Mental Health Month

October is Mental Health Month—a subject that demands serious attention.

Beauty salons, barbers, masseuses, and beauticians often become our refuge when mental health is on the decline or when we simply need a lift. Sometimes, we find ourselves there almost instinctively, without fully grasping the underlying reasons. Is it truly about achieving the perfect fade or flawless eyebrows? Is it for a facial aimed at skin health, or does the sensory experience grant us a moment to reconnect with our thoughts and feelings? Perhaps it’s the sense of community and the security of a familiar, welcoming space?

Whatever the reason, these professionals in the beauty industry are unsung heroes in mental health support. Personally, I am immensely grateful to my hairdresser and masseuses over the years for their intuition, empathy, and unwavering support during some of the toughest moments in my life.
As a beauty therapist myself for the past 17 years, I’ve been fortunate to serve as a pillar of support during the lowest points in my guests’ lives. I consider it a privilege to be invited into someone’s inner world in such an intimate way, providing a listening ear and support.

It prompts me to wonder: What is it about these particular professions that makes us feel so comfortable opening up and releasing our thoughts in their presence? Or just feeling how we feel with no judgement? Why is this form of seemingly physical care so intricately woven into and essential for mental health care?
To gain insights, I engaged in conversations with friends in the hair, beauty, and wellness industry. Through these discussions, I’ve come to believe that it’s a combination of factors that we, as friends, family, and partners, can adopt to be better support persons not just in October but every month.
So, why do we turn to hair, beauty, and wellness professionals when feeling mentally low? And how can we recreate this environment to provide mental support to our loved ones at home?

Environment plays a significant role. Creating a space that isn’t overly stimulating allows individuals to process thoughts without added mental strain. Familiarity can help, but isn’t wholly necessary. Opening up and sharing becomes challenging in bustling environments, where interruptions are frequent and competition to be heard can frustrate. Crafting a calm and quiet space minimizes distractions and fosters focused attention for both the sharer and the listener.

Time is another crucial factor. People often hold back thoughts because they feel there’s not enough time or fear they’re taking up too much of it. In our fast-paced world, finding designated time solely for contemplation is a rarity. As support persons, communicating that there is ample time, no rush, and that you are available to dedicate time can be invaluable. It assures your loved ones that the time is exclusively for them, encouraging them to share without reservations.

Reassurance, validation, and acknowledgment—sometimes, all we yearn for is to be heard, to have someone utter the comforting words, “I understand what you mean.” Strangely, this emotional release often feels more accessible with individuals not intimately entwined in our situations, those untouched by the potential sting of our thoughts or the temptation to steer the conversation with their own opinions about our feelings. Even though navigating this can prove challenging, a truly remarkable support person doesn’t enter the arena to interject their perspective. Their role is to be a compassionate listener, allowing us the space to articulate our thoughts without imposing their own commentary. In the delicate dance of support, the focus remains steadfastly on understanding and embracing, rather than injecting personal viewpoints.

Regulate yourself first. Maintaining your own emotional equilibrium is key. When your nervous system is regulated, and you aren’t overly emotionally activated, you create a space conducive to deeper sharing. In such a state, the person seeking support doesn’t have to navigate concerns about how you might react. As a listener or support person, it’s crucial to cultivate a sense of calm and avoid excessive emotional activation, except if you are expressing empathy. This aligns with psychological theories on co-regulation, emphasizing how we mirror the emotional states of those around us. People instinctively seek cues in others’ behavior to gauge their importance, and this is particularly true for empathetic individuals or people-pleasers. They might hesitate to burden someone already overwhelmed. Therefore, ensuring that you are in a regulated emotional space, for your wellbeing and theirs, is paramount for effective and supportive listening. There are many numerous ways to regulate your own nervous system, and I will love to dive into this on another occasion, but you can also find it insightful to google Vagus Nerve, Co-regulation and Nervous System Regulation.

In adopting these principles of a conducive environment, dedicated time, keen listening skills and self regulation, we can create spaces at home that emulate the comfort and support found in beauty and wellness establishments, and allow for opportunities to foster the mental well-being in those we care about.

Big love to my hairdressers and masseuse, and all my guests who have returned the kindness and been MY support person over the many years.

Taking an interest in and allowing yourself to be that safe environment for sharing can be more impactful to someone’s life than you may ever know.

Owner, The Hive Beauty