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Mental Health and the Events Industry: Is ‘balance’ even possible in our world?

For years the meetings & events industry has been on the top of the “MOST STRESSFUL JOBS” lists, right behind firefighters and airline pilots. Many of us almost took it as a badge of honor. At least I know I did. “Let me do it all, work 12+ hours a day, plan, execute and wrap two events and have rice krispie treats ready for one of the kids classes the next day.” Keeping the proverbial ‘balls in the air’ of juggling tasks for work and home were all the things contained in a good week. I was stressed to the max but there was no time to think about it let alone address it.

Then 2020 happened and all the busy-ness came to a screeching halt. So many of us reassessed and confirmed our values during this time as well as continuing the never-ending quest to be who we were genuinely meant to be. Or you know, just wake up and show up each day of uncertainty.

Some of us made graceful exits into new industries. Some of us worked through the whole pandemic as a member of a skeleton crew. Some went into virtual production. A lot of us were laid off or businesses closed.

Whatever your role was in the last past 2½ years, anyone in and around the hospitality industry knows it continues to be a bumpy ride. Service levels are not what they were due to many factors. Our pressures to deliver are the same as they have always been but creating new and innovative ways to meet along with daily survival, ever-changing covid protocols while strategically advising the c-suite has been a unique endeavor for many of us.

So as mental health becomes more accessible and continually accepted, where do we, as the group who define and create experiences for others, go from here?

First - Let’s Talk About What We Went Through.

Whatever way the pandemic affected you I think we can all agree: it all sucked.

My snapshot: I missed my event industry friends. I missed creating the experiences. I cried nearly every day. But I dove headfirst into reading books, listening to podcasts, life analysis of relationships, friendships, career reflection and through that whole process, I graciously (or not so graciously) accepted who I had been, learning those hard lessons then I consciously worked to define who I wanted to become. I have always been a knowledge seeker, but it was this time, I finally did the work needed to get to a state where I liked who I was and where I was going.

Can anyone relate to those feelings through the pandemic?

For me, finding routine was key.

During 2020 and 2021 our family lovingly called each day “Blursday” because it all kind of blended together. And of course, there are still a few days where the mundane view of the day ahead reminds me of those days where nothing was going to happen outside unless it was a walk around the block.

However now I am intentional with each day ahead. And no, I don’t mean I plan every single moment of my day but what I do now is start each day the same way, looking ahead as a blank slate, weaving in my to-do’s while allowing for white space in between because we know; things always come up. I also started the practical application of my big picture plans which involved breaking down my goals tactically and learning the daily practice of reflection and intention.

Through a friend I was introduced to Self-Care Society where I can drop in on live classes or watch an on-demand course with titles like “Remembering who the heck you are” and “Creating the month you desire”. Danika Brysha, the founder of Self-Care Society says, “A great life is just a series of great days”. This everyday intentionality has allowed me to grow as a person and continues to challenge the way I show up in this world: for myself and for my people.

What is your daily practice that grounds you?

Find your people in a community that is not work-related.

While many of my closest friends are in the hospitality industry, it is pursuing passion projects, volunteerism for causes I care deeply about and a group of bad-ass people at pilates, that helped me turn that thing I liked to do into a conscious effort of defining how I want to live my daily life. Whatever your ‘thing’ is – from walking to yoga to surfing to being still – the routine of doing that thing with people who enjoy it also can change the trajectory of who you are.

Don’t be afraid to try all the things. And BE OKAY with trying something new. If you don’t like it, it’s all good, just move onto the next thing. I learned that whoever said ‘you are an amalgam of those who you surround yourself with’ is glaringly true. Surrounding yourself with people who light you up only makes you want to do the same for others because you know how good it feels.

Follow positive influences on social media and UNFOLLOW those who do the opposite. Curate your best environment: in person and virtually.

Communicate your needs and the right people around you will rally.

Through several personal health and familial challenges this past year, my community has shown up for me in ways that allowed me to be okay with not being okay. For many years, that was not the case. I’d wipe my tears, put on a smile, and go back into the event.

Knowing how you do your personal best work is key and then you must actually communicate your intentions with the people around you. Thinking it only does the work part of the way. I’ve learned this the hard way several times in my life. Yet still, we are all given the opportunity to define what works for us and what doesn’t. Boundaries are okay to have – with yourself, with your manager and with your clients, but you must define and effectively communicate them.

Within our event community – share our challenges to create our future opportunities.

Let’s acknowledge the fact that we are even talking about all of this now. We are finally in a time where discussing our emotional and mental health isn’t a sign we’ve gone off the deep end. It’s the opposite. Groups like Event Minds Matter on LinkedIn are continuing the conversation about how to find solutions that create a culture of realistic expectations for everyone in the event ecosystem.

  • How can you contribute to the conversation?
  • What would you like to see improved?
  • How can we work better together?

How you walk through the world is different when you have purposefully defined your time instead of letting time passively happen to you.

To continue the conversation and learn more tools to navigate your own mental health journey along with your career, please come to my session at IMEX on Wednesday, October 12 from 3-3:30 at the Inspiration Hub - booth F606.

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FRI, October 07, 2022

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