If you’ve ever waited tables, flipped a burger, or tried to quell a hungry mob at the host stand, you know the food industry can be stressful. It’s no wonder, then, that Bonanno Concepts—purveyor of 10 Denver-area restaurants, including Mizuna and French 75—discovered during an employee survey that many of its workers wanted more mental health resources. So, in September 2021, Bonanno hired Qiana Torres Flores as the company’s first wellness director. A licensed professional counselor, Torres Flores provides free individual counseling sessions and teaches coping skills. But her wisdom extends beyond the restaurant business—which is why we asked Torres Flores for tips to reduce stress in any field.

Feeling the Burnout?

Set A Routine
“The first thing I ask someone when they say they’re stressed out from work is, ‘How is your routine?’ ” Torres Flores says. A regular day-to-day schedule eliminates anxiety that comes with the unknown. Start by sticking to consistent bedtimes and wake-up calls and eating meals at roughly the same times every day.

Learn A Stress Reduction Technique
The next time you receive a Slack message that sends your blood pressure skyrocketing, take three deep breaths and focus on how you’re feeling in the moment. If such woo-woo exercises aren’t your style, simply respond to adverse feelings by sitting in silence away from your screen, even in your car, for a few minutes to help you feel grounded again.

Don’t be scared to go to your boss if your workload is overwhelming you. If there’s something your co-workers can do to reduce your stress levels, ask them for help too. “Our leaders and peers can’t read our minds,” Torres Flores says. “We’re more likely to get what we need in the workplace if we actually ask for it.”

Develop Community
Creating a positive space for mental health doesn’t just fall to workers. “One thing that employees really want is to have a relationship with the folks who run the operation,” Torres Flores says. At Bonanno Concepts, Torres Flores encourages managers to check in with staff using meat metaphors, ranging from rare (“I’m doing great”) to well done (“I’m really struggling”).

System Override

In 2022, Colorado placed last in Mental Health America’s rankings of states based on access to treatment. We spoke with Vincent Atchity, president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado, to find out how to increase your odds of finding a provider. —Jenny McCoy

1. A shortage of mental health care professionals means providers can have wait lists for new patients that range from 60 to 90 days. “Try and seek care before things become critical,” Atchity says. As with all kinds of health, preventive intervention is the most effective treatment for mental health issues, he says.

2. Group sessions can be very effective for people with specific needs, such as those recovering from substance abuse and parents of kids with special needs. Plus, they’re often less expensive and easier to access than one-on-one sessions. (Mental Health Colorado’s website features a directory of organizations that might be able to connect you with a group.)

3. Many private practice therapists don’t take insurance due to low reimbursement rates and difficulties in dealing with insurance companies, and the average cost of out-of-pocket care in Colorado is around $130 per hour. However, some practitioners offer sliding fees based on patients’ incomes.

For immediate mental health emergencies, call 988, the national suicide and crisis hotline.

This article was originally published in 5280 Health 2023.
Barbara O'Neil
Barbara O'Neil
Barbara is one of 5280's assistant editors and writes stories for 5280 and 5280.com.