Being a bartender can be stressful, whether it’s working long, late hours, dealing with demanding customers or acting as counselors to your clientele while crafting the perfect cocktail. Self-care isn’t usually on top of the list, which can mean that your mental health can suffer if you don’t make yourself a priority.
“You can’t help anyone if you can’t help yourself,” summed up Karla Green during the Mental Health Seminar held at the Chilled 100 Elevate event in Louisville, KY this past November.
The seminar, led by Ashley “AMAC”, program director of Baltimore’s iheardyou.org chapter, focused on things that bartenders can do for themselves and for their customers to promote positive mental health. The seminar included panelists Karla Green, a Louisville bartender and cleric-in-training; Chicago bartender Jeremy Barrett, Florida-based mixologist and wellness advocate Angela Dugan, and Tara Gillum, owner of Steiner’s Speakeasy in Ohio.
Some of the panelists spoke of their own mental health challenges, and others spoke of friends and coworkers they’d lost to mental health issues. “We’re not only there at people’s happiest moments, but at their worst times as well,” said Gillum.
The panel offered a number of suggestions on how to safeguard one’s mental health, from the physical—getting enough sleep, making time for doctors’ appointments, meditating, and practicing stretching and breathing exercises—to creating a safe space where both bartenders and customers can thrive.
- Control your environment. Choose where you work, and find people who bring out the best side of yourself.
- Know your own triggers, and be in touch with your own emotions. If the situation is not something you can handle, remove yourself from it or ask for help if needed.
- Create boundaries and stick to them.
- Adjust to your space before and after your shift. “Center before you enter, and breathe before you leave.”
- Check in with people (coworkers and customers) before and after your shift. Make those connections to let them know you care.
- Build relationships, and be open about your own flaws. If people don’t feel judged, they will be more likely to trust you with their concerns and ask for help.
- Inclusion is key, which is why offering nonalcoholic options is important. For those who choose not to drink, a nonalcoholic menu is very important for making them feel comfortable in a space.
- Be a good listener. Knowing that there is someone who cares can save a life.
The panel also offered information on resources ranging from meditation apps to links to inexpensive health insurance and discount gym memberships. Resources can be found on iheardyou.org, which is dedicated to the mental health and wellness of the food and beverage industry. That site also offers a mental health Zoom support group every Monday night. More resources can also be found on the Chilled 100 Facebook page.