There is no doubt that working in the service industry is stressful. In fact, some research suggests that it can be more stressful than being a neurosurgeon. According to one Chinese scientist, the high demand factors and utter unpredictability of each shift in the service industry are the driving factors of such high levels of stress.
High stress manifests both psychologically and physically. It can lead to heart disease, depression, and can create more unhealthy habits like poor eating, lack of exercise, and sleep deprivation.
For workers, dealing with their high-stress job can be more difficult and time consuming than their job tasks. One Boston University clinical psychologist described this phenomenon as Sisyphean in nature, implying that it can feel like a one-step-forward-two-steps-back venture to overcome such high stress levels.
Stress isn’t just detrimental to the individual. It also negatively affects businesses. Employers often feel the effects of stressed out employees in forms like lost productivity, a contemptuous work culture, lost profits, or any combination thereof.
So, to help both employees and business owners thwart the wrath of stress, we’ve complied a few tips and tricks that are scientifically proven to reduce stress.
Practice Deep Breathing
We’ve all served that one customer that pushed us to the brink. They demand every ounce of your attention during a busy shift and say things like “my ice isn’t cold enough” or “these lights above the table are too hot.” (Hopefully you’ve never been that customer!)
When you find yourself teetering on the edge of a stress-induced fit, step away from the situation and take five deep breaths. Inhale slowly and until your lungs can’t hold any more air. Hold your breath for two or three seconds, and then slowly release. Pay attention to your heartbeat. During the first few breaths, it will beat hard in your chest. Afterward, it should slow considerably.
Take Back Control of Your Thoughts
The adage “Your thoughts control your actions” is cliché because it’s true. When we’re stressed out, it’s typically because we feel that we are no longer in control of our thoughts or actions.
One way to overcome this feeling may sound contradictory, but it works. However, you need to become aware of your thoughts before you can control them.
When you begin to think nasty thoughts about yourself, your customers, or your job, pause for a moment and thank your brain for sharing. These thoughts are a signal that you’ve lost control and that you need to regain it. Thanking your brain is a way of acknowledging the negative thought so you can regain control of it. Afterward, ask yourself “what good is this thought doing for me?” If you can’t answer that question, let the thought go. It will try to creep back, but you now have a tool to overcome it when it does.
Repeat this for every negative thought you have. Eventually you will be able to control most any negative thought you have on shift.
Avoid Refined Sugar
Stress makes us tired. And when we’re tired on shift, we usually reach for the closest thing that will give us an energy boost. It can be an energy drink, a soda pop, or a piece of candy.
However, these products all contain refined sugar. And neuroscientists have published a plethora of research showing that these sugars exacerbate stressful situations by putting our brains into hyper fight-or-flight mode.
Without getting too deep into the technical science, refined sugars directly affect our amygdala—also known as the reptilian brain. This part of our brain controls our sense of fear. In a sense, refined sugars can create the illusion that there are more threats around you than there are. This will never help you calm down during a stressful situation.
Instead, grab a bottle of water and repeat some affirming thoughts to yourself. Tell yourself “I can do it” repeatedly until you believe it. Accompany these affirmations with a couple of deep breaths. In the end, your coworkers will thank you for it.