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By Victoria Copans Jan 20, 2023 12:26pm

Shot of a sporty young woman meditating at home and prioritizing mental health
(PeopleImages / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images)

The events industry is now solidly on the path to recovery, which is bringing relief and joy to event professionals around the world after what have been an incredibly stressful and uncertain last few years. However, while getting back to business as usual, it’s important to remember to prioritize mental health and overall wellness to avoid burnout and sustain long-term happiness and productivity.

With the new year in full swing, XLIVE asked five event profs to share their strategies for prioritizing mental health in 2023. Here’s what they had to say:

Vanessa Lovatt, Head of Customer Marketing, Notified

My wellness mantra of this year: don’t rush, move more. I’m a rusher both at work and in my personal life, always dashing from one thing to the next. This year, I’m making a concerted effort not to rush decisions, to get comfortable with a little imperfection rather than seek immediate change, and to build a few minutes between work meetings wherever possible.

Outside work, I’m trying not to overcommit to social activities — although this one is tough for me! But I’ve come to realise that I enjoy socialising more when I’m not flat out exhausted. I’m also keen to move my body more this year — I know it makes me feel good, but I’m not consistent at prioritising it. I’ve recently embarked on a morning yoga practice (on an app) and so far I’ve done 18 consecutive days! Some days it’s 35 minutes, other days it’s just five. It’s undoubtedly giving me a great sense of satisfaction and personal fulfilment so far. Let’s see how far I get, but I’m happy with my start! 

Nicole Osibodu, Co-Founder, The Community Factory 

This one’s tough for me because I LOVE to be busy ALL THE TIME!! But my happy place is taking road trips. I love a good playlist. Time alone in the car watching the scenery fly by, stopping into cute little antique shops in the northeast to see what I can discover and who I can meet. That is my “me time” and I LOVE it! 

I think the way we each relax is so unique to each of us. You just have to find what really makes your heart sing and MAKE the time to that!

Luke Bilton, Chief Growth Officer, ExpoPlatform

For me prioritising mental health is about being self aware and knowing what my mind and body need to stay healthy. Life is hectic, being pulled in lots of directions and I need to remember my non-negotiables in terms of what I need to balance my capacity and my responsibilities. Keeping a routine — even when working from home or travelling — exercising daily and ensuring I have a space to share any concerns is really important.  

Regular digital detoxing is also helpful in clearing space to think properly, and get back to  a growth mindset. Like most men, I probably don’t see my friends as much as I should, and I’d like to change that in the year ahead. Whenever I start to feel over-stretched, I have to listen to those signs and remember to release pressure accordingly. 

One really important lesson for me has been communicating my boundaries, knowing when to say no, and deliberately removing negativity from my life. In doing all of this I don’t have to make sure mental health is part of the agenda — it becomes a positive habit that allows me to more resilient and grow through the change and uncertainty of the times we are living in.

Sharon Bonner, CEO & Founder, Bright Ideas Events Agency

Taking care of yourself should be at the top of your planning list. It seems like we do not have any spare time, but you need to make time for it. It is important.

I have been in the event industry for 35 years and learned after my first decade of planning events that in order to survive in this business, I would need to find a way to relieve the stress that builds up.

I had started Bright Ideas Event Agency in 1988 and in 1990, I was in a serious car accident with a severe neck injury. I continued to work throughout this ordeal (neck brace and all!), as being self-employed there is no one else to work for you. I sought out TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) such as reflexology, acupressure, acupuncture, cupping, scrapping, etc. to help with the pain from the car accident but quickly realized it was also an amazing stress reliever. I hit GOLD!

I incorporated TCM into my life and now go weekly for reflexology and acupressure treatments. I was able to avoid a neck operation because of my treatments and for that, I am forever grateful.

My message to my colleagues is to find something that works for you such as yoga, running, and meditation and incorporate it into your life. Think of it as a client meeting and do not cancel! 

Shayli Ankenbruck, Conference Planner, Music Tectonics

As a conference planner and someone who attends conferences regularly, I am frequently astounded at how fast I am expected to move for 3-5 consecutive days. By the time I get home from an event, I need arguably a week to recover. Something that our conference, Music Tectonics, has been working on is structuring the conference so there is a menu of events and you can build your own experience. By scattering different kinds of programming, venues, and experiences across multiple days it gives our attendees the ability to choose what feels most right for them to attend, without leaving them feeling exhausted and stretched too thin. 

Another thing that I personally do when attending events to help with my mental wellbeing is make a list of goals and objectives on my flight to the event so I can really focus on what my priorities are. These goals and objectives are things I can refer back to throughout the event, after the event, and for future events. This practice has helped ease my anxious mind leading up to the event and helped me hold myself accountable throughout the event.

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