The good news is – it wasn’t a heart attack. It was anxiety and stress. The bad? I was told I had to slow down or it could get worse…much worse. I am an event planner. “Slow down” is not in my vocabulary.
In 2007, at the young and healthy age of 25, I was working for a high profile institution on professional education events. Our summers were insane and 70, 80, 90 hour weeks were not out of the question. During one particularly challenging week, I awoke at 4:00 a.m. to get ready for another 16-hour day. I remember standing in the shower and suddenly clutching my chest. My first thought: “I’m having a heart attack – I need to go to the ER now!” My second thought: “What about my event? I need to get to work!”.
It was a wake-up call to listen to my body. I remember telling my boss at the time and I could see the fear in her face – she looked at me and said “take all the time you need.” So, how do we as event planners do that? How do we make time for ourselves when all we do is plan every second? The vital thing I learned is the event will go on. This is one of the hardest things to do as a planner – to let go of that control. And while this particular situation was extremely scary, I am thankful that it happened. I am thankful because it taught me, early in my career, to slow down and take care of myself. After all – if I am not well, that will be reflected in my work. With that principle in mind, I developed a few key strategies that all event planners should do to ensure their well-being:
- Find 30 minutes each day to do something for yourself. This may be as simple as sitting with a cup of coffee in the morning sun, watching a TV show that you have been meaning to catch up on or taking an extra long shower. This time is crucial. It is unequivocally “me time”. Take it and don’t feel guilty about it.
- Check in with yourself multiple times a day and remember to breathe. This is something that I learned by practicing yoga. Oftentimes, when you are in a particular yoga pose you start to shake, feel uncomfortable and yearn to move out of it. But, recognizing what you are going through and acknowledging how your body feels helps the mind push through whatever it may be. This can be applied in a general sense as well. During your work day, check in with your body. How are you sitting? Are you perched on your chair? Are you holding the stress in your shoulders? How is your body reacting to what you are mentally experiencing? The mind is a dynamic and powerful tool that is incredibly connected to your body and well-being.
- Be present and enjoy the moment. In our technology driven world, it is incredibly hard to disconnect. We are glued to our email and as planners, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Trust me, the problem will be there tomorrow. When you are with your family or your friends do yourself (and whoever you’re with) a favor – allow yourself that time away from work. Give your personal life the same amount of attention you would to a detailed event. If you must check in with work, communicate those needs to your companions and set clear expectations of time away. Having a plan for not being present is as important as being present.
- Practice kindness. This may seem a little different, but hear me out. When you do something selfless and practice kindness, your mind gets flooded with all sorts of natural endorphins as does the heart. This makes you feel good! And it is also a form of positive motivation to keep going. Oftentimes, this can be as simple as picking up something someone dropped or grabbing your colleague a coffee without them asking. Be kind and be selfless; your body and mind will reap the benefits. And those benefits will cascade into a successful event as well.
Make self-awareness a purposeful goal as part of your event planning process and it will free you up to engage deeper with your work. Whether you are preparing for an event or in the midst of a manic schedule, allow yourself to experience self-care and well-being. Always remember that as crucial as we are to an event’s success, we are no good to ourselves or anybody else if we are lying face down on the ground attempting to inject espresso in to our eyeballs. Be well.
Author – Kristen Verdeaux
Kristen Verdeaux is an accomplished veteran of the event planning industry, with over 11-years experience managing complex international programs. She prides herself on delivering high-quality service while developing successful team relationships. Kristen has worked for some of the most prestigious institutions in the world, including Boston Ballet, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Harvard Law School, where she is currently the Director for the Institute for Global Law and Policy. Kristen has also recently launched her own boutique event firm, Verdeaux Events, where she brings her global experience to inspirational clients.