Hey, it’s hard out here for a bartender. Your job is all about taking care of your customers needs. So, who is taking care of your needs? Well, my friend, as do many things in life, it falls mainly to you. Here are three self-care musts for all bartenders, to help fulfill the needs of your body and mind.
1. Pair Fermented Foods with Fermented Drinks
Everyone knows the reason to drink fermented beverages, but do you know the reason to eat fermented foods? Hint: the reasons aren’t the same! You may have heard recently about your “gut microbiome”. If you haven’t, it refers to the population of bacteria living in your digestive tract. It turns out that when you have a healthy and varied population of different bacteria, everything works the way it is supposed to. The bacteria keep your immune system humming, allow you to create needed vitamins and aminos, and help to eliminate toxins in your food. However, if because of diet your gut microbiome is compromised, or has just a few types of bacteria growing out of control and choking out all the others, there are major problems for your overall health. Studies have suggested that alcohol consumption is one of the major contributors to an unhealthy gut microbiome. That’s where fermented foods come in! Fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi are teeming with natural probiotic cultures, which, the day after consuming alcohol, will really help to keep your microbiome and your overall health happy! (Source: The Gastrointestinal Microbiome)
2. Just Breathe
Your body comes naturally equipped with a self-regulating system for all your physical processes called the autonomic nervous system. Two of the important components of this system are the sympathetic, and parasympathetic nervous systems. To understand what they do, consider that the sympathetic nervous system is what makes your body function under “fight or flight” situations, while the parasympathetic is for “feed and breed” situations. Basically, when your body feels threatened, your sympathetic nervous system puts your body on notice, raising your heart rate, putting your digestion on hold, and dilating your pupils. Unfortunately, our bodies are still running Stone Age software in the Information Age, and so when your bar is five deep on a Saturday, or you’re dealing with an unruly customer, your body goes into fight or flight mode. Tending bar can be stressful, as we all know, and it is unhealthy for your body to stay in this mode all the time, as it is the cause of exhaustion and “burnout”. Fortunately, there is very simple technique to ensure that your parasympathetic nervous system kicks in to help your body rest and recharge: just breathe. Of all the triggers for these systems, the only one we can consciously control is our breathing. When you take 5 minutes during your shift and focus on breathing slowly and deeply, you “trick” your body into thinking it is time to relax. This isn’t just mental – it literally causes your parasympathetic nervous system to bring your heart rate down, relax your muscles, and stimulate digestion. When you take time to just breathe, you are really helping yourself avoid burnout!
3. Give Yourself Something to Love and Look Forward To
Tending bar can be a great job – you get to help people enjoy themselves, make friends, work in great restaurants, and more. But show me any job and I’ll show you a grind if you do it long enough. But not everyone has the desire or ability to constantly change up their gig. That’s why it is so important for your happiness and mental health to put in the effort to ensure there is some part of even a steady gig that is just for you, that you are excited about. This could be something you do every day, or it could be something you set up for yourself that you can always be looking forward to. For example, if you work in a restaurant with an amazing chef, ask if you can spend some extra time in the kitchen learning knife skills. If you have a creative side, find a way to contribute to your establishment’s décor or marketing materials. It can also be great to feel like your job is part of a journey and not just a temporary destination, so if you love what you do, invest in your own knowledge by taking wine and spirits classes with an organization like WSET that can help to advance your career and open new doors for you. Even if none of this applies, you can find a way to give yourself something to look forward to. Set a goal that you’re going to take a trip to hike up Mt. Washington as soon as you save $XXX, and then make sure you put some percent of your take-home towards it. Create some signature cocktails and give them names that remind you of your goal so that throughout your shifts, you think about your goal and how great it will be to achieve it and get to have that experience. So much of happiness is bootstrapped in life, so make sure that while doing your job, you are giving yourself something to love and look forward to.
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