Beating the Wintertime Bartender Blues
Bartenders are no strangers to the struggles that come with the colder seasons. Long nights, shorter days, and extra bar shifts working holiday parties can quickly take a toll on one’s physical and mental health. This article gives bartenders some simple tips for striking a better work-life balance during this difficult time of year, through a combination of diet, exercise, and other positive lifestyle choices.
Feeling Down in the Winter? Don’t Worry, You’re Not Alone
Working in the bar industry during the Winter is notoriously difficult. Between the long days and late nights, subsequent lack of daylight and time to focus on wellness, and long holiday event-filled weeks, there is no denying the physical and mental toll that this time of year can take on a person. In the U.S., about 4 to 6 percent of residents suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, and as many as 20 percent may have a mild form of it that starts when days get shorter and colder. This means that the “Winter blues,” aka SAD, isn’t something to ignore, but rather something to address and combat for the overall well-being of staff, and the success of the bar’s business.
While experts haven’t nailed down the exact causes for SAD, they do acknowledge its existence and credit it to factors such as the lack of sunlight due to shorter days and the changing of the seasons. Both of these can affect sleep and your circadian rhythm – your body’s internal sleep regulator. Regardless of the cause, it’s vital to be patient and compassionate with staff and co-workers during this key period of time. Part of being compassionate includes being aware of SAD’s symptoms, some of which include:
- Change of mood
- Lack of motivation
- Excessive drinking
- Poor nutritional habits
If you or your co-workers suffer from SAD, then these wellness-focused tips will give you the tools you need to effectively combat the Winter blues.
Improve Your Diet
Regardless of the time of year, managing a healthy and balanced diet while working at a bar or restaurant is incredibly challenging. Late nights with minimal shift breaks means you’re more often than not forced to scoff down any sort of sustenance that you can get your hands on in a very short amount of time. As a result, your weekly meal schedule lacks consistency and quality, negatively affecting your digestive system and overall health. Since a poorly managed diet can unfavorably affect your physical, emotional, and mental health by causing mood swings, lethargy, a lack of clarity and focus, and other undesirable feelings, getting a grasp on what you eat and drink can be the first step towards improving your health during the colder months.
Given the time and environmental constraints that most bartenders experience in their roles, no solution is ideal; but here are a few practices worth integrating into your daily routine to ensure that your body is getting the appropriate nutrients that it needs:
- Prep your shift meals and snacks. Every establishment has different procedures for how they allow shift meals. Some bars and restaurants allow their employees to eat food strictly before and after the shift, while others allow a brief break during a shift to nibble on something. Regardless of when you eat, meal prepping before your shift can ensure that you’re getting the nutritious foods that you need, instead of relying on the food at your bar or restaurant. Healthy fats such as avocado, eggs, nuts; proteins such as legumes, fish, lean meats, soy products, etc.; gut-healthy foods such as probiotic-rich yogurts, fruits, vegetables; and healthy whole grains and other carbs are foods that will ensure your body is getting the fuel it needs to perform holistically. Preparing these nutritious meals once a week for your bar shifts is one easy way to try and improve your health and mood. Also, bringing a couple granola bars and quick snacks to chow-down on during your shift is always a power move that will keep you energetic throughout the night.
- Drink more water than caffeine. Caffeine-jacked energy drinks and coffee may seem like a good idea for a short-term pick-me-up after a long shift the night before, but they’re short-lived solutions that cause the body to crash when you need energy the most. Many health-minded bartenders have turned to low-sugar fresh-pressed juices and mineral water (the recommended volume varies depending on your lifestyle and sex) instead of as a way to stay hydrated and keep their brains sharp. Do note that fresh-pressed juices can contain high amounts of sugar which can also cause you to crash if consumed in hefty volumes, so water is always the safe bet for staying hydrated.
- Look to moderate your own alcohol consumption: It’s always the last thing bartenders want to hear, but it’s true: alcohol acts as a depressant when over consumed; meaning that, if your alcohol intake is substantial, you’re more likely to struggle to regulate your mood. Additionally, alcohol dehydrates the body, which is especially unwanted when you’re on your feet all day and night and in need of keeping your energy levels high to perform in your role. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to completely cut out alcohol but taking steps to be more mindful in your own consumption by moving toward lower-ABV options, such as Ketel One Botanicals, can be a good compromise. Be sure to check out the Drinkspiration section of Diageo Bar Academy for some no and low ABV serves to try out, and of course, don’t forget to mix in water!
- Don’t skip breakfast. Plain and simple, breakfast will set the tone for your day. Most bar industry workers have a later breakfast due to late-night shifts, so while yogurt with granola, fruit, and toast might be a good option for the early birds, a more substantial breakfast like eggs, toast, and a side of oatmeal and fruit might work better if you find yourself waking up in the “brunch” time of day. Nonetheless, have a big breakfast as it will keep you energized mentally and physically throughout the day.
Get Your Vitamin D
If you work in a bar or restaurant with little natural light, then getting an ample amount of Vitamin D can be challenging. Considering that low levels of vitamin D were linked to seasonal affective disorder in research reported in 2014 in the journal Medical Hypotheses, this isn’t something that you’ll want to take lightly. Whether that means going for a walk in the morning before a shift, taking Vitamin D supplements, or talking with your bar about getting some sort of therapeutic light box that mimics sunshine for your workspace, be sure to consider how you’re getting this vitamin as a lack of it can have serious negative effects.
Move Your Body
From running and yoga, to cycling and sports, there are plenty of ways to move your body in a healthy way that promotes physical well-being. The endorphins the body receives from working out inherently lifts a person’s mood and can be an important aspect of your “beating the Wintertime blues” health plan. As an increasing number of brands and hospitality-related companies and businesses acknowledge the value of work-life balance and mental health for bartenders, there are more wellness-focused activations and activities to attend in your local market. Be sure to ask your colleagues or local USBG reps about what’s going on, and how you can be a part of it, or take the initiative and reach out to start something yourself!
Take a Holiday
Last, but not least, go on vacation and take some time off. This may seem like an eye-roll of a point to many bartenders, but if you work for a truly empathetic leader, and can afford a brief time away, then this request shouldn’t be as lofty as it seems.
A change of scenery from someplace cold and barren, to a destination that’s warm and sunny, can completely transform your mood if you find yourself in a rut. It doesn’t need to be for an entire week, as even just a few days away from the repetitive flow of Winter can make all the difference. At the end of the day, if a short trip away revives your physical and mental health and causes you to be more productive and enthusiastic at work, then that’s for the business’s benefit as well.