It’s Friday afternoon. While most of your friends are on the homestretch to the weekend, you’re gearing up for back-to-back doubles. Sleep is merely a concept, and it’s been replaced with copious amounts of caffeine. Your first table is full of impossible-to-please customers; they won’t return a smile, but they sure will return their food. …So much for a tip…
The restaurant industry is fast-paced and inherently unpredictable. Even in the face of competing demands, grumpy guests, and food order mix-ups, front-of-house staff are expected to stay smiling. But let’s be honest: working in a restaurant is stressful.
So stressful, in fact, that a recent study found “menial, thankless jobs” like serving put employees at increased risk of heart problems over “mentally taxing jobs” like architecture, science, and medicine. Scientists identified two preconditions for workplace stress: feeling in control, and feeling respected.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways for restaurant managers to motivate employees, empower them to do great work, and create an environment where staff feel comfortable to speak up. Encouraging a bit of healthy competition, soliciting input on major business decisions, and enforcing regular breaks are common examples. Even the smallest gestures—a sympathetic pat on the back in the middle of a dinner rush—can go a long way to improve your team’s job satisfaction, but unfortunately these efforts won’t completely buffer against the often harsh realities of restaurant stress.
Working in A Restaurant Is Stressful
Everyone has a different stress threshold (that point when you switch from healthy stress to “get-me-out-of-here-I-can’t-cope” stress). Warning signs include:
- Emotional changes (feeling sad, afraid, tense, or all of the above)
- Fatigue or restlessness
- Skin rashes
- Digestive problems (heartburn, stomach cramps, and even ulcers)
- Difficulty concentrating
Beyond your employer’s restaurant stress management practices, it’s largely up to you to protect your health and wellbeing. That’s where a little something called self-care comes in. Self-care consists of activities or practices that promote physical, mental, and emotional health.
In short, self care is an effort made for you, by you.
6 Ways to Self-Care when Working at A Restaurant
1. Be Your Own Customer
The cardinal rules of the restaurant industry are that the customer is always right, and that the customer always comes first. Your job as a server is to accommodate as many customer needs as possible, as quickly as possible.
When you hang up your apron for the day, try treating yourself like a customer by tuning in to what you want and need.
Feeling exhausted? Maybe you’re due for a mental health day, an early night, or a guilt-free splurge. Whether or not we plan it, we bring how we feel at home to work with us; making the self-care act of listening to our bodies and minds all the more important.
2. Make Time for Fresh Air
You might assume that spending hours on your feet at a restaurant carrying heavy plates of food is sufficient exercise (and according to Harvard Health Publications, a 155-pound server can actually burn up to 155 calories in an hour on the job), but there are countless benefits to sunshine and fresh air. Reduced stress, a boost of vitamin D, and better sleep are just a few things you’ll enjoy when you swap your social media scroll for a refreshing outdoor stroll.
3. Monitor Your Diet
Working unsociable hours can lead to a slippery slope of unhealthy behaviours, with poor food choices topping the list. Whether you’re skipping meals altogether, or reaching for sugary snacks to get a quick burst of energy, consider that what you eat affects your productivity. Grazing on healthy foods like almonds or apples will maintain your glucose levels and keep you upbeat and alert throughout your shift.
4. Limit Your Caffeine Intake
To make it through those late nights or the dreaded clopen, servers tend to rely on coffee and other caffeinated drinks. But be warned: too much caffeine (which experts say is five cups or more) can be damaging to your health by increasing blood pressure, triggering insomnia, and even making you hear voices.
5. Rest Up
The National Sleep Foundation discovered more than a third of Americans rate their sleep as “poor” or “only fair,” with many more failing to catch the recommended 7–9 hours of zzz’s a night. Sure, you might work until the middle of the night (and when you do sleep, you might suffer from the odd waitmare), but that doesn’t exempt you from the biological need for shut-eye.
6. Don’t Forget to Laugh!
At 7shifts, laughing is our favorite. Did you know laughter limits the release of stress hormones like cortisol, and that you’re 30 times more likely to laugh when you’re in the company of others?
Having a laugh with your coworkers not only strengthens your relationships, it also helps you let off some steam after a long day on your feet. A win-win, really.