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Working in hospitality is demanding and it can be harder to unplug after a busy shift. This can take its toll both physically and mentally. Drinks and hospitality journalist Millie Milliken explores what leading bartenders do to look after their wellbeing when they’re off the clock.

Trade Chopping Boards for Surfboards: Bartenders Unwinding with the Ocean

Evidence is mounting when it comes to the impact surfing has on wellbeing. Organizations linking environment, climate, and health are seeing more and more people discussing the mental benefits of surfing. A survey done by one such body, Blue Health, found that of 5,000 surfers UK-wide, 75% said that the mental health benefits of surfing outweighed the physical ones. It even describes the concentration required to learn and progress at surfing as ‘mindfulness in action'.

For Pippa Guy, (Tanqueray No Ten Ambassador and former senior bartender at The Savoy’s American Bar) surfing has only been a part of her life for the last couple of years, but it was a way of reconnecting with her sister: “She’s a doctor who works crazy hours, like hospitality… It means you have to set aside a weekend to see each other, so it worked really well in getting us to spend more time together”.

Guy took herself to Bali in February 2018 after what she describes as a stressful and busy year topped off with Christmas at The Savoy. She now sees surfing as her “reset method of when everything else is getting crazy busy and stressful. I can just go and find somewhere that is really peaceful... it’s a complete body reset”.

No technology, no distractions, no worries. If you are bartending, you need to learn how to cope in a high-pressure environment and being calm and collected is important. Surfing teaches you how to go with the flow as well as reading complex waves and deciding when to ride them – a useful technique if you have difficult guests and you need to diffuse tension.

The Rook Loves an Espresso Martini: Bartending and Chess

The mental benefits of playing chess are well documented. Not only does it stimulate the left hemisphere of the brain which processes logic, facts and analysis; it also brings the right side of the brain alive, provoking creativity and allowing the player to recognize patterns.

Davide Segat (bars manager at the new The Nomad in London) has been playing chess since he was around eight years old when he was taught how to play by his uncle. He picked it back up again during his tenure at The Connaught alongside colleague Matthias Lataille, and now, they play at Wanstead and Woodford Chess Club in east London.

For Segat, playing chess brings up a number of skills that he can translate into everyday life, such as planning, learning from failures and sacrifice. “It’s something that helps me, it’s a passion…. It’s helped me over the years in certain situations in my life”. Not to mention the fact that it has been a real point of focus for Segat during lockdown.

Segat knows other people in drinks who enjoy the game too. Who knows – perhaps one day a hospitality chess club will bring other lovers of the game in the industry together?

Giving Back To The Community: UtiliZing Hospitality Skills For Charity

Over the past couple of years, hospitality consultant Anna Sebastian has been volunteering and giving back to her community. Volunteering with charity Under One Sky to help feed and clothe up to 600 people living on the streets of London per night – she even sacrificed her Christmas Day to hand out hot lunches. Hospitality develops enhanced interpersonal skills and being able to help those less fortunate and demonstrate empathy can make a massive impact on others.

Of course, the main drive for volunteering is about helping others, but not-for-profit organization Help Guide has found a plethora of wellbeing benefits associated with the act of helping others. It can counteract the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety, while the social aspect of talking to people and having meaningful conversations can have a huge and profound positive impact on our minds. It can also, no doubt, put worries, stresses or work-related anxieties into perspective.

And while seeing the reality was devastating, Anna felt a sense of community and togetherness between volunteers and the homeless – something that week-on-week would build stronger as relationships were formed. “It felt almost like we were in this little bubble and even though it was really devastating, it was quite magical in some way”. Helping others and taking stock of what is happening outside of the bar can help the head.

Reaching New Heights: Switching Bartending for Hiking and Climbing

Swapping unusual ingredients in her cocktails for unusual sights across the world, Jenna Ba describes mountain hiking as ‘meditative’. The New to World Brand Ambassador for Diageo and former bartender has traveled the world, from Switzerland to Bolivia and Mexico, to hike and climb volcanoes and mountains.

As an activity, hiking and trekking can do wonders for your wellbeing. Stanford University has found that spending prolonged time in nature can boost your mind and improve your mental health by reducing stress and calming anxieties. Not to mention the feeling of personal achievement having completed a challenge, endured treacherous weather or reached that mountain peak.

The people and community you meet along the way can make mountain hiking so fulfilling. And while reaching that peak can come with a sense of achievement, for Ba, interacting with the culture of the place you are hiking can be even more important: “It’s about appreciating and interacting with the culture of the people from that country… It’s not about reaching the peak, it’s about reaching your maximum potential”.

Swapping Pints for Passions: Ways to Unwind as a Bartender

Everyone is passionate about something. For me, when I started my podcast, Sliding Pours, I had no idea just how diverse the passions lying under the surface of this industry were. Between the competitions (like World Class), social events, traveling and media opportunities – not to mention actually putting long, demanding work shifts in – there are some inspirational and fascinating extra-curricular taking place. My advice would be to talk to your colleagues about what they love outside of work. There are plenty of methods bartenders use to unwind. Don’t be afraid to ask – you never know what you could discover.

Five Key Takeaways

1. Set time aside for your out-of-work passions.

2. Find other people who share your interest and build a community.

3. Identify the wellbeing benefits of your passion and appreciate their value.

4. Appreciate the act over the achievement - there are enough goals and targets to be hit in our work.

5. Ask your colleagues about their passions - you might discover a new passion for yourself.