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Late nights, long shifts and countless missed opportunities to exercise or eat a real meal are a few of the defining elements of a bartender’s usual schedule. Over time, this combination of factors can take its toll on anyone, no matter how healthy or fit they may be. Once the calls for self-isolation and bar and restaurant closures began to sweep the country, however, one Chicago industry pro saw an opportunity to help the community hit the reset button.
“There's only so much Netflix to watch and sherry to drink before it becomes you,” says Miranda Breedlove, the national bar director of Hyatt’s lifestyle division. “When Chicago bars and restaurants shut down this week, I watched my social media light up with friends sharing their PS4 usernames and creating alcohol-focused content––I wanted to remind them that in times like this, we need to find balance, have a routine and most of all, keep ourselves healthy,” she says.
Breedlove, who was partly inspired by her own tendency to fall short on taking care of herself when faced with too much free time and not enough organization or accountability, turned to Google Docs and created a schedule for herself and her network of fellow bar folk.
Breedlove’s schedule came to be with the help of Amie Ward, a bartender and advocate for industry well-being through her interactive health and wellness platform, The Healthtender. To round out the daily activities scheduled for each weekday, bartenders are directed to Ward’s social media for free no-equipment workout videos as well as budget-friendly recipes, mental and emotional health resources, and more.
“When my bar shut down and all of my health activations were canceled for the foreseeable future, I knew I needed to channel my energy into a constructive outlet that would also benefit my community, as they were hurting too,” says Ward. “Nutrition and exercise impact our physical health, but they also have a huge influence on our mental health, and that was my primary focus here.”
Each weekday begins with a 9 a.m. wakeup, followed by 30 minutes of breakfast or a cup of coffee or tea, and no social media during that time. A half hour dedicated to catching up on news and email follows. It’s brief by design, says Breedlove, who advises conscious consumption of media because, she says, “it's incredibly unhealthy to be constantly connected with all of the uncertainty at this time.”
From there, things switch up depending on the day, focusing on various 30-minute to one-hour activities such as reading books, scheduled video chats with friends or family, learning new languages or skills, journaling, checking in on loved ones, and the like. At 6 p.m., the days conclude with a dinner activity, either meal prepping or learning to cook something new.
While some bartenders are still coming around to the idea of waking up at 9 a.m., Breedlove says that the response to the schedule thus far has been overwhelmingly positive. “I didn't expect it to reach so many people, but I'm grateful that bartenders are finding value in this, and I hope it gets used as much as possible.”
As her schedule’s popularity continues to grow with each day that bartenders remain in isolation, Breedlove is also working on putting together various resources to accompany many of the time blocks, such as book lists, reliable news sources, educational opportunities and more. In the meantime, she urges people to check out spirits educator and mental health expert Laura Green’s list of free online courses around crisis and disaster relief, mental health, and community response, available on her website, Healthy Pour.
The early start each morning is no arbitrary choice. Breedlove points out that while it might seem like a reach for those accustomed to getting into bed around 3 a.m. or later, daylight is crucial for our sanity, as is getting into an actual routine. “Having a schedule to stick to gives you a chance to create new positive habits and finally do the things we've always wanted to,” she says. “Having a routine for ourselves while the world changes dramatically every day will be the best balance we could give ourselves.”