Working in a restaurant is no piece of cake. The stress in a busy kitchen or dining room during a rush can be overwhelming. Shifts in the food service industry can be long and at odd hours, while staff and customers can be totally unpredictable. If you work in a restaurant and feel stressed sometimes, you're not alone!
Stress is also a very common workplace experience–so common that The American Psychological Association found that 61% of people experience stress while on the job and 77% regularly experience physical symptoms of stress.
How To Deal with Stress at Work
The food and service industry demands you to work well under pressure as new orders come in or get modified, and diners come and go. Working as a manager in the food and service industry, you need to learn to anticipate the needs of your customers and employees. The good news is that stress is manageable, especially when you use the right tactics and practices set in place to support you.
This post will cover six different strategies for how to deal with stress at work in a restaurant. They might not all apply to you in your situation, so take the ones that make sense and use them.
1. Learn to Listen to Your Body
The first step in learning to manage stress is by listening to your body. Pay attention to body aches, soreness, and headaches. Muscle tension is a common symptom of stress. 30% of Americans report having muscle tension due to stress and 60% suffer from headaches.
The day to day of managing a restaurant can create a lot of stress. You are in charge of all the employees, marketing, finances, ensuring efficient operations, all while maintaining revenue quality goals and profitability. Studies have shown that standing for long periods of time reduced mental function and increases body-discomfort.
When you feel a backache or any type of pain, that is your body sending you a warning signal, so listen to it! One way to relax your muscles is by taking a slow, deep inhale, counting from one to three, then holding it in for three seconds, then exhaling for three seconds.
Another quick tip is to notice and adjust your posture when sitting for long periods of time and remember to take few sips of water to stay hydrated. The motions are simple and take only a few seconds to do, but it works! Once you focus on your breathing and your posture, you can instantly feel more relaxed and start to feel the aches and pains going away.
Here are some more breathing techniques recommended by Harvard specialists.
2. Feed Your Face Fantastic Fuel
I know everyone says that diet and nutrition are important in improving your mood and energy… and as much as I sound like a ‘mom’, its true! You work in a restaurant, surrounded by delicious food shift after shift…I get it. It's hard to not give in to continual delicious temptations, but it's important to stay strong and not give in all the time.
Healthy eating is so important! It helps preserve your energy and makes decision making easier. Managing a restaurant means moving around in a fast-paced environment, juggling multiple tasks, and being alert to make changes on a moments notice. To do all this, your body needs to be fed food with substance; vitamins, healthy fats, and energy.
Sliced fruits and vegetables like apples and carrots are not only satisfying and quick to eat, but full of nutrients and vitamins. Nuts are your best friend–a great source of healthy fats, iron, and energy booster. Making a delicious nut mixture with raisins, dried cherries or maybe some semi-sweet chocolate chips can take seconds and helps keep you energized and alert while you work.
Here are 15 more delicious and healthy snack recipe ideas you can make to take to work.
3. Use Micro-Breaks in Mindful Moments
Working at a restaurant is hard work, especially with lots of people running around in the kitchen shouting orders during a rush. If you need to give yourself some space away from all the noise once in a while, to calm down, re-center, and rest–do it! Your crew and customers will thank you.
During shift breaks take a step outside, get yourself physically out of the kitchen or dining room, even if only for a few minutes. Grab a snack, check your messages, but most importantly take 8-10 mindful breaths and maybe take a short walk if you have the time and if you don’t, even a quick step outside and breath of fresh air helps. No one knows themselves better than you do.
It is important to listen to your body when its asking you for a break. Lack of concentration and productivity doesn’t help your staff or your restaurant’s bottom line. Don’t rely on energy drinks as the sugar rush only lasts so long...the last thing you need is a sugar crash during an unexpected late-night rush! If you’re feeling tired, make yourself a coffee or have a caffeinated natural beverage like green tea and let yourself enjoy. You deserve it.
Here are 40 more ideas on different ways to relax in under 5 mins.
4. Get Organized and De-Clutter Your Mind
It's time to bring out your inner nerd and get organized! Make a to-do list to manage everything that you need to get done for the day. Don’t underestimate the power of a focused, timely list.
Once you get in the habit of making to-do lists and calendars, you won’t want to stop. Every smartphone and computer has a calendar application that is accessible and easy to use, so use it! Maybe you find it too boring and are looking for something more fun? Invest in an agenda with a fun design and maybe even some colorful pens and stickers and embrace your creative side. How can creating your own personal schedule be boring now!?
Forbes offers six more organizational tactics you can use today, here.
5. Work Effectively Under Pressure
Scheduling may seem like a difficult task, especially when you are managing a lot of employees, responsible for getting them their hours on time every week, accommodating different availabilities and handling unexpected no-shows and call-ins. That doesn't mean you can’t work effectively under pressure.
If you’re tired of scheduling in excel spreadsheets and on pen and paper, software can help. Investing in a leave management software will save you plenty of time, energy and most importantly, help decrease the stress of juggling multiple, conflicting, and last-minute time-off requests.
Upgrading to a scheduling app not only makes your life as a manager easier, but it also empowers your staff to manage their own schedules. This in return frees up your time to focus on your guests and running the floor. Staff communication is also simple and centralized with a scheduling app, eliminating the hassle of digging through emails, saving hand-written notes, and responding to text messages.
See how employee scheduling software can help you run an effective, organized, profitable business.
6. Cultivate a Positive Attitude
Restaurant life isn’t always easy. Stress, struggle, unpredictability–whatever you want to call it–is an inescapable fact of running an amazing restaurant. But the inevitability of stress doesn't mean there’s nothing you can do about it.
Cultivating an ‘attitude of gratitude’ is a simple, effective method for building your capacity to navigate stressful situations.
If you train yourself to instinctively spot the silver lining when things in life are easy and going smooth, that instinct will kick in when the ? hits the fan.
Taking the time to identify some specific things in your life that you’re grateful for is one way to nurture this innate instinct and make the next walk-out, allergic reaction, or no-show far easier to manage.
Researchers found that people who work daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experience improved mood, energy and substantially less anxiety due to a 23% reduction of the stress hormone in their bodies. Stress results from things outside your control happening and not being able to think straight. Regular gratitude practice will make you better prepared to handle stressful events by building your tolerance for unpredictability.
Noticing a negative thought is another great opportunity to practice gratitude. After noticing, balance your perspective by also noting something you appreciate. It doesn't have to be a deep or profound observation, just sincere. Try to do this every day at the start of your shift for a minimum of 21 days in a row to establish the habit. Then, after day 22, reflect on your shift and review your experience at work. Has anything changed? Only one way to find out!
Learn more strategies to transform a negative outlook here.
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Melissa is a foodie, chocoholic and is always looking for the next food trend. Check out her Instagram @tastethesix to discover Toronto's finest eats.