Most of us work fast-paced jobs, right? Hospitality is most certainly one of them. This includes long hours, early mornings, late finishes and a lot of pressure. The question is, what happens when it begins to affect our mental health?
Anxiety for me took a long time to notice but I slowly started to lose control of how stressed I was getting and just randomly crying over the most stupid of things. I felt like I was losing my mind. When I started to recognise it was more than likely anxiety I was suffering from, I then started to suffer from panic attacks. I remember my very first one. Nothing had happened. I was just sat in the house and then suddenly felt myself losing it. It was like I couldn’t cope with anything and I struggled breathing and I genuinely felt like I was going to die. The more I thought about what was happening, the more my chest was getting tighter, and the more I couldn’t calm myself down the dizzier I felt. Not knowing what was really happening, it took me a while to get my breathing under control. It’s a very scary place when it happens, especially if you’re on your own. You feel so stupid for having them and begin to question what’s wrong with you.
Anxiety is more common than people think. In the UK alone, there are around 8.2 million cases of anxiety. There are many factors that make up anxiety, such as chemical imbalances in the brain, physical health but the main one, stress. Anxiety is a very normal emotion. There are ways to manage it whilst juggling a face-paced job.
I personally seeked advice. I was taught different techniques and ways in which to cope with what was happening to me. Although it is very rare that I suffer from them now, I was taught mindfulness, breathing techniques, visualisation and the power of just accepting that you’re experiencing anxiety and that’s OK!. It will go away eventually, it just takes time to pass. Looking back, I was in a bad environment and around people that weren’t serving me well which played a huge part in the way I was feeling and what was happening to me.
I later realised I was wasting my life being my toughest critic. I slowly returned to feeling happier and looked forward to going to work, spending time with my favourite people and going out. Now things are good, but not perfect, it’s a lot easier to accept and be okay with it. There are a few things I did and starting to do again to keep it all under control. Different techniques work for different people. But below are a few that really help me.
When you’re at work:
- Take short breaks. As we know, long breaks are mostly unheard of in hospitality. Take short breaks where you can, even if it means just going making a drink, taking a short walk or taking 5 to simply sit down.
- Ask for help. If you’re feeling particularly anxious on a shift, speak to someone you trust (a colleague or a manager). This can be a great opportunity to offload, and air any concerns you may have. They may be able to offer support.
- Know your limits. You may feel like you have to sign up for as many shifts as possible. Over-committing and over-working can have a big impact on anxiety levels. Learn when to say no and when to cut shifts down.
- Stay off the coffee. When you’re on your feet 8+ hours a day, it requires energy. Remember coffee is a stimulant, which is also bad news if you have anxiety. Coffee can also trigger an anxiety attack. Instead opt for water or a green tea!
Outside of work:
- I keep a gratitude journal and write positive things in it every day. It can be big or small. It doesn’t really matter. Being grateful is so powerful.
- I look after myself. I don’t push myself to try and do anything until I feel up to it. This is more for when I’m having an off day. I know it’s ok to just sit and do nothing sometimes.
- I no longer beat myself up for having a bad day.
- I do a lot more for myself. I don’t worry what other people may think. I’ve realised life is too short to dwell on others, especially if they’re not serving you well anyway. Nothing bad is going to happen to me if I’m not the perfect person and if someone doesn’t want to be in my life anymore.
- I clean! Although I’ve always loved it, I now find it’s a way to escape for an hour or 2 and forget about what’s playing on my mind. So every time I think I’m going to have a wobble, I’ll put my favourite music on and do some cleaning.
Don’t get me wrong, it was tough at first but I promise you it gets easier. I now feel back to my happy self with the odd off day here and there but that’s going to happen. I have no shame in admitting I sometimes suffer from anxiety because there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s not me all the time and it doesn’t define me. It’s like when someone gets sick or injured, they’re still the same person.
Be patient, be kind to yourself and look after you.