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Cooks working in a busy kitchen

Stress Busters for Foodservice Operators

March 19, 2020

Business pressures can lead to headaches and other physical issues. But, there are proven techniques to bust the stress before it ties you up in knots. Learn the simple things that you and your staff can do to manage stress levels and stay in good spirits.

While a little stress can be a good thing, too much can be toxic. High-stress foodservice jobs are known to correlate with levels of alcohol and drug abuse significantly higher than in most other industries, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics. Sustained stress can lead to other serious health issues, as well, ranging from headaches and difficulty sleeping to inability to concentrate, short temper, stomach problems, and low morale. Left unchecked, these symptoms can lead to more serious health issues, including ulcers, depression, and heart disease.

Finding Calm: 10 Ways to Cope

Fortunately, managing stress can be relatively simple and there are plenty of proven strategies for doing so, both on the job and off. And remember that knowledge is power. Familiarize yourself with the latest basic safety strategies, health information, and local updates, so that you feel more confident about what to do, and how to answer questions from customers and staff.

  1. Set an intention. Make a conscious decision to minimize stress as much as possible, and set a plan for how to make it happen. If playing with your dog calms you, make time for that; if keeping a gratitude journal gives you peace of mind, have at it.

  2. Keep it simple. Pare down operations and tasks as much as possible in order to minimize duplicated effort, avoid wasting time or resources, prevent the wrong priorities from taking over.

  3. Get as much sleep as possible. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but it’s important. If you don’t already have one, build a bedtime ritual. Take a bath or shower, read a book, or listen to music. And stay away from digital devices as early as possible. There is evidence that the light they emit can overstimulate the brain—not to mention the content.

  4. Eat well. Start your day with a breakfast high in protein and complex carbs. Keep a water bottle handy, especially in hot kitchens, to stay hydrated. Avoid the temptation to overindulge in junk funk and cocktails.

  5. Walk. Even a 10-minute power walk away from the kitchen, office, or serving line is enough to clear your head, lower your heart rate, and improve your mood. Longer walks before or after work multiply the positive effects.

  6. Breathe. Grab a minute while prepping, placing orders, doing inventory, or transitioning between meal periods to use simple, controlled breathing. Sit or stand in a relaxed position; slowly inhale through your nose while silently counting to five; slowly exhale through your mouth, silently counting to eight as it leaves your lungs. Repeat several times.

  7. Do yoga. For many practitioners, yoga resonates because it delivers both stress relief and fitness. Yoga also helps chefs and other foodservice workers, who spend a lot of time on their feet twisting, turning, and doing repetitive motions, ward off fatigue and back pain. Check out free online videos to learn simple stretches, poses, and breathing techniques to try at home or before or after a busy meal period at work.

  8. Make time for exercise. Putting exercise on hold is the wrong medicine for stress relief. Cardio and strength training are great ways to blow off steam, build up your tolerance for stress, and keep those extra pounds off. Even if you’re only able to do calisthenics like jumping jacks, burpees, and planks; climb stairs; complete an exercise video; work with resistance bands; or lift simple hand weights, just do it. 

  9. Listen to music. Load up your iPod or smartphone with songs that soothe, energize, or just make you happy. Listen on your daily walk or during your commute. At work, upbeat music in the back-of-the-house during nonservice times can do wonders for morale.

  10. Stay in touch. Even in the most trying or busy times, you can and should reach out to friends and family via text, phone, video chat, or other means. If you’re feeling troubled, talk with a supervisor, a trusted co-worker, or a friend, and seek help in finding positive solutions.

The information provided is based on a general industry overview, and is not specific to your business operation. Each business is unique and decisions related to your business should be made after consultation with appropriate experts.