Meeting planner wellness: 15 tips for a healthy career

Most of us have either experienced a lack of balance or know someone in the industry, a friend or colleague who has suffered from this reality. Some of us have also known, worked with or supported someone who suffers from or has lost the battle to illness, sudden or chronic.

meeting planner wellnessWhen ill, some have focused on their needs and their health and taken the time to heal, but in an industry filled with A-type, “we can do it all” personalities, who live by the credo “the client/meeting/event must come first”, this is a rare path followed by an even rarer person.

Others have approached illness like a program, fitting in doctor’s appointments and treatment schedules around their existing rigorous schedule, rarely taking actual time off to recover, unless actually hospitalized. Consider these real life scenarios: a meeting planner who breaks down and has to be hospitalized on day three of a four day program as the ongoing 20 hour days left her unable to cope; planning team members in their hotel rooms mid-program, knocked out by a combination of a small virus but an unmanageable workload leaving them exhausted, on IV drips, unable to eat solid food, 5,000 km from home in a foreign country; a meeting planner who goes on site with pneumonia and slips away during the program without ever going to the hospital as the show had to go on; cancer survivors who fit chemo in between a client breakfast and “just checking” on an evening event their team is working on; these are just a few we know about.

Many of us are healthy now, but as we grow careers or businesses it is rare to put our health first and to be proactive about taking care of ourselves on a daily basis. As professionals in the meeting and event industry, we collectively face many similar issues, many impacting our health negatively, including the following. See if you recognize any of these challenges in your own situation. Keep reading for some small steps that can be considered and that we have seen others do successfully, increasing their own personal health.

  • Continued demands on our time and resources and added pressure from stakeholders causing us to work longer hours, although not necessarily more productively
  • Feeling you just can’t keep up or catch up (piling up of calls, emails, paperwork)
  • No time to recover – from an illness, from a demanding program
  • Long days on-site to meet the demands of setup, rehearsal, meeting/show, strike (and resets to do it all over again)
  • Increased travel, often through varied time zones
  • Disrupted sleep patterns from any combination of work overload, travel, lying there thinking about work, etc.
  • Stiff neck, shoulders, headaches, “stress” stomach, etc. on a regular basis
  • Eating out/on the run = little control over preparation and portions
  • Stimulant use (this can range from “energy” potions to pharmaceuticals to too much caffeine) to assist in getting through the long days/short nights syndrome
  • Networking functions where alcohol is offered/easily consumed or over-consumed
  • Difficulty to incorporate regular exercise into erratic schedules
  • Just plain tired, a feeling of being burnt out
  • Challenges developing or maintaining successful relationships

If you recognize any of the above symptoms, below is a collection of tips collected from smart industry friends who have found the need to make changes at certain periods of time, and some you might find helpful as we start 2014 full of renewed optimism for our professional selves, and an eye to refreshing our personal selves as the new year begins. Even if you only incorporate one or two from this collection, you might find it all just feels a little bit easier, that you are more productive, and that you and your relationships are healthier.

  1. Make the commitment to make yourself and your needs a priority. For some this will be a simple mental check-the-box; for others you may find you need to (really!) schedule time for you into your calendar.
  2. Say no. Not to everything, but to extraneous asks and tasks that won’t have a net positive impact on your work or life.
  3. App it up – fitness, food, music to exercise to, productivity… If you think of it, someone has probably made an app for it.
  4. Find dedicated time to focus on the relationships that matter. As they say in The Devil Wears Prada, “You know, in case you were wondering – the person whose calls you always take? That’s the relationship you’re in.” This might start as one item – free dinner or a walk each week. It is just about making the effort and focusing on the other during this time. This might be a spouse, lover, friend or puppy. The point is to focus on enjoyment.
  5. Build in exercise where you can. Some have committed to walking a certain number of steps or distance every day – which could be a hike, a walk around your neighbourhood, taking out a pet or a friend’s pet, parking farther away than normal from your workplace or a meeting, a walking meeting with a colleague. (Bonus: walking meetings are very effective and can generate new ideas as you change up your literal view!)
  6. Stretch, exercise, massage… do what you find works for you to ease physical stress and its associated symptoms.
  7. Think before you drink – alcohol, stimulant drinks, caffeine – moderation over the long term will make a positive difference.
  8. Bring your lunch. If not every day, commit to two days a week where you pack a fresh lunch featuring fresh, non-processed choices.
  9. Keep healthy snacks on hand, in your car, backpack, purse, desk and especially in your on-site office during events. You can try nuts, yogurt (yes this requires a fridge), sugar-light bars, dried seaweed, the choice is yours.
  10. Hydrate. You will be amazed at how much better you feel with a little extra water inside. If you feel a headache coming on, take a couple of glasses right away!
  11. Sleep apps – there are quite a few out there that will help you relax at night, and when it becomes part of your pattern, when you find yourself in a new time zone and need a quick adjustment, this familiarity will aid you.
  12. Create a staff schedule for on-site, and then stick to it working with people you trust. This is hard but a step that will save you from burning out you and your team.
  13. Use the power of touch – just holding hands with someone for six seconds increases your oxytocin levels improving mood and alertness. Imagine what a hug can do!
  14. Learn something new – a sport, a hobby, an interesting book, an instrument, a new route to work. Positive change stimulates new ideas and has your neurons firing. You don’t have to excel at something; it is the process of learning that creates the positive effect.
  15. Breathe through the guilt – you know who you are. When you feel bad for putting yourself first, just breathe and remind yourself that if you can’t be good to yourself, it will be almost impossible to sustain being good for anything or anyone else!

If you have a tip that has worked for you, please share it in the comments section – you never know who you might help with your great idea!

About the author:

Tahira Endean, CMP, DES, CED, is a curious event producer, passionate about intentional event design and the integration of now-ubiquitous technology to enhance the human experience at events and everyday. Tahira is committed to the industry and has been recognized for a range of contributions. In 2016, she was named a MeetingsNet Changemaker, and nominated in Vancouver for Global Meetings Industry Day Influencer and MPI BC Chapter Mentor of the Year. In 2015 she was named one of the “Top 5 Women in Event Technology”, was inducted into the Meetings Canada Hall of Fame in the Big Idea category, and most recently was one of Canada’s 20 most Fascinating Women in events from Canadian Special Event magazine. Driven by a fascination with what we are learning about neuroscience and the power of the five senses to enhance memory, knowledge retention and improve connections, she is continually seeking appropriate ways to design the most relevant meeting and event environments. An instructor at BCIT, the British Columbia Institute of Technology, she instructs both Special Event Planning and Sustainable Event Management. She contributed to the 9th CIC Manual which provides the framework for the CMP studies. She is the author of Intentional Event Design: Our Professional Opportunity. Tahira also loves cooking, time with her family, and anything with bubbles!

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