The “customer comes first” dynamic has been doing harm to us as hospitality employees for a long time. In some ways our happiness depends on the happiness of the guests we serve, and our mental well-being takes a backseat to the customer service experience. It is now time we learn to put ourselves first. We are overtaxed and pushed to our physical and mental limits. We are getting up close and personal with strangers, and we are doing it without proper PPE. Many of us are not on the frontlines of the healthcare battle, but more of us can be first responders to the need for emotional support for our fellow workers.
The need for emotional support exists in every industry and economic sector, among physically healthy people as well as those that are sick or whose loved ones are sick. There are needs in our hospitality workplaces, in our homes, our families, extended families, communities, as well as our established network of professionals.
The Restaurant After Hours Resources page has close to 200 mental health resources for all to use for free. However, none of us can use or share these resources if we do not know how to use them. The critical starting point is learning how to take your own mental health temperature. How am I doing? Am I showing any symptoms of depression, anxiety, substance use, or eating disorders? Am I drinking, eating, sleeping, or crying too much? Is the anxiety of economic uncertainty or contracting COVID-19 impacting my own quality of life? These resources are available for you to help regulate these emotions.
Learning how to assess your mental health is a skill like any other we learn in the hospitality industry. It needs to be identified, strengthened, sharpened, honed, and taken care of. Start with self-care, but what exactly does that mean? Self-care is defined as any activity we deliberately do to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Good self-care is the key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. But knowing what self-care is not is just as important. Self-care is something that refuels us, rather than takes away from us. It is not a selfish act, and it is not only about considering our own needs. It is about knowing what we need to do to take care of ourselves, and subsequently to take care of others as well. That is, if you do not take care of yourself, you will not be in a place to take care of others either.
After implementing a routine of self-care that works for you, learn to ask for help when you need it. We are all in this together, and this statement holds more and more true daily. Many of us are working short-handed and feel others may not be available or are being pushed to the limit just as much as we are. Although it is hard to see at times, there is always someone else available. You are not alone.
Ask others “How are you?”. Say good morning and good night. Take some time and learn to assess others’ feelings as well. Is there something you can do to help? Can you help think of new procedures or a new way of doing things to make their lives easier? Did they just need to vent to get some overwhelming thoughts off their chest? Everyone has a different density to their day. Topics that may not feel important to you, or affect you in any way, may not hold true for everyone around you. Talking things out and helping to gain someone else’s perspective are not only keys in building team relationships, but also useful in strengthening ourselves.
Lastly, translate these principles into your professional life. Come in with a positive mind, and with knowing others have your back just as much as you have theirs. With the overwhelming changes this pandemic is throwing at us from every angle, it is incredibly important we focus on strengthening ourselves, our foundations, and learning what we can and cannot control in every situation. Then and only then can we put our focus into taking care of our guests and others around us.
This pandemic has exposed our lack of benefits and safety net to the core. It is time to rebuild our industry.
Founder and Executive Director
Restaurant After Hours