News, Wellbeing

How to Avoid the End-of-Year Burnout

Survive and Thrive this Q4

Burnout has always been a significant risk factor in the hospitality industry, but add staff shortages due to Brexit and Covid 19 restrictions and the anti is most definitely upped.

Firstly, if you are diagnosed with or think you have burnout, taking long and languid breaks is the best way to recover physically and emotionally from draining work.

To avoid burnout in the first place, we need to make good use of what little rest is available. With the festive season in full swing, we need to find short, sharp and effective ways of dealing with work and life stressors between long and busy shifts.

Burnout has symptoms. Key signs are exhaustion, mood swings, work-related dread, and a lack of productivity. Avoiding them means getting to the root of those issues and stopping them in their tracks. So let’s look at each in turn. 

Combat lack of sleep and exhaustion

If you are struggling with falling or staying asleep or don’t have much time to get your seven hours in, try taking power naps. A 60 to 90-minute power nap can bestow the same benefits as a whole night’s sleep. Sleep expert and author of Take a Nap, Change Your Life, Sara C. Mednick, PhD, says, “you can get incredible benefits from just 15 to 20 minutes of napping…you get a burst of alertness and increased motor performance.”

Even getting to the point where you’re ready to fall asleep will improve your physical wellbeing. If you carry physical tension like back pain from standing for long periods or mental pressures like not being able to wind down after a busy shift, then closing your eyes and lying in a constructive rest position for five minutes calms your mind and relaxes your muscles and organs.

Constructive rest

Releases all the tense muscles in your body

Relaxes your breathing rate

It gets you back in touch with your senses

Releases any negative or demanding thought patterns

To get into a constructive rest position:

1 Grab a pillow and put it under your knees, so they are bent but your feet are flat on the floor. You should find your lower back can release in this position.

2 Put a 2-3 cm thick book under your head and your arms lying palms up by your side, then shut your eyes.

3 Focus on breathing in for four counts, holding it for seven counts, and out for eight counts, and try to keep that rhythm for 10-12 breaths. Once you get used to it, see if you can extend up to 30-40 breaths.

4 Make sure you’re warm and somewhere quiet. If you can’t find somewhere quiet, use a meditation app or mental distraction, like listening to your favourite tunes, podcasts or audiobooks through headphones.

If you have to do this often to cope, talk to your employer and arrange for longer stretches between your shifts. Don’t hit the town. Get on top of your sleep hygiene. Sleep is a miraculous healer. It helps our immune systems fight, lets our brains absorb and process information, and enables the bloodstream to remove toxins from our muscles and organs. Without enough sleep, we can’t live.

Increase Motivation and Productivity

Stress is very distracting for our brains and exhausting for our bodies. Long-term stress can lead to disease. In the short-term, you might find yourself making errors or having accidents due to a lack of focus.

It can also affect your motivation. No matter how disciplined you are, having the intrinsic motivation to continue working will help reduce stress and increase job satisfaction, leading to positive hormonal responses in your body that make you feel more alive, loved, and rewarded.

For example, “Oxytocin can induce anti-stress-like effects such as reduction of blood pressure and cortisol levels. It increases pain thresholds, exerts an anxiolytic-like effect and stimulates various types of positive social interaction. In addition, it promotes growth and healing.” — Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg et al. Z Psychosom Med Psychother. 2005, Oxytocin, a mediator of anti-stress, wellbeing, social interaction, growth and healing.

Increase your oxytocin levels by;

Playing. With a dog, child, or even fellow bartender. Get board games or card games rather than consoles out of the cupboard, though, as real-time face-to-face interaction is essential.

Hugging. Hugs are so effective and take such little time that it’s crazy they’re not available on the NHS. But remember to check with your hugger that they are comfortable with your physical touch. Hand-holding works

Compliment someone. It’s a humankind superpower that we can feel what other people feel. Make the people around you feel good, and you will feel good too.

Hormones have a huge part to play in how we feel. Serotonin makes us happy, oxytocin makes us feel loved and valued, and endorphins reduce pain. However, the most significant relationship in burnout is between dopamine and stress.

Dopamine is our reward response, and it can be good for us but can also increase stress. For example, we might get a dopamine response when we win a game, tick something off the to-do list or receive a cash tip, but if we are locked into chasing that reward response, we can significantly increase stress. And while a little stress keeps us performing well and on our toes, so to speak, too much can lead to overwork, overwhelm and burnout. So measure your desire to achieve your goals and make sure you celebrate the little wins, and small steps towards achieving them, without getting too hung up on the final results.

Shake Off Irritably

It’s all well and good telling you to go and hug a loved one, but if you’ve snapped or lost your temper due to irritable mood swings, then they might take a little convincing first. If you are irritable, check if you’ve met your basic human needs first: Do you need more sleep, some food, to move more, to replenish your social battery or to reduce the effects of drugs in your system like caffeine, nicotine or alcohol?

Alcohol is fun and can oil our social interactions, but it also depletes nutrients from our bodies without replenishing them. Drinking after a shift is one way to bond with the team and snap the body from work to rest mode, but it can also tax your organs, reduce the amount you sleep or your sleep quality, dehydrates and leaves you short on vitamins and minerals that keep you operating well. This all affects your mood.

Irritability can become a locked-in trait if you don’t learn to manage your stressors. Think about the hospitality caricatures of sweary chefs, grumpy middle managers and put-out servers spitting in your food. The way out of this is compassion for your brain and body.

The team at Healthy Hospo recently ran a series of Yoga & Deep Breathing Sessions fuelled by Medahuman CBD alcohol-alternative drinks. Yoga improves neuromuscular connectivity, which can help you get better at dealing with stressors and reduces bodily aches and pains.

The Medahuman CBD drink range doesn’t have any intoxicating effect but can aid concentration and focus, has calming properties, anti-inflammatory effects, and regulates the endocannabinoid system (ECS). 

“The ECS is the body’s complex network of receptor sites and neurotransmitters constantly working to create homeostasis across all biological activity. Stress, lack of sleep, too much alcohol, and poor diet can all deplete our ECS, leading to various health conditions such as IBS, fibromyalgia, and migraines. Cannabinoids also help boost our brain’s emotional responses, including regulating stress, which has an overall positive effect on our mood.” — Adam Feldheim, founder of Medahuman.

Irritability can, of course, be a natural response to the season. Customers can be more irate, snappy or rude when we are already on our last nerve. That leads to conflict, bad reviews, poor branding and can even end in job loss or jail. So what can be done?

Empathy in communication is key to reducing potential conflicts. Communication is vital to the health and productivity of relationships. So how can we best make our interactions work, and how can we resolve situations when they arise?

1 Treat people with empathy and respect despite how they treat you or their station in life.

2 Listen to other people’s views and try to understand where they are coming from. Everyone is dealing with something hidden.

3 If you disagree with someone, say so and explain why in a calm, clear way without raising your voice

4 If you don’t think that someone has understood you correctly, ask them, and if they haven’t, be patient and explain yourself again using different words.

5 If you feel the red mist descending, pause. Take a breath. If that doesn’t work, excuse yourself and go somewhere quiet to calm down. Don’t speak when you’re overheated with anger.

6 Apologise when you do something wrong. A good apology acknowledges the other person’s feelings, takes responsibility for your behaviour and makes achievable goals towards avoiding it happening again.

7 Learn how to have honest, non-confrontational dialogue about difficult subjects.

8 Know when it’s worth fighting for your point of view; choose your battles.

9 If the problem is unresolvable, acknowledge it and distance yourself.

10 Know the system. Know who you need to talk to about unresolvable conflicts, what your employee handbook suggests you do in a conflict and what your legal rights and responsibilities are. You should also know where to get help and who to approach if you find yourself in a situation that’s out of your control. This could be anyone from a line manager to the police service.

If you feel you need support beyond your employer, then take a look at the Healthy Hospo website, where they list all of the supportive agencies around the world for hospitality workers. The Drinks Trust is a UK-based charity for people working in alcohol-related jobs, they have a support line, a sleep improvement program, and can help you access therapy. Drink Aware can put you in touch with the right people if you are finding it difficult to give up alcohol and the Hospitality Rewards scheme runs a ‘Member Assistance Program’ which includes a telephone helpline available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, offering:


–      Counselling and emotional support

–      Tax information

–      Money management and debt support

–      Personal legal information

–      Medical information from a registered GP


And includes free access to the My Healthy Advantage app for mood trackers, mini-health checks, a live chat facility and the online health and wellbeing portal with extensive wellbeing resources, including four-week programmes, videos and webinars

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