‘SO WHAT’ your Hairdresser anxiety?

August 19, 2015 // 19:27 PM

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Well as this is my first blog on the new Ignite website I wanted to talk about something that is actually quite personal and up until a while ago caused me a few issues.

It is quite a bizarre phenomenon that for the benefit of this blog I am going to call hairdresser induced anxiety. And no this does not mean that simply getting introduced to a hairdresser in the pub causes a major freak out event (FOE if you like).

It is in fact often another symptom of Social Anxiety Disorder which you can read more about here.

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Now you don’t have to have a full blown SAD to experience anxiety about going to the hairdressers. In fact you might even go through your life with absolutely no clear social anxiety symptoms at all until the day comes that you need a haircut! And then the meltdown ensues. A few years ago (before I became follicly challenged) I was aware that I had started to have a few issues with getting my hair cut. Putting it simply – I would sit in the chair and then instantly go bright red, sweaty, and be unable to speak without making the symptoms even worse. One day I took to Google and did a little research and guess what? It turns out that this is a common issue!

The rest of this blog will outline the general anxiety provoking issues that people talk about with regards to visiting the hairdresser and most of which at one point in time I could relate to pretty strongly!

Let’s face it, if you even have the mildest issues with self-confidence, self-image or social anxiety being in a hairdressers is the one place where it feels like a gigantic magnifying glass is being placed over them. It’s like being in a clothes shop changing room that’s made out of glass – you feel exposed and vulnerable and just to top it off they put a ridiculous cape on you coupled with a bizarre leather toilet mat.

The following points are essentially what we might call typical symptom activators:

Firstly, you get to sit in front of the mirror and look at yourself for long periods of time. And for about 80% of that time your hair is either combed over your face or you are just made to look generally ridiculous (in your eyes of course – you look lovely really). If you had issues with your image before you walked in, they are now certainly under the microscope.

In addition to that someone is looking at you really bloody closely!! Literally if you have any issues with your head/face/neck… it is now on show – or that’s at least what it feels like!!! Again it is like putting a microscope over your insecurities, over your bald patches (yes I am referring to myself here) and over anything else you might deem unsatisfactory about your lovely noggin. Grey hairs, blemishes, spots, inappropriate tattoos you got when you were in drunk in Prague all take centre stage.

Further to the above points how many times do you sit in a hairdresser’s and experience that awkward silence. You feel that if you speak everyone else in the room, including those in the waiting area are listening to the conversation. So when the hairdresser asks you a question, suddenly all the attention is focused in on you (or so you think) – which is in itself a major trigger with social anxiety disorders.

The above three factors effectively all combine to trigger hairdresser meltdown. You only wanted your haircut and now you are drowning in a completely unexplained and quite weird anxiety that you feel you are the only one in the world who experiences. And the worst thing is that the more you try and control it – the worse it gets. Sweat pouring from your head, sweaty blotchy skin, the embarrassment that goes with it, the hairdresser having to routinely DRY YOU with the hair-dryer. You begin to dread the hairdresser asking you questions which then brings about more anxiety. And eventually – you avoid the hairdresser altogether and either get into heavy metal, pray for baldness or cut your own hair in the mirror.

So yes I openly admit I once had this issue. And I was amazed to see that so many other people in the world have it too. Google it and you will see! One thing that this highlights and the general purpose of this blog then, is to show that no matter what your issue is, no matter how silly it feels, or no matter how crazy it may seem – you are rarely alone. Just Google it and you will likely find many individuals with the same experience and issue. And trust me, avoidance is not the answer!!

Hypnotherapy training has its perks. One of those is that you get to really learn and understand the processes that occur in these kinds of situations and I have therefore been able to use strategies that I may use with clients on myself to great success. Admittedly due to my own follicular issues I don’t need the hairdressers so much these days, but whenever I do go I always make a point of speaking openly, enjoying the experience and generally not really thinking about any old anxieties any more. I cannot stress enough the importance of sometimes just taking control by being the first one to speak and then dictating the flow of conversation as much as you can. Be forward. Put yourself out there and experience how invigorating it can be (learn about how hypnotherapy can help with confidence). This is how I overcame my little problem, combined with what I am about to share below.

Before finishing this first blog I am going to share a very simple technique based on Albert Ellis’ Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy. It is aptly titled ‘SO WHAT’. I have taught this to clients as part of successful treatment plans and I have even used it myself (in particular when dealing with a visit to the hairdresser). It can though, be a nice little tool to use all on its own and does not always need to be part of a wider treatment plan. I believe that anyone can benefit from this technique as it's really just about encouraging yourself to let go of those little pieces of internal angst that drive you crazy and usually send your worry into overdrive.

Very simply – think about your issue, for arguments sake let’s just say its hairdresser related social anxiety. Picture yourself doing the thing you usually do. In my case it was sweating, going red and not being able to speak. Now simply shout to yourself "SO WHAT". Put your hands in the air like you just don’t care. You can either do this out loud or in your head but if you do choose to do it out loud then please not in the high street and not actually when you are in the hairdressers. Repeat repeat repeat and say it like you really mean it! SO WHAT!

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Practice this technique repeatedly in your imagination before going and when you are in the hairdressers (or other anxiety provoking situation), practice shouting it in your head. Make it a NEON sign if you have to. And no matter how much you sweat…. Or how red you go…. Just keep it there in your mind. “SO WHAT”. Because the reality is – who really cares? Be sweaty. Be red. Be happy. It is only your thoughts about it that make it seem so bad.

As an additional note – I myself changed the words ‘SO WHAT’ to something a little more colourful and a little more me. So please take the technique and adapt it to fit the way you think and speak. If you wish to insert a suitable profanity then that’s fine – but then please let me once again reinforce the point - not out loud in public! That would be a very quick way of getting arrested and I would feel responsible!

That concludes the first blog on the Ignite website. I hope you enjoyed the read and please any questions related to this or any other issue do get in touch.

Be cool.

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