How to look after yourself during Christmas in the hospitality industry
The Christmas and New Year's festivities are undoubtedly some of the busiest times for hospitality businesses. Even as we plan to cut back on Christmas spending this year, we should still expect a hectic behind-the-scenes atmosphere in restaurants, hotels, inns, pubs, and hangouts.
As a worker in the hospitality industry (chef, waiter, caterer, housekeeper, bartender, floor manager, etc.), the busy holiday season could mean working long hours, loads of prep work, and juggling multiple tasks at once. All these stressors can really add up and leave you feeling burned out.
But as the Burnt Chef Project puts it, working in the hospitality business during Christmas is a marathon, not a sprint. This means that you should keep up with the fast-paced pressure of the job at your own speed. Be mindful of your well-being—don't stretch yourself too thin.
Here is how you can take care of yourself when working extra long and demanding shifts this festive season:
Taking breaks during shifts might seem counterproductive, but it will sharpen your focus and energise you throughout the workday. A short 20-minute break can put your mind at ease, helping you relax and restore a cheerful mood.
Be careful, though; the wrong kind of break will do you more harm than good. Rather than scrolling through social media or chatting with co-workers, it's more refreshing to step outside for a stroll, do some light exercises, or take a nap.
Get enough sleep
Quality sleep replenishes the energy reserves you slowly drain during waking hours. You need a full battery to get through the busy Christmas season workday. So, ensure you get at least seven hours of sleep daily.
Follow these tips for better sleep:
Avoid caffeine and alcohol a few hours before sleep.
No screen time before or in bed.
Get some natural light during the day.
Create and stick to a regular bedtime routine.
Ensure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and comfortable.
Know your limits
Everyone has a breaking point. You can only wait tables, serve drinks, and prepare meals for so long before your body or mind hits the wall. Avoid pushing yourself beyond what you can mentally and physically handle—there’s no shame in working within your healthy capacity.
Also, don’t let your manager/supervisor pressure you into stretching your limit. HR and floor managers should know better than to overwork their staff.
Don’t skip meals
The frantic hustle and bustle of serving guests during peak season can easily make you forget to eat. Or you might feel there’s no time or need for a meal—the mind can play such tricks on you when stressed.
Start your day with a heavy meal containing lots of proteins, whole-grain carbs, vegetables, and fruits. And keep snacking lightly as you work to avoid an energy crash in the middle of the day.
Crucially, remember to drink plenty of water. Proper hydration helps alleviate exhaustion and body aches while keeping the mind sharp.
Set healthy work-life boundaries
Even when working long shifts, do not let work consume you entirely. No matter how busy you are, always make time to take the load off and only focus on yourself. Schedule time during the week to focus on anything other than work—perhaps your hobbies, family, or some fun activities. Doing so recharges your mental and emotional well-being before returning to work.
Rather shockingly, 4 out of 5 hospitality professionals experience at least one mental health issue at some point in their career. Cases of mental health problems, especially burnout, are very likely during the hectic Christmas period.
Protect your mental and emotional health this festive season by practising mindfulness and self-care. Establish behaviours and principles that promote your well-being. Self-care practices such as hanging out with friends, eating healthy, physical exercise, learning something new, or minimising screen time can do wonders for your overall health during the most stressful time of the year. Our friends over at The Burnt Chef Project have loads of useful resources for you to lean on and share with colleagues who may need them.
Working long hours during the festive period is unquestionably stressful, but it can be highly rewarding too. The trick is maintaining healthy habits and a clear mindset to inspire, motivate, and energise you to do your best work during the Christmas holiday season without feeling left out or overloaded.