As a pet professional, it's easy to prioritize the needs of your furry clients over your own self-care. However, neglecting your own needs can lead to burnout, stress, and a decrease in the quality of care you provide. In this blog, we'll be exploring the importance of self-care for pet professionals alongside Erin Martin of All About Paws Pet Spa, and how not taking care of yourself can negatively impact your day-to-day work. We'll also be sharing some tips and tricks to help you prioritize your self-care routine and maintain a healthy work-life balance. So, whether you're a veterinarian, dog walker, or groomer, this blog is for you!
How did you get into the pet industry?
I started grooming in January 2004. I had a friend who owned a grooming salon, and she agreed to teach me how to groom. I went full-time in April 2004 and never looked back. I now co own a successful grooming salon in Upland, California since 2014. I am the recording Secretary for the CPPGA, I am on the IJA model dog travel team and compete in creative grooming and poodles. I have placed several times in competitions. I am the owner and founder of The Creative Groomer, which is a monthly subscription box geared towards creative Groomers.
What is self-care?
We hear this term used throughout the grooming industry, however, we do not always think it applies to us. We brush it off because maybe we are young and we do not have the aches and pains of those “boomer groomers”, or maybe we are sole groomers and have no choice but to keep hustling. Or perhaps, some other reason that keeps us from putting it in the front and center of our minds. Whatever the reason may be, we do not take notice of it until we’re 15 years or so in and our bodies are starting to hurt or we sustain an injury that now makes it a priority. That is when we start taking notice of these posts about self-care and what exactly it is. So what exactly is self-care? It can be many different things to many different people.
Why is self-care important?
Self-care is one of the most important things that a groomer, or anyone for that matter, can do for themselves. I am going to tell you about what self-care encompasses, and how we can master it and make it a part of our everyday life and not just as a last resort when we start experiencing aches and pains from grooming. I consider self-care an art, and as with any form of art, it takes practice to master it. Grooming takes a toll on our bodies as it is a physically demanding job. We often don’t realize this until we have experienced an injury or we begin to wake up to different aches and pains every day. When you are a young Groomer, you are often under the guise that you are invincible, and since you are young, you think you can handle the job better than a seasoned groomer. By employing this state of mind, these injuries can often creep up on you, or may happen suddenly with a difficult dog, and instead of being prepared for such an injury, you are now faced with the consequences, such as surgery, physical therapy, or both to save your career. Preventing such a thing early will help you maintain your physical and mental health. Starting or ending your day off by stretching will help you build flexibility and prevent your muscles and joints from becoming stiff. This will help lessen the chance of sudden strains or possible tears of muscles and/or tendons. If a dog happens to pull you across the table or try to jump off your table and you have to stop it, the sudden movements can cause us bodily injury. You are more likely to experience that if you don’t have a regular stretching or exercise routine.
What issues have you faced?
Several issues that I have faced when not practicing self-care, are back pain, knee pain and aches, shoulder pain, and elbow pain. I noticed these aches and pains creeping up in the last five years. We, as Groomers, tend to have this notion that we are invincible, tough, and can handle anything thrown our way. We get caught up in the hustle and bustle of making money and getting those dogs done to our customer’s satisfaction, that we do not stop to think about the repercussions to ourselves both physically and mentally. We put these things first while any form of self-care takes a backseat. I, too, was guilty of this. Self-care was not a priority until I began experiencing these aches and pains from the job that I love. The very first time I attended a seminar on taking care of our bodies as Groomers, I realized that I needed to make a change in my work ethic and my everyday life. Over the last few years, I have suffered from shoulder pains, a knee injury, and elbow pains. That brought me to the conclusion that I needed to remove large dogs from my schedule. I also needed to begin caring for my body outside of work.
How do you practice self-care?
Some of the techniques that I have used to stay consistent with self-care are regular chiropractic visits, stretching in the morning to get the day started, regular massages, using techniques that help with inflammation and pain, and making healthier choices when it comes to my dietary habits.
Also, seeing a chiropractor on a regular basis, rather than waiting until we experience an injury, can help keep our bodies aligned, and make us more aware of our posture, and how to get in a habit of not slouching over tubs, tables, or even the floor. We are often standing for eight or more hours, or even sitting on a chair or stool for 8 plus hours. Many times while we are doing this, we are hunched over a dog.
Exercise is also a vital part of self-care. Doing light exercises of even 20 to 30 minutes a day can have a tremendous effect on the health of our bodies and our minds. It is a great way to keep stress at bay and to clear the mind for a busy day at work, or to even deal with stress at the end of the hard day. There are many different options for exercise. Yoga is a great way to not only calm the mind, but to stretch the muscles in our bodies and to build core strength. There are easy to follow yoga videos online and also many gyms include classes in their memberships. Taking our dogs on a walk for twenty minutes at the beginning or end of the day, or even both, is also a great way to keep our bodies in shape and our minds clear. Some may choose weightlifting, or other cardio exercises as a way to do the same thing. These are all examples of self-care. Taking care of our bodies to ensure that we are at our physical and mental best at all times.
Being conscientious of what we eat is often overlooked, but a rather vital part of self-care. The more processed foods that we eat, the more we are likely to experience inflammation of the joints, and other health related problems that can affect our minds and bodies. Try to maintain a daily eating habit of fresh foods with the least amount of processing involved.
Another overlooked way to practice self-care is to engage in activities such as meditation, mantras, holistic practices such as wellness apps, or positive mindset books. These techniques can do wonders for your mental health and well-being. This is a huge part of self-care. If we are not mentally well, it is very hard to be physically well.
Last but not least
Had I known how much more self-care encompassed years ago, I could have prevented the aches and pains I have experienced in the last few years that I am now trying to manage, correct, and keep at bay. The more I learn about self-care, the more I want to share how beneficial it has been and still is. It is great to see more posts, classes, and articles available on this growing awareness in the industry.
Some advice that I would give to Groomers on how they can implement self-care as an everyday routine and why it’s important, is to determine why self-care is important to them. And what are some things they can do to make it a daily routine and a priority in their lives, rather than a last resort.
Lastly, make sure that you are using equipment that will keep your body healthy in the long run, and learning when to say no. You must know when something is no longer possible for you to do or may put your body or mind in harm's way. A big part of self-care in this industry is boundaries. Learning to set rules in our businesses and job positions is so important. Without these boundaries (such as weight limits for our dogs, daily limits on appointments, no show, or late policies, not allowing clients to be rude, etc.), we put the self-care of our minds by the wayside which is one of the main causes of burnout. With the awareness of self-care becoming more prevalent in our industry, boundaries are now something more and more groomers are implementing into their daily practices. Groomers are conscious of the fact that this leads to burnout, and we as a whole are doing more to prevent this industry-wide problem.