world become nervous - but they learn to work with it. You have to train yourself to like the feeling and see it as an asset.

    A Bundle of Nerves
    Performance anxiety reveals itself in many forms: stomach misery, sweating, shortness of breath, fidgeting, tension throughout the body, chattiness, uncharacteristic silence. Some stylists are wracked with anxiety from the moment they wake up the day of the competition or certification, others get a burst of butterflies just before entering the stage.

    No matter how or when performance anxiety occurs, it usually is fueled by the fear of failure. Many stylists place great pressure on themselves to do well. Others feel compelled to do everything in their power not to disappoint their employers, fellow staff members, or family members. Those who enter the contest arena or testing site with a client dog have the added responsibility to do a good job to please the owner. Some groomers are deathly afraid of embarrassing themselves in front of an audience.

    To a certain degree, many people are predisposed to being overly anxious. It’s a part of their persona and temperament, just as some folks are normally laid-back or unflappable.

    Actually there’s little difference physiologically between excitement and fear. While one person says, ‘oh boy, here I go’ the next person is saying ‘Oh no, here it comes again.’ The feelings are much the same. The difference is that one is positive while the other is negative.

    Those that work through anxiety may be nervous prior to performing, but they are able to set aside the negative feelings and focus on the skills they need when it’s time to compete or start testing. In contrast, stylists who can’t get past their nervousness extract less and less pleasure from competing or testing. Worse still, performance anxiety can crush confidence and divert attention for completing the familiar steps of an established trim, which reinforces the feeling of being unprepared.

    Because dogs are highly attuned to our feelings, they can sense when something is amiss with a groomer’s emotions. Although some dogs are not rattled by what they sense from their handlers, others become increasingly anxious, especially when they are already distracted by the sights and sounds of unfamiliar surroundings.

    1. Set Yourself Up To Succeed
    Select a good dog you feel comfortable working with, choose a trim you are familiar with, and study high quality reference material.

    2. Develop Proficiency and Skills Beyond What You’ll Test
    You’ll be more likely to succeed when you start at lower level that’s less challenging than what you are accustomed to at home, whether that means choosing a simple trim to execute, a smaller dog to work on, or a better coat to scissor. Everything you do should be easier, not more difficult, when you’re in a show or testing atmosphere: that’s what builds confidence.

    3. Simulate the Show or Testing Experience
    Attend small clinics or go to a trade show or conformation dog show and hire a seasoned competitor to be your coach. Videotaping yourself adhering to the time restraints of typical grooming class is highly beneficial as well

    4. Focus on the Task
    To heighten awareness of the specific challenges that lie ahead, plan your trimming process on the dog. Dissect the time you have allotted for each area of the dog, visualize the finished profile you want to create - see the velvet scissor finish. Think through the entire haircut, don’t just start whacking off hair and hope for a positive outcome.

    5. Accentuate the Positive
    Negative thoughts take a toll on your mood as well as your confidence, and they can inadvertently slip you up at an inopportune moment. Concentrate on modifying your thoughts in a positive tone. Remind yourself to keep your shoulders relaxed, your hand smooth and steady, and move with your hips and knees when you are scissoring.

    6. Rely on Imagery to Get You Through Tough Spots
    Imagery is more powerful than internal dialog or self-statements when it comes to helping a person access his or her internal resources. For that perfectly scissored coat, think of crushed velvet. Or visualize a photo or a drawing of the perfect dog you want to create. Close your eyes and take deep breaths envisioning the image perfectly in your mind. Focus on a positive image rather than thinking about failure or a disaster.

    7. Give Yourself Time to Regroup
    When all your preparations are accomplished – your dog is bathed and fluffed, you’re dressed to step into the ring, your tools are in order – give yourself a break from the hustle and bustle of the competitive environment and take a few moments to gather your thoughts.

    8. Turn it Into a Learning Experience
    Everyone wants to win but facts are facts and the placements only go so high. When I would head to the ring, I always wanted to give my best performance, but I’d play a mind-game with myself too; I would say to myself “Melissa, what’s the worst thing that could happen?” The answer was always, “I could be out of the placements with my dog. I’ve dealt with a lot worse…” One of the best learning tools you’ll ever get is personal critiques from seasoned pros. The grooming tips you can pick up at a show are invaluable to your career as you gain grooming knowledge.

    Feeling you can compete with confidence allows you to enjoy the experience. You may always have to work at managing your nerves, but as your self-assurance grows and you learn to channel your thoughts productively into your performance, your anxiety will dissipate. And when you’re done competing, you may even think, “That really wasn’t so bad after all.”

    Get used to your anxiety. Don’t be rattled by the way it makes you feel. Embrace it and eventually you’ll discover how to use it to put your best foot forward in every competition.