Groomer Burn Out: The Struggle is Real

I’m ashamed to admit it, but there have been times that I almost considered walking away from the dog grooming industry.

“But Jun, you love dog grooming! What would make you want to walk away? Why would you quit something you love?”

I think it’s because I love grooming dogs so much, and I care deeply about how the pets and the owners feel about my work. I care too much about what people think and say about my work… about me. I remember feeling completely zapped of energy at times, and looking at my beautiful family but feeling empty inside. I thought I was depressed, but looking back with a more clear definition I realize that I was actually burned out.

“Burnout is a type of psychological stress. Occupational burnout or job burnout is characterized by exhaustion, lack of enthusiasm and motivation, feelings of ineffectiveness, and also may have the dimension of frustration or cynicism, and as a result reduced efficacy within the workplace..[1]

Occupational burnout is typically and particularly found within human service professions. Professions with high levels of burnout include social workers, nurses, teachers, lawyers, engineers, medical practitioners, customer service representatives, and police officers.[5] One reason why burnout is so prevalent within the human services field is due in part to the high-stress work environment and emotional demands of the job.[1]”  Ruotsalainen JH, Verbeek JH, Mariné A, Serra C (2014). “Preventing occupational stress in healthcare workers”. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 12: CD002892. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD002892.pub4.PMID 25482522https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupational_burnout#cite_ref-Cochrane1214_1-0

I’d like to point out a fascinating point. One reason why burnout is so prevalent in the service industry is because of the “high-stress work environment and emotional demands of the job”!!! Sound familiar? That last line pretty much sums up a groomer’s day. This is the most physically and emotionally demanding work I’ve ever done. But that is also what makes it so rewarding for me! The work never gets easier, I just got better over time 🙂 It’s hard. It’s supposed to be hard because easy is never rewarding, and grooming is meant to be rewarding!

So then how come I burned out? And how do I avoid burning out again?

I had a revelation the other day while grooming a client’s dog. I was plugging my phone to charge it while finishing up the prep work on a dog. My phone’s battery cannot hold it’s charge anymore because of the constant plugging and unplugging (into a car charger) I did while moving back and forth across the country. Then as I tried filing the dog’s nails with my cordless Dremel, the battery died halfway into it. I decided to finish filing the nails at the end of the groom to give the battery time to charge before using it again. “I don’t want to zap this one,” I thought.

That’s when the idea hit me. We keep the Dremel battery fresh by using it up completely before charging it again so it can last a long time. Then while charging it, we do not unplug and use it until it’s fully charged. The same applies to a cell phone battery. That’s also the same way we can keep ourselves fresh and stay energized at work! By using up all of our talents and abilities every day, and recharge ourselves completley before going back at it again the next day.

Using our batteries up everyday is usually not an issue for dog groomers. It’s the recharging/resting part that I think we struggle with. Many of us stay up late, allowing our overly critical minds to pester us with thoughts of worry, doubt and fear. We don’t recharge our batteries completely before returning back to work the next day. Also, during our vacations we’re still sending and replying to emails about work. We’re interrupting our recharge time. It is so important to plug into our source of energy, and unplug from our responsiblities to the world during our recharge time so that we can play much more effectively when we’re called onto the field.

“Burnout reduces productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give….

Take time off. If burnout seems inevitable, try to take a complete break from work. Go on vacation, use up your sick days, ask for a temporary leave-of-absence—anything to remove yourself from the situation. Use the time away to recharge your batteries and pursue other burnout recovery steps.”  Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A., Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., Lawrence Robinson, and Robert Segal, M.A. Last updated: April 2017. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/preventing-burnout.htm#difference

My advice to my fellow groomers, my fellow artists, is to be fully engaged with the work you are doing each and every day. Then when it is time to rest, do not interrupt your rest time with work. Work when it is time to work, and rest when it is time to rest. “Where ever you are, be there. Don’t think about vacation while you’re at work, or you will surely think about work while you’re on vacation. You’ll just mess it all up… Make rest a neccessity, not an objective. Resting to refill your reserves is much different than resting to avoid the day.” Jim Rohn

Know that the work we are engaged in is very important! By providing quality grooming care for our clients, we are giving them Peace of Mind. We are actually in the “Peace of Mind Business.” We create moments of happiness and joy with the work of our own hands to be experienced by others. This fills me with a sense of purpose and pride! We are artists who create living, walking works of art. I am so happy and proud to call myself a Dog Groomer! Remind yourself of this from time to time – especially those times when you may forget just how amazing you really are. 🙂

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