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Barbers’ Self-Care Debrief  Miles & Joe: Stretch Inc.

Barbers’ Self-Care Debrief Miles & Joe: Stretch Inc.

Stretch Inc. are experts in assisted-stretching, mobility and flexibility training. There are so many benefits to gain from stretching; from alleviating aches, pains and muscle tightness to reducing stress and improving your posture (something a lot of us could likely do with after spending so long makeshift working from home). After a consultation with a qualified Stretchologist to work out your individual needs, you can enjoy a session lasting anywhere from 15 to 50 minutes. As you will see, Miles and Joe have never really done anything like this before, but once through the door were keen to get on the bench and have those muscles seen to.

What does ‘More Than A Barber’ mean to you?

Joe:

‘More Than A Barber’ is an ongoing project we started five years ago to highlight the significant relationship a barber has with their client. Barbers play a very important role in modern-day society. We find ourselves in a privileged position to be in a space where people feel comfortable enough to open up and talk about almost anything. We have the power to positively affect someone’s day, how they feel and their mental wellbeing through simple conversation and listening. We want to use our #MoreThanABarber campaign to help others, ourselves and to spread the message that it’s okay not to be okay and to encourage talking about it.

Miles:

When you see someone every month over a number of years they become a friend and often like to open up when they’re in the chair. Being ‘More Than A Barber’ is knowing how I can show my clients that I care about them as people. It’s not just about cutting hair. Sometimes what you hear from people does affect you and it can stay with you in-between appointments. Having this campaign is perfect to actually have a way of articulating ways we can help. We’re not just raising money for a charity to then pass any responsibility over to them. We’re directly trying to make a difference ourselves, in and out of the barbershop.

How has your Mental Health First Aid training impacted your work?

Joe:

The MHFA training has definitely had an impact on how I listen and interact with my clients during an appointment. I used to avoid uncomfortable conversations by subtly changing the subject, not because I didn’t want to know, but because I didn’t know how to react or contribute. I now have the confidence to be able to speak about awkward moments and offer advice if needed.

Miles:

It’s been great to learn some useful skills on how to spot the signs of a person struggling with mental health problems. It’s also been awesome to learn the best ways to approach talking to clients about their issues. I think even just the term ‘Mental Health First Aid training’ sends the right message. This stuff needs to be taken seriously.

How important do you consider self-care to be?

Joe:

I consider self-care to be very important but hypocritically often neglect it. I see it as more of a treat and most people rarely treat themselves unless they have done something really special, or it’s their birthday for example. I’m learning though that there are little things we can do every day that are worth making time for.

Miles:

It’s something I’m pretty new to if I’m honest. I only really started focusing on self-care after lockdown ended. I reflected on my life being spent mostly either working or going to the pub and how I never really took a day to do anything else.

Do you currently factor self-care actives into your own life?

Joe:

I would say no, not really to be honest. I’ve had the odd massage on holiday when my wife has blackmailed me into joining her, but I have felt so uncomfortable and tried to just erase the experience from my memory. I have my vices and ways I like to relax, but nothing that really helps me to look after myself in a mental or physical way. I have a 45 minute commute to work each morning and I’ll have my headphones on for the duration of it, staring aimlessly out the window. I enjoy getting to zone out in this time, but that’s about as close to self-care as I get. I also like going for walks in the woods with my family, being out in nature helps to clear the mind.

Miles:

I’ve recently started reading again and that’s my Sundays sorted now. I love finding books about niche subjects and reading them by the river with my headphones on or I’ll go somewhere and read with a coffee. It’s honestly made such a difference to my state of mind; just doing something on my own with no real reason other than I want to do it. I’m also a big fan of museums but I’ve rarely had anyone to go with. Once I realised that walking around weird museums on your own with a nice coffee to hand can actually be really enjoyable, I’ve been doing it a lot.

How did you feel before going in to your stretch session?

Joe:

Nervous and my anxiety was going into overdrive. I was telling myself all the things that were going to go wrong and what an awful experience it would be. I find it’s easy to do this all the time with anything that I’ve never done before.

Miles:

I was a bit nervous about how rubbish I am flexibility-wise. I’ve never really thought about having someone ‘stretch’ me, so I had no idea how it would go.

How did you feel coming out of your session? Did it affect you positively?

Joe:

I genuinely really enjoyed it. It made me realise why these sorts of things exist and why people enjoy doing them. The stretch itself was fantastic and really loosened me up. I’m also way more flexible than I thought too! Rachel, our Stretchologist, was just as brilliant. She made me feel at ease (despite my mates from the shop watching and a camera crew filming us) and talked me through what she was doing and how it was going to feel. I walked out feeling great but also a bit annoyed at myself that I was dreading the entire thing and that I’d not been before.

Miles:

It was great. Just having someone analyse things that I never knew about myself was really interesting. Rachel explained that I tend to put way more weight on one side of my body, which causes me to have a bit of stretch on one of my hips. So I’ve been obsessing over correcting my posture ever since!

Your overall thoughts on Stretch Inc.?

Joe:

I remember walking past Stretch Inc. when it first opened as it’s around the corner from our Covent Garden barbershop and seeing people being stretched through the window. I thought ‘why would anyone do that?’ and wondered how they could be so comfortable knowing people can see in. Well, now I know why. It’s because when you are inside you feel away from the world and you are so focused on what is being done and how you feel, that everything else becomes insignificant. I would definitely recommend it to anyone and I’m actually going to treat all the staff in our shop to a session for Christmas.

Miles:

It was a fantastic experience and I met some great people. It’s completely different to anything I’ve done before and I’m 100% working it into my routine every month going forward. I’ve also already recommended it to clients, friends and family. I feel like it’s a solid alternative to yoga for lazy people like me! I know a lot of my clients don’t feel like they have time to do things like this, but I’ve been explaining that you can get so much out of it even in 15 minutes.

Has this activity changed your outlook on self-care and wellness?

Joe:

It has yes. I should definitely start making time for myself. Even if it’s just a 15 minute stretch, it’s 15 minutes escaping from the world and doing my body some good. I always talk myself out of activities, convincing myself I won’t enjoy them and won’t benefit much, whereas really, I should just give them a go. And why not treat yourself more regularly too!?

Miles:

Definitely. It’s opened my eyes to the fact that there are niche activities out there for everyone to take the plunge and try out.

Is there anything else that you are now keen to try following on from this activity?

Joe:

I watched Franky do his yoga, and boy that looked difficult! I don’t think I have that in me. My friend went on a silent retreat when he was unwell not too long ago and he absolutely loved it and that fascinates me. It may seem odd to not talk to anyone for a whole week, but I can relate to how soothing that must feel and how you can potentially make peace with any demons rattling around in your head. I’d also like to try some activities that exude more physical effort. I have another friend who is really good at throwing himself out of his comfort zone and trying different sports like rock climbing, mountain biking and marathons and I really admire that. There’s no reason why I couldn’t do those things, so that would be something I’d like to give a go.

Miles:

I’ve really wanted to get a massage for ages. I’m just a bit awkward about walking in somewhere and asking about it. I feel like I’m getting to a place now though where I can control that anxiety a bit better and just assure myself that something like this can (and should) be a very normal thing to do

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