Staying well while working in the service industry can be a challenge, particularly in summer, when the added effects of heat and sun impact the body.
When working behind the bar, it’s easy to get burnt out, especially this summer. As bars around the country re-open and mask mandates lift, customers are flocking back to bars and restaurants with unprecedented fervor and demand. With all the extra work and hospitality venues short-staffed nationwide, it’s all too easy to lose track of your wellness.
Hydration, Hydration, Hydration
Everyone always points to drinking enough water as the most important thing anyone can do to stay healthy, yet it bears constant repeating. There have been numerous studies that more than half of the US population suffer from chronic dehydration. Dehydration causes a wide range of symptoms, including fatigue, headaches, lack of focus, mood changes, constipation, bloating, and more. On average, humans need to consume around two and a half to three liters of liquid, depending on size.
Some of those three liters can come from food, but most should come from water. This amount is also impacted by several external factors – if you work out, have an active job (any service work counts!), or spend time outside in the heat, you’ll need to increase your water intake. Over the summer, and particularly if you spend time running drinks outside or have an outdoor bar, you’ll need to keep close track of your water intake and make sure you’re increasing how much you drink.
Choose Footwear Wisely
When you’re standing on your feet for a shift, taking care of your feet is critical. Proper footwear helps prevent a range of injuries and reduces long-term damage to your back and knees. Two of the biggest things to look for are slip resistance and waterproofing. When working in a restaurant setting, waterproofing is often an under-appreciated factor. Ensuring that your feet are dry reduces the risk of fungal infections and poor hygiene; pair your shoes with moisture-wicking socks to improve breathability. The amount of support you need should also be considered; not having enough arch support can lead to a range of long-term health issues. That said, if you have high arches or flat feet, you’ll need a different type of support and may want to visit a podiatrist to help find the perfect shoe or insert.
Prioritize Mental Health
Taking care of your brain and mental health is a critical part of overall wellness. If you’re avoiding your mental health, you’re more likely to ignore the needs of your body, increasing your risks of injury and illness. Stress, anxiety, and depression can have physical symptoms like exhaustion, aches and pain, stomach issues, and more. Poor mental health can also cause you not to notice thirst, hunger, or the need to stop and stretch—which ultimately exacerbates the other symptoms leading to burnout and general unpleasantness on and off the job.
So, how do you prioritize mental health? The answer will be a little bit different for everyone. Therapy and counseling are beneficial but not always financially available. One tool is always to have something to look forward to – whether it be something big like a trip or a specific reward or something simple like a morning walk with a friend or dog. For many, ensuring that you have some form of daily movement and get some time in the sun or outdoors can be incredibly helpful. Meditation and daily gratitude practices are other tools that can be useful. In short, take time every day to do something that brings you joy, and that helps you unwind and unload.
Protect Yourself From The Sun
Not every bartender has to worry about the sun at work, but it should be taken seriously for those who do. Whether you are working at an outdoor bar or working a day shift in a venue with lots of natural light, sunscreen and sun protectants should be your best friend. In general, you should aim to put on sunscreen 30 minutes before any sun exposure and reapply every two hours if you are getting frequent exposure or sweating. Sunburn too much sun can cause dehydration and fatigue; along with your sunscreen, consider adding extra water and potentially sun protecting clothing.