The professional kitchen tends to get heated, literally and figuratively, which puts a lot of pressure on the chefs. Whether cutting, stirring or plating, we know that being a chef is no simple task.This occupation has some of the most alarming levels of burnout and physical toll due to the demanding environment. Several reasons fuel the flames of pressure here, which could lead to fatigue, depression, and anxiety. In the long run, prolonged stress can manifest in the body as heart problems, body pain, diabetes and gastrointestinal issues. So how do we deal with the mental pressures of being a chef? Read this article to uncover all the tools needed to tackle the stressors of being a chef.
What causes mental pressure for chefs?
A chef’s life is hands-on, with plenty of pressure from customers and superiors.
- To meet the demand for high-quality food, chefs must maintain the consistency of their dishes and prepare them quickly.
- Some people thrive on this fast-paced lifestyle, and others find the increasing pile of orders overwhelming.
- On top of this, leaders in the food industry sometimes impose a harsh work environment.
- Hearing orders shouted out over an already noisy kitchen is not uncommon for chefs, and the sounds of machinery, chopping, stirring and steaming can be overwhelming daily.
- Tight workspaces, such as those in many professional kitchens, can also lead to accidents. The risks of an accident are only worsened by stress.
- A trade union Unite in London survey found that out of a sample size of 265 chefs, 56% used painkillers, 27% opted for alcohol and 41% used stimulants to relieve their stress. However, these escapist methods are not sustainable and only provide temporary relief. The real solution lies in understanding our mental stressors and finding long-term practices to deal with them.
The three main types of mental pressures for chefs
There are three main types of mental forces for chefs, and these include:
✅Extended work hours/overworking
As chefs, we may veer off a perfect work-life balance to scale the corporate ladder and find job security. After the Covid-19 pandemic, chefs have worked overtime to compensate for the loss of business during the lockdown phases.Working without taking a break can lead to an imbalance in our personal lives, causing us to sacrifice meaningful social relationships outside work. A survey conducted in London revealed that professional chefs work between 48 and 60 hours a week. Of those surveyed, 69% said that overworking affected their health.
✅Physical stress equals mental stress
The body and mind are interconnected. When we are in the kitchen around high temperatures, sharp objects and heavy machinery, it can overwhelm our senses. The constant risk of accidents in the kitchen means chefs are always on high alert, which can be mentally taxing. It can translate into muscle strains, heart problems and digestion issues. Prolonged stress, depression, and anxiety attacks are also every day.
✅Demand for productivity
The culinary industry requires constant innovation and productivity. This competition means chefs must stay at the top of their game. We must stop and remember that this path to perfection is impractical and can lead to severe physical and mental fatigue.
Managing mental pressure as a chef
How can chefs deal with all these mental pressures in a healthy manner? Here are some tips we recommend:
Chefs thrive on efficiency. But efficiency is not achieved through taking on crazy workloads. Instead, we can break our tasks into manageable, bite-sized chunks and refine our techniques. For example, we can prepare a schedule for the next day. Accordingly, the next day, we can organise our workstations, prep the ingredients and check off each process, one step at a time. Doing this will give us a sense of accomplishment that will keep us going until we complete our tasks.
Move and breathe
As mentioned earlier, the body and mind are one, so we must prioritise our physical health to maintain good mental health. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are vital to keeping the body and mind fit. Another aspect is knowing our triggers. What are the things that stress us out in the kitchen? Once we identify them, we can prepare for our reactions to them and implement solutions such as a walk outdoors while taking deep, calming breaths. Breathwork and meditation can activate the parasympathetic nervous system and bring us out of that fight-or-flight frame of mind.
Reach out for help
Even in the prime of our lives, we sometimes have moments where we can feel very alone. It can be hard to speak up, but the truth is that consulting mental health experts can make a difference. The online mental wellness platform United We Care has expert counsellors who can cater to your mental health needs and help you reach the best frame of mind. It is also crucial to open up to their higher-ups at work. They have to explain what they are going through. Even if they are not receptive to our input, we can breathe easy knowing we did our best, which will lift a weight off our shoulders.
The importance of an intense support network
Stress is not a bad thing. In moderation, it can push us to achieve great things. However, when it feels like a dark cloud following us around, raining on our parade outside of work, then stress needs addressing. One of the best ways to deal with mental pressure as a chef is to rely on a solid support system.Additionally, chefs can use apps such as United We Care’s excellent app, which provides support and advice from expert psychologists and counsellors. The online counselling and therapy sessions we offer at United We Care can help you navigate the tricky mental pressures of being a chef. As a chef, always remember there is strength in numbers. With the right mindset and mental well-being support, you can find the best way to stay healthy and happy. Visit the United We Care website today!
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- D. Nicholas, “Why being A chef is bad for your mental health,” Chef Word, 19-Apr-2021