I am Erin Boyle, CHOW’s Executive Director, friend, sister, wife, daughter, duck and dog momma, potter, reader, crafter, walker, nanny and chef. I trained to be a chef at the Culinary Institute of America and have worked in San Francisco, Washington DC, New York and Denver. After almost two decades working in the industry, I transitioned to teaching and love it.
I have watched my staff, family, and friends in hospitality struggle with mental health and substance abuse. I, like many, struggle with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. In 2013, I found myself sick of the life I felt stuck in and found a therapist. She helped me to name the things I struggled with (depression and anxiety) and find coping strategies that work for me. In 2019, I decided to dedicate my energy toward improving access to mental health and wellness resources for all. As E.D. for CHOW I am focused on outreach and aim to normalize mental health conversations in the restaurant industry.
A word from Erin:
We are over two years into an ongoing pandemic that has completely changed our lives and how the hospitality industry is running. There’s also been war, gun violence, racism, political divide. Everyone who’s working outside of the home is overworked and understaffed. We’re all trying to do too much with too little resources. Our guests are also less understanding. It’s simply not sustainable. I’ve been hearing the same thing from many of the restaurant and hospitality community.
People are experiencing:
- Brain fog
- Forgetting things and to do lists
- Frustration with guests and coworkers
- General feeling of anger, even when doing the job you normally enjoy
- Body pain and fatigue
If some of these symptoms describe you, I invite you to consider that you might be burnt out.
Unfortunately, everything I’ve read on fixing burn out is more prevention based than solutions. In my experience with burn out I need to stop entirely. Twice in my life I have pushed myself to exhaustion at work. The first time my body shut down and I had to go into the ICU for a few days to try to discover what the actual issue was. After plenty of tests and no clear results, I told them I had to leave by 1 to get to my 2PM shift. A few weeks later I left my job as I was unable to complete job activities and could hardly think I was so stressed and tired. It took me a few weeks to find the next job and I really needed that time to heal. I didn’t have any coping skills to turn to, but time fixed the problem.
The second time I recognized that it was happening before my body gave up. I had a therapist to help with tools and I tried telling my boss I needed less work and more help. I didn’t get that. I set boundaries with my brain. When I was home and thinking about work I would tell my brain, “thanks for reminding me, but we aren’t bringing that home. We can deal with that tomorrow.” This worked a little with practice. I got a sleep schedule that I stuck to. This worked a little. I made time to walk everyday and drink lots of water. This also worked a little. But nothing fixed it. I was too far in it again and needed time off. My boss wouldn’t allow me to take time off, even unpaid. For better or worse, I was furloughed and got LOTS of time off. It took about four months for me to feel up to working full time again.
I’m telling you this not to get you to quit your job, but to say that burn out is really hard and complicated. Ideally, you have some self care practices and boundaries set up so you don’t get there. If you’re there now, I know it’s hard to get out.
Please try to be kind to yourself and allow yourself to get as much rest as possible.
What can be put on hold?
Can you take time off?
Does your business have a plan for shutting down sections when understaffed so the short doesn’t affect the guest or the team?
Know your resources!
Visit https://chowco.org/resources/#about-partners https://thegivingkitchen.org/stability-network https://www.khesedwellness.com/ – for free pro bono therapy for those in the industry in MI, CO, and TX.
A great read about burnout: https://hbr.org/2022/03/what-first-time-managers-can-do-to-address-burnout