Panel on Mental Health Declares a Need for Self-Compassion

The Nashville Coffee Collective and Sump Coffee joined forces to host a panel on mental health awareness in the service industry.

BY JOSH RANK
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE

Photos by Josh Rank

“One of the most frustrating parts of being in the service industry is how little control you have, (but) you have the ability to choose your reaction.”

Postgraduate Counselor Caitlin Wall made this strong, comforting statement as the speaker at a panel on mental health and awareness in hospitality, which took place May 28 in Nashville, Tenn. Organized by the Nashville Coffee Collective, the event was hosted by Sump Coffee, and extra chairs were needed to accommodate the large crowd, which enjoyed complimentary snacks from sponsors Dozen Bakery, High Garden Tea, and Matchless Coffee Soda.

The Nashville Coffee Collective invited two speakers for the event from Lipscomb University to answer questions and discuss mental health as it relates to the service industry. Evan Holder, bar manager at Stay Golden in Nashville, led the discussion with Wall and Melanie Morris, director for the M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at Lipscomb.

Stay Golden’s Evan Holden addresses a full room.

The talk began by introducing the metaphor of mental health being in the basement (not only because their department is in the basement at Lipscomb).

“We like to hide (our mental health) away in the basement so we don’t have to deal with it,” explained Morris. “But there’s another metaphor for mental health, and that is the foundation of our lives.”

Morris outlined the importance of mental health and how it relates to everything from our physical well-being to how we internalize it with our day. “It influences everything in our lives,” she said.

“It’s tempting to say we’re going to address mental health when something is wrong,” said Wall, “but if we as a society are able to open up a conversation about what makes good mental health … there is a way to create sustainable habits.”

Destigmatization and openness regarding mental health in the workplace were frequently discussed in the panel. The idea stretched from how we talk about our changing moods on shift—despite the industry stressing a constantly pleasant disposition—to how we can manage stress and anxiety.

“Be aware of negative thoughts that are on repeat,” said Wall. “You have the ability to choose your reaction.”

Audience members enjoy complimentary refreshments supplied by local sponsors.

Lack of control was linked to negative effects on mental health, but a means of coping was suggested: “Self-compassion is one of the best ways to fight against the loss of control and the stress and anxiety that comes from an industry like this,” said Wall.

Our decisions are often based on our immediate surroundings and situations, and it’s impossible to navigate them correctly every time. The panel provided this phrase to help attendees during difficult times: Given (blank) of course I feel (blank). The phrase can be viewed as a formula to take stock of your emotions, and maybe even cut yourself some slack.

“That phrase validates your experience and your emotions, and that is one of the best ways to prevent those cracks in the foundation of mental health,” said Wall. “If you are able to give yourself that grace when you need it, you are much less likely to spiral.”

Shifting your mindset, the panelists admit, isn’t as easy as it sounds. “Changing our thoughts is longer term,” said Morris. “It’s retraining.” Although it might take time and effort, these shifts in viewpoint and practicing self-compassion can be the first step toward positive mental health, both behind the bar and away from it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Rank
is a writer and coffee professional based in Nashville, Tenn. More ramblings can be found at his website.

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