A few days ago Men’s Journal came out with an article about the importance of exercise for those with high stress, intense jobs, like chefs. It detailed how chef René Redzepi, of Noma, started feeling stronger and more energetic in the kitchen and at home once he began working out. “A few years into this, I started noticing that I was incredibly exhausted. I felt so drained on weekends, I didn’t have the capacity to do anything. Even creative work made me tired — I was tired all the time,” he said.
Wellbeing is a hot topic right now in the restaurant industry, but has been mainly focused on mental illness and tough working conditions. Restaurants can take a huge toll on one’s mind and body, and if we don’t do something about it, it can quite literally kill us. It’s so important to not just take care of our mental stability, but also our physical one as well. There are many healthy benefits to exercise that can combat these rigorous tolls restaurants have on us. It alleviates stress and anxiety, can help you tap into creativity, and can help control addiction.
I’ve been working in restaurants for almost 10 years now. I would have these ebbs and flows of working out and then taking months off. I could always tell the difference in my energy levels, nutrition, and performance at work when I wasn’t doing some sort of physical activity. I would sleep in late, drink more alcohol, be bothered by small guest requests, and overall make more and more exceptions to my healthy lifestyle.
In the past, my workout of choice was running. I would run every day for about 2 months, take some time off, feel like crap, then start running again. It really wasn’t sustainable for me as a work out, mainly because I hate running and so does my body. Since playing soccer for so long, my knees are weaker than I’d like, so after a while I’d start taking more and more days off from running so I didn’t aggravate them. After about 6 months of feeling like complete crap, I decided to join a yoga studio.
I took yoga when I was in high school to supplement my soccer workouts, but I never took it seriously and rarely thought about it once I was in college. However, I learned quickly, that yoga was not just about meditation and relaxation. There were days when I was sweating so much I couldn’t see, days when my arms were so sore I could barely hold an empty tray. Yoga was much gentler on my body, but demanded much more focus, thus much more sustainable for me to continue. The results came slower than they did when I was running, but I’m much happier with them. I’ve been practicing yoga for over 3 years now, and it has become a sort of release for me. It has completely changed the way I work both mentally and physically. I don’t get heated over people’s mistakes, which gives me a much clearer mind to work to find solutions quickly.
While I am fully aware that yoga is not for everyone, I do think that those of us that work in such intense and stressful environments need to find something physically challenging that will in turn empower some mental positivity. It could be running, boxing, rock climbing, cycling or yoga. What matters is balancing out that intense part of your life with something that makes you stronger in mind and body.
I would love to hear some of your favorite ways to release stress!