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Hospitality Job Losses and Its Effect on Mental Health | By Alan Young

We are in uncharted territory.

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Job losses within the hospitality industry have been staggering, not only impacting every region of the globe but, more importantly, impacting each and every person who works within one of the largest employment industries.

Currently, the UK has seen job losses that total 600,600, in the US hospitality jobs losses surpass 3,200,000, and in Canada, this number sits at 350,000. According to a from the U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics, unemployment in the hospitality and leisure industry stands at more than double the national average. The toll of the pandemic is publicized daily on every channel and outlet. We hear stories from friends and colleagues regarding the loss of another COVID-19 victim. The news is non-stop. People's lives have been turned upside down, and we, as a community, need to be there for each other.

Only a few months ago, in October, things were looking up. In Canada, we started the recovery as businesses reopened - but there were stark differences across sectors. Output in accommodation and food services in June was at 55% of its pre-pandemic level according to StatsCan. We were starting to breathe a sigh of relief - and then came the holidays. Most were trying their best to follow the rules, to do the right things. However, the draw to venture out to see loved ones during the holidays was overwhelming. The effect of holiday gatherings has resulted in a surge of cases worldwide and it now appears as if we are a long way off from any sense of normalcy.

Do not get me wrong. This is not a piece filled with doom and gloom, but it is good to understand the impact of past events and try to find a better path forward. We need to embrace the future with all its wonder and unknowns - and the best way to do this is with a strong mental health strategy. Those who have lost their jobs during the pandemic may feel a sense of longing for the way things used to be. Obviously, they will feel a sense of loss along with loneliness and all the other trappings of depression and anxiety. But there is a way to combat mental health associated with job loss and the current situation the world finds itself in. We need to become a community where we support each other, where we listen, where we embrace today with gratitude and look towards a brighter future.

Every person can institute positive behaviors into their daily routine that help to combat the feelings that creep into our minds when we are tempted to look only at the detrimental issues impacting our lives. The most important thing for me has become daily exercise. No, I am not a runner, nor do I like lifting weights, but an hour-long walk at any point within the day has helped immensely in keeping my life on an even keel. This is not hard. It just takes one step to lead to a block, which then leads to a mile, and so on.

The Mayo Clinic states that regular exercise releases feel-good endorphins, natural cannabis-like brain chemicals (endogenous cannabinoids), and other natural brain elements that can enhance your sense of well-being. It takes your mind off worries so you can get away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety. Doing 30 minutes or more of exercise a day for three to five days a week may significantly improve depression or anxiety symptoms.

Another coping mechanism focuses on breathing. I know, I get the exercise part, but what is he talking about when it comes to breathing? I do this all the time! Your physical and mental wellness get a boost from controlled breathing, sometimes known as yogic breath or mindful breathing. It can reduce chronic pain, lessen symptoms associated with anxiety, insomnia, and other concerns, and positively affect your immune system. Plus, it helps regulate emotions, diminish impulsivity, and keep your brain sharp.

Finally, I go back to our amazing hospitality industry community. Reaching out to others that are in the same situation and can relate is incredibly helpful. Also, talking about the future helps as well. After all, this too shall pass. Vaccines are being administered, and countries are ramping up the distribution. There are regions of the world that are getting a handle on managing the pandemic - and seeing this creates hope.

There is a direct correlation between job loss and one's mental health. Of this, there is no dispute. However, we all can lend a hand in ensuring those around us who have lost a position in our industry are supported by the greater community.

Be well and be safe.