Let’s face it: As much as we may love them, cocktails aren’t exactly healthful. So it’s a little odd sitting across from one of the country’s top mixologists, hearing her views on physical, mental and spiritual health. But these days, Patricia Richards is more interested in helping her colleagues prevent burnout than teaching them how to mix a drink.
Richards’ 11-year bartending career boasts some stellar accomplishments. For six years, she ran the beverage program for all of the bars at Wynn, and later Encore. She’s participated in cocktail competitions in Finland, Italy and New Orleans; moderated a seminar in Cognac, France; and judged the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Her writing has appeared in Food & Wine and People. But she says the 60-hour work weeks, Las Vegas’ constant need for something new and the town’s 24-hour party lifestyle took a serious toll on her health.
“I was starting to feel some fatigue issues, because of the demands [of the job],” she explains between sips of a Starbucks pumpkin latte (which she describes as one of her few remaining vices). “A lot of it was just adrenal exhaustion from just the go, go, go lifestyle we have here in Las Vegas.”
Richards began to seek out holistic healers. “I was getting intravenous treatments for chronic fatigue. I was getting acupuncture and things like that to try to cope,” she recalls of her worst days. “Finally, I had to listen to myself.”
A year before her contract with Wynn was up in August, Richards had already resolved that she wasn’t going to renew. And after a six-month stint with Bacardi, she decided to return to college. While she still tends bar part time, Richards is finishing her psychology degree (3.7 GPA!) at UNLV and is considering going on to acupuncture school to become a doctor of oriental medicine.
“I’m feeling a very strong longing to get into work that’s healing, uplifting, inspiring and more spiritually fulfilling,”she says.
In July, Richards helped deliver a three-day seminar called Mind, Body, Spirits at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. It was aimed at “trying to create more balance in order to have longevity in the industry,” and included presentations by an acupuncturist, a tai chi instructor and a dietician.
“There are people who party really hard in the industry, and then they burn out,” Richards says. “Or they wear out. Or they gain 50 pounds. Or they are completely unhealthy and they’re sick all the time. So it’s about creating awareness for the people in our industry to listen to yourself and to be more conscious of balance in your life. Because if you’re not aware of it now, it’s going to take a toll on you in some way. Whether it’s in your relationships, your health or your work, it’s going to affect something somewhere.”
Richards is hoping to stage similar seminars—including a more extensive program at Tales of the Cocktail—and is currently shopping the idea around the Southwest. In the meantime, she has a simple request of her hardworking colleagues: “Just have a green juice here and there. Have a couple of days that are clean. Just exercise to burn off toxins. The little things can really make a difference in your long-term and overall health, and your outlook on life.”
Actually, that’s pretty good advice for all us.
Seven Tips For a More Balanced, Healthier, Happier New Year
Richards regularly shares her healthful insights on Facebook.com/BeBestSelf. We asked her for a few work-life tips to take with us into 2015. What we got is more like a personal manifesto—how to wage all-out war (but a peaceful one, of course) on mental, physical or spiritual stressors. You might want to take notes.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
New Year’s Eve (or just before it) is a great time to clean out your metaphorical as well as your literal closets. Let go of that which is not important: daily drama, negativity and cattiness. Keep and nurture that which is important, such as positive relationships with good people who make you laugh, and who inspire and uplift you.
Stop and Smell the Coffee
Glued to our smartphones, in constant multitasking mode, we are simply not living in the present. How about giving your friends or your family members your full attention when they speak to you? This slows us down a bit, lowering our stress hormones, while helping build quality relationships.
Stress has been called the “Black Plague of the 21st Century.” Prolonged stress—whether physical, emotional or chemical—can lead to health issues, such as depression, weight gain, low libido and a suppressed immune system. Stress reduction is essential. Try deep breathing, yoga and/or meditation, as well as essential oils and herbal teas, such as those made with chamomile and valerian root. You don’t have to be superhuman 24/7. It’s OK to ask for help, and it’s OK to say no!
Don’t Be the Walking Dead
It’s time to shake things up and try something new! Dare to venture out of your stagnating comfort zone and travel, or learn something new that inspires you. Make it a priority to live an inspired life that’s meaningful. Life is an adventure, so make it happen!
Commune With Nature
While living a “responsible” busy life, we can often feel disconnected to the core of who we are; we get caught up in the roles we play. Nature helps us to reconnect. When we spend time in nature, in a quiet, peaceful and authentic way, we connect to our authentic selves.
Think Globally, Act Locally
Small changes over time can make a big difference: switching to energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances, recycling, being a conscious consumer, eating more organic foods, buying sustainable goods. Volunteering or donating also helps strengthen your local community, whether at the local food bank or at your child’s school. You will feel good by doing good.
Be Your Best Self
Your body and mind are temples, so treat them with respect! Feed them healthy food, think positive thoughts, drink purified water, exercise, get adequate sleep, lower your stress and reduce or eliminate toxins and toxic relationships. We all like to party and have fun, but remember that moderation is key to a balanced and harmonious life.