A quick guide to bartender self-care

May 31, 2017 at 11:11 am
bartender self-care

I’m sitting here at my desk the Sunday afternoon after a long Saturday shift at the bar, one that led far into the wee hours of this morning. A shift that’s wreaked havoc on my body after a busier-than-normal week, what with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mumford & Sons and some mega-country star rolling through town, bringing droves of thirsty fans along with them. My home is quiet, aside from the occasional sound of my dogs moving about, yet there’s still loud music blaring in caverns of my head. My feet are throbbing. My back is aching. I’m scheduled to return back to the salt mine in just a few short hours for an army of Roger Waters fans. I’m taking a few deep breathes and stretching and reminding myself just how lucky I am to have the job/freedom/flexibility that I do. My physical and mental woes have got me wondering, however, how well do we service industry folk truly take care of ourselves? Through the long hours and the physical demands, are there things we can be doing to implement a better regimen of self-care? I believe that’s an astounding yes, and I’ve outlined a couple of foolproof suggestions on what to do and where to go to stay relatively healthy and rejuvenated.

We all know there are mountains of benefits to practicing yoga, and it’s worth being said that flexibility, deep breathing, core strength, endurance and even meditation can go a long way in the service industry. Behind the stick, we’re on our feet (often on concrete floors) for hours on end, our wrists are flailing bottles about and our bodies are swerving in every direction. As a yoga amateur, I say go with a vinyasa flow at 11 a.m. Mondays at Sadhana Yoga Louisville in Butchertown. This flow is late enough so that we can sleep in (we all know that Mondays are actually our Saturdays in the bartender world) and slow enough that you can seep into the poses and work through all the challenges from the weekend. Added bonus: Sadhana is owned by Nerissa Sparkman, who is a local yogi and photographer with a myriad of bar industry experience. Sparkman even once hosted a “yoga for bartenders,” targeting the areas of our bodies we use and neglect most.

Back rubs aren’t just for sexy time, y’all, as massage therapy is a wonderful way to maintain a healthy body and keep those muscles in tip-top shape. Louisville is lucky enough to have a licensed massage therapist and bartendress duo. Amanda Vowels, owner of Novo on Frankfort Avenue, has years of service industry experience to help target her clients’ needs and desires. “A lot of bartenders that I massage have trouble with their low back, neck, shoulders and pecs,” said Vowels, “I do deep tissue (massage) on most, but I also do trigger-point therapy that really helps get into the tightness of the muscles.” Vowels recommends people maintain and reap the benefits of massage therapy every three to four weeks.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.” Wise words spoken by Mark Twain, who certainly couldn’t have known his advice would one day speak volumes to service industry folk, whom I believe should actively work to get out of our own “little corner of the Earth” as much as possible. A flexible schedule and the ability to take off work at a moment’s notice is one of the greatest perks of our jobs (we’ve all sent the text asking, “Hey, can you cover my shift tomorrow?”). Traveling to other parts of our state, country and Earth keeps me open-minded, compassionate, healthy and grounded, and I notice that when I return from an excursion, I’m genuinely a more pleasant person and less likely to bite some drunk idiot’s head off at the bar. Added bonus: visiting all the rad cocktail programs across the globe I’ve been fangirling over.

Yes, it’s true, there are physical demands when it comes to our job, and it can often be mentally draining working in customer service and dealing with the chaos that comes with inebriated humans. Yet, most of us do this job because we love the high-volume and the madness. We couldn’t be stuck behind a desk for hours on end, I know I’d be hard pressed to succeed. Thus, we must take better care of ourselves, practice self-love and maintain the knowledge that there’s value in what we do. So, all you service industry folk, be it the drink slingers or the line cooks, don’t forget to give yourself a big old hug from time to time and take the appropriate actions to keep moving forward.