Ask Angel

Piercer Burnout


I have been a piercer for seven years and there’s nothing I would rather do. I still love piercing, but I’ve been having a hard time at work for a while now. We have gotten busier and busier, which is great for tips, but I’m swamped doing piercings, dealing with customers, studio maintenance, jewelry inventory, and everything else I have to do. My boss is a decent guy but never gives me any props no matter how hard I bust my ass.

I’m sleeping like crap and am always tense and worn out. My stomach aches all the time. I feel irritated, distracted, and I’m constantly checking the clock to see how long until I can go home. I was always so into it, but now I’m just going through the motions, which is not like me at all. I really don’t know what to do. Please help me!

Thank you, O.

Hi O.,

What you’re describing sounds distinctly like job burnout: a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by extreme and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, drained, and unable to meet the constant demands of your employment.

Burnout is more serious than routine stress and it is accompanied by a sense of disillusionment with your job.It primarily affects people who are profoundly identified with their work and passionate about their careers. As piercers, many of us derive our sense of identity and self-worth from our profession. I know I do. Piercing isn’t just what we do—it’s who we are.

Virtually every occupation has some aspects that are tedious or difficult. Piercers deal extremely closely with people all day. Our clients are frequently indecisive or anxious, which is particularly draining and can require tremendous patience and reassurance. Also, the repetitiveness of verbally conveying aftercare guidelines can tax the interest and motivation of even the most dedicated pro. Feeling like you can never catch up–no matter how much time or energy you put in—is demoralizing, nerve-wracking, and regularly leads to the types of unpleasant consequences you’re experiencing.

Fatigue, pain, frequent illness, and sleep disturbances are common physical indicators of burnout. Emotional symptoms often include lack of energy, feelings of emptiness or hopelessness, and impatience or frustration with clients or co-workers. Behavioral signs can consist of absenteeism, loss of focus, and increased alcohol consumption or substance abuse.

Job performance is likely to deteriorate, too.When a piercer experiences burnout, needle stick injuries could occur, or clients might suffer from botched piercings. Burnout commonly spills over into your personal life as well, negatively impacting relationships with friends and loved ones.

Any combination of undesirable factors can potentially lead to burnout:

• Excessive workload, especially when combined with inadequate compensation

• Lack of recognition for your efforts, inadequate support from management, or other dysfunctional workplace dynamics

• Monotonous or repetitive tasks

• Insufficient down time (work-life imbalance)

Burnout is serious but fortunately it is reversible, so don’t let it be the end of your career.

Address burnout by taking a vacation as soon as you possibly can. Plan for some genuine all-out leisure and forget about the studio until your return. Rest, relax, and enjoy yourself. Right now,a vacation isn’t a luxury; it is as necessary as eating. A solid break can do wonders to provide a fresh perspective and rejuvenate you. American employees take only half of their eligible paid leave and time off. If you get vacation days, use them!

Contemplate the deeper impact of what you do and try to rediscover your purpose.Consider how your calling makes life better for other people: improving their self-esteem and body image, empowering them, etc.

Feeling more in control of your tasks can help to minimize negativity. Review your efficiency to make sure you’re optimally effective and managing your time as well as possible. Set priorities and identify any duties that could be postponed or omitted from your to-do list.

Every competent manager knows that happy employees are more productive,so it would be advisable to let your boss know that your responsibilities are overwhelming you. Be prepared to offer practical solutions for delegating certain assignments or otherwise reducing your burden. If you think he really does value your efforts, gently bring up the lack of appreciation, too. Hopefully, together you can reach compromises and revise expectations to make your work more viable.

Some of the methods I’ve used to keep myself from sinking into the burnout pit are outlined below:

Practice self-care; it really can help. Physically mistreating or neglecting yourself limits your ability to function and will affect your capacity to deal with your obligations and demands. Eat regularly (fresh, healthy food is best), stay hydrated, and don’t abuse drugs or alcohol. Consistently practice stress-reduction measures like meditation and exercise, whether yoga, gym workouts, or team sports. Find ways to de-stress during the week. Take up a hobby you can immerse yourself in for a few hours weekly like rock climbing, martial arts, music lessons, crafting, volunteering, or something else that interests you.

I take note of people who do jobs that are much less desirable than mine and experience gratitude for the enjoyable parts of my profession. I remind myself how lucky I am (not just saying the words, but really feeling the sentiment) to have a vocation that has such rewarding aspects.

I celebrate the exceptional encounters when I truly connect with a client. Cultivate those peak experiences by sharing a little more of the real (but professional) “you” when you click with a piercee and concentrate on those peak moments.

My hand-washing ritual is my reset button. While I’m at the sink preparing for a piercing, as my hands are going through the familiar motions of scrubbing and rinsing off dirt and germs, I use the time for the equally essential task of clearing my mind centering myself. I wash away the previous part of the day and begin fresh. I bring myself into the present and zone in my focus for the all-important duty at hand: to do my utmost, right here, right now.

Keep challenging yourself. Even though I have performed tens of thousands of piercings, I try each time to make the procedure smoother, gentler, and more perfect than any I’ve done previously. Refuse to let yourself pierce on auto pilot. Concentrate, and challenge yourself with every client.

Get a new piercing. If it has been a while and you’ve lost the sense of what it is like on the other side of the needle, go through the experience yourself with the intention of appreciating the unique magic of piercing—and recapturing your empathy for the people who are on the receiving end of your labors.

Connect and communicate with other piercers. The APP conferences and Camp APP members’ retreats are incredibly motivating and restorative. Regularly interacting and bonding with other piercers either locally or online (such as in Facebook forums) can be a fantastic support, too.

All occupations have pros and cons. If there’s nothing you’d rather do than piercing, I’d advise you to seek employment at another studio before giving up on your career. See my recent Pain Magazine articles, “The Importance of Sleep” and “Dealing with Difficult Clients,” for some additional helpful ideas.

Hopefully you’ll be able to weather the tough times using some of my tips, techniques, and suggestions.




Communication and Consent 

Dear Ms. Angel,  I feel totally horrible about something that happened and I need your help: A lady had a VCH piercing and she couldn’t get the jewelry back in after an MRI. She wanted


Piercing Beneath the Mask

Dear Ms. Angel,    Do you think it is OK to do nostril piercings right now if their mask stays over their mouth, and I am off to the side? (Today’s headline was “U.S. reports record single-day spike of