10 Ways to reduce chef stress in the kitchen

3 Jan, 2022

Chef - reduce stress

Overwhelmed. Nervous. Exhausted. Agitated. Pained. All at once?

If you’re like, well, pretty much every chef ever, you will often find yourself under a lot of pressure at work. And for many this has been made worse due to Covid-19, as they’ve gone from 0 to 100 almost as soon as lockdown ended.

To help, we’ve been out and about and talked to a number of experts on suggestions, tips and tricks for managing stress. Below is our top 10.

1. The Biggies: Sleep, eat right, exercise

Yes, you’ve heard these all before but scientific study after scientific study has validated the effectiveness of all these things for relieving stress.

Sleeping, eating right, and exercising are all great for your physical health, but more importantly, they also do wonders for psychological health. All three help boost endorphins, regulate dopamine, and simply keep you happier.

Doesn’t mean you can’t cheat. (Because sometimes the best stress relief is binge-watching Game of Thrones with a pint of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.) But if you want to manage the stress you already have while simultaneously helping bullet-proof yourself from stress in the future, you owe it to yourself to start thinking about all these things.

2. Establish boundaries

Often the source of work stress is the feeling that work can never end. Think about not always saying ‘yes’, establish some boundaries that matter most to you and work towards getting them implemented and maintained.

3. Write things down

Too much going on in your head? Use an old technology to help: pencil and paper. When you’re stressed out because you have too much to keep track of, take a sheet of paper and write down everything you have to do. (Or use an app like Trello.)

Not having to worry about remembering what you have to do frees up a surprising amount of emotional energy to actually do those things.

4. Prioritise to immediately reduce work stress

If it feels like you’ll just never get everything done, sometimes you just need to realise that you don’t have to. Make a list of all the tasks on your plate, then decide what really has to get done, and what you’d just like to have done.

This doesn’t mean that what you’d like to get done isn’t important. But you can worry about that later

5. Clean up your workspace

Again, studies show that an cluttered work-space redcues stress levels. If you’re a chef you should be all over this point (at work), but did you know that this same approach should apply to your apartment, your house, your car or any other place you keep your stuff.

6. Show up early

If you get stressed because you’re always running behind schedule, what can do the trick is coming to work early every day. Get some coffee, put your stuff away, and plan out your day. By the time “worktime” hits, you’re already rolling.

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7. Listen to music

William Congreve wrote that “Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Beast.” He’s right.

If you need a little de-stressing at work, get some music on. Not such a good idea during service but during prep time and quite(r) time(s) dial up whatever tunes make you and the team happy – if you’re digging it, you’re feeling better.

8. Schedule in breaks

It’s tempting to feel like the only way to manage a stressful workload is to power through it, non-stop. Turns out that’s actually counter-productive. It’s a fact: breaks let you get more done.

As a chef you’re busy (virtually all of the time), but finding even five minutes of a regular basis to recharge will help keep you from burning out.

9. Reward yourself for working

Sometimes the best cure for stress is to simply be nice to yourself. And what better reason is there to be nice to yourself than for having done some good work?

Along with breaks (see #8 above), small rewards can be a great way to keep yourself productive, while helping you tally the amount of work you’ve actually gotten done. By holding those rewards back until you’ve earned them, you’ll be more motivated to work. But by giving them to yourself, you’ll tell yourself you deserve them.

10. Be thankful

Silly as it might sound, cultivating a thankful attitude can reduce both general and work stress, and make you happier. It can be really rewarding for you and the people you work with.

Whichever of the above you choose to help reduce your stress levels in the kitchen, stick to them, and in a short period of time, you’ll notice how much better you feel.

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