What is mindfulness anyway?
I’m sure you know it well. That jittery, uncomfortable something-is-just-not-right feeling. It has a label. It has a mission. It has a name. Anxiety.
Many service professionals, working in the fast-paced hospitality industry, have some form of relationship with anxiety. While it’s easy to turn to unhealthy habits to numb the internal stirring, mindfulness practices can offer deep relief from stress.
So, what is mindfulness anyway?
MBSR Founder, and Meditation Teacher, Jon Kabat-Zin explains it well, “mindfulness is cultivating moment-to-moment awareness, through paying attention, in the moment, purposely, without judgement.” When you find yourself in the weeds of stress on the front-of-the-house ground floor, it’s about that moment of pause, to view your surroundings through a lens of non-judgmental compassion, before reacting negatively.
When you’re balancing a packed schedule of gigs, it’s hard to find the time to meditate. But there’s no ‘right’ time when it comes to a mindful meditation practice. Commit to a time that feels realistic, like first thing in the morning, or before bed, and keep it consistent. Consistency is key. Even just a few minutes of deep breathing, right in the middle of chaos, can slow the spiral of anxiety.
How has Mindfulness helped one of our Service Pros? Let’s find out.
Hi, I’m Meghan Hanley.
I feel like this is already starting out like a support group meeting, but maybe that’s where we are at, or at least that’s where I’m at.
Some of you might know me from my regular captaining gigs, others, may have never worked with me, but in either case, you know what it’s like to work in the hospitality industry. To outsiders, it’s a vibrant high paced world, filled with exciting events, exquisite food pairings and high profile clients. To insiders, like us, it is all of those things coupled with stress, anxiety, fatigue and worry, most likely in an industry that we didn’t see ourselves in. I think that’s what’s so remarkable about us, we are often balancing two to three careers at the same time, running a household, and then showing up at 5am to an office we may or may not have been to before, working a 12 hour day, while making plans for other events, booking shows, booking work, making grocery lists, calculating numbers ( will I pay all my bills this month..) and then going home and doing it all again. It’s A LOT to manage. And over the past 2 years, I have not been managing it well.
I think some of it has to do with age. Some of it has to do with fatigue. But mostly, it has to do with fear. I started working for HMG+, before they were HMG+, before they were HMG, when they were Yipeee, right out of college. I had decided that I wanted to pursue a career in stand-up comedy, and working for a temp catering agency was perfect! Throughout my 20’s I loved showing up at different locations, meeting new co-workers, new clients, learning new skills, seeing fancy homes.. Eventually, this led me to one of the largest investment companies in the world, where I went from being a regular server, to a Captain, to practically living there. Which was great! I finally had a regular client, I developed relationships within the building, and I started to know the facility in and out, making me feel more organized and prepared as I walked in. My comedy career also started to slowly take off, I was making some money doing it, and was thrilled to finish an event and run to a show. This went on for years (Of course I am omitting all of the insanity that goes on within events, good and bad, but you guys get it.) Overall, it was manageable, I was manageable, except for a voice in my head that keep saying, “When are you going to stop doing this?”
It’s amazing how we can talk ourselves into feeling like a failure. But that is something I am constantly doing. Instead of filling up a calendar with events and shows, and looking at them as an accomplishment, I see it as a failure. “I’m still catering.”” I’m still not a full time comedian.” “I’m exhausted.” “I’m behind.” “When will this get better?” The crazy part is, as things got better, as I was making more money doing stand-up, as the two jobs, flipped, where stand-up was now my main source of income, catering the secondary, my mental health got worse.
It’s wild how our bodies react to the burdens we put on them. When I was in the cycle of working events regularly, I was ok. The chaos and craziness seemed normal. But once I started working less, I found myself, getting physically and emotionally upset in the days leading up to a gig. I also started feeling the same before long contracts with stand-up. I filled my schedule up so tight, that there was no time to decompress between the two.
Which left my mind racing, constantly. I kept trying to do what I always do, keep moving. Workout the stress, through working out, but then I found myself injured, all the time. I had the feeling of being trapped in my own body, my own mind, feeling like I couldn’t breathe. And then I had the obvious epiphany, “Oh, maybe I should just breathe.”
(Also it wasn’t that simple, I was in denial I was having panic attacks, I kept blaming them on hydration, vitamins, anything but my own brain, because I’m incredibly stubborn especially when it comes to self help..but I digress..)
Meditation is still something I’m learning about, but I can honestly say I think it’s saving my life. I use the present, because well, it is and will be an ongoing process for me. Sometimes 3 minutes, can reset me, other times, I can dive in for 25 and, although I’m relaxed, I’m still not where I need to be. I started by using the “Headspace App.” They have a wide variety of mediations, from courses to singles, to SOS, to techniques and support. Also, if you’re an extrovert like me, I have found group mediations to be especially helpful. Feeling connected to others is so important right now, and sitting and breathing with others, via zoom, has been really powerful.
Lastly, the best thing it has given me is more clarity, more insight into my own mind. It’s helping me heal the damage that I have done to myself, and slowly opening my eyes to the person that I am and want to be in the future.
I hope this is helpful to anyone struggling or not struggling. And to those who think I have gone soft, know that I also find immense joy and stress relief from screaming into my hands (seriously, it’s pretty fun.) Namaste.