Professional Comment

Alleviating Lockdown Stress in the Hospitality Sector

By Toby Ingham, UKCP registered psychotherapist-

The lockdown is causing a huge loss of jobs and leaving businesses with many operators despairing about the future of their business.What are the psychological risks of an extended lockdown within the industry and what can people within the industry do to alleviate stress?

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in the hospitality industry facing per- haps one of its biggest crises with many facing an uncertain future. Undoubtedly, the pandemic has brought the issue of mental health to the forefront. In the recent report by Hospitality Action, which was released in September 2020, the new C-19 restrictions including social distancing measures, extra sanitation measures, pressure of ‘policing’ patrons, fear of C-19 infection and fear of job losses were the main causes of stress.

So, even though we’re all aware that it is only through the combination of tougher lockdown measures and waiting for the national rollout of the vaccination programme that we will come out the other side, waiting and being in lockdown is having a major impact on our mental health. People in hospitality have had to deal with a prolonged period of stress which stems directly from their day to day work pre- lockdown and from the uncertainty of what comes next for the industry.

Stress is a psychological and emotional reaction which triggers the release of hormones. The major stress hormones are cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. These hormones all take time to be metabolised. They can trigger mood swings and increase irritability. When this happens over a long period of time, we end up sleeping badly, which increases our irritability, anxiety and can become the beginning of a depressed mood, perhaps depression. As a result, a negative spiral develops. The longer it goes on, the deeper it gets, the more we lose track of the person we were before we started experiencing the destructive effects of stress.

A lot of the stress we experience comes from avoiding the truth of our situation, fighting against something that we cannot change which doesn’t benefit us. Instead it makes us more stressed, depressed and downhearted. So what can we do to help ourselves?

On a personal level, perhaps the first thing to do is to accept the lockdown and the situation we find ourselves in. Don’t fight against it and avoid complaining about it. Instead, try to accept it and carry on. If we can find a way to accept our situation, we’re more likely to adopt a positive attitude. It may look impossible to look at our situation in a way that lifts our mood but it is important to address our attitude. It’s the one thing we can work on regardless of our circumstances.When we accept things, our attitude changes, we see ‘can do’, whereas before everything was ‘cannot.’ When we accept things, we can put our energy to better use.

Once you’ve made that shift you can start looking for ways to support yourself. During difficult times it’s more important than ever to do what we can to look after ourselves and make good health and lifestyle choices.

As for employers within the industry, it’s vital to create a culture of openness and encourage your staff to look out for each other. Offering emotional and practical support comes in different forms and will differ from business to business which is why it’s important to ascertain what works for you and your teams. Make the most of the resources available to you, both national and local and put a system in place so your staff is aware that you’re doing your upmost to help them. It is a difficult time for the whole industry and it’s more important than ever to place wellbeing at the centre of all operations.