Tired of the Same-Old Self-Care Tips? Read This.

You Have One of the Most Stressful Jobs Out There. Here’s How to Make Sure You’ll Continue to Love It.

Stressed much? Statistically speaking, yes, you are. Meeting and event planning has been ranked as one of the most stressful jobs—and that was true even before COVID-19 threw large gatherings into near-constant flux. The remedy: self-care. Which you’ve heard before.

Foot rubs! Bubble baths! Yoga! Those are great tools, but they don’t speak to the core of the particular stress of what it’s like to be a meeting planner.

“We’re taking stock in what the industry looks like today and how that affects success,” says Marla Everett, CMP, director, consulting solutions at Event Travel Management. “Maybe that will help us not be so hard on ourselves.” In 2020, meeting planners were hit with utter chaos; 2021 was a sustained dance of will-they-or-won’t-they. Going forward, meeting planners have the opportunity to shine—but shining is next to impossible if you’re depleted.

Here’s a mini guide, just for meeting planners, on how to make self-care an integral part of your work—not an add-on that you never make time for.

Self-Care Before Events

Good news, planners: Your superpowers of organization, planning, and anticipating roadblocks are a form of self-care. By developing a road map to a successful event, you’re giving yourself the gift of knowing that you’re on track with your resources.

At least, that’s the theory. In practice, meticulous planners can turn their superpower into their Achilles’ heel, by letting their organization become a form of worry, and by refusing to delegate.

To avoid the first pitfall, remind yourself that your planning prowess needs to coexist alongside flexibility. “Planners sort of have to be type A personalities, because we have to have thought of every contingency plan,” Everett says. “But there’s always something that goes awry, so we also have to be the most type B of the type As—when something starts to slide sideways, you have to be able to shift your attention.”

As for delegation as a form of self-care, look at the value of each task on your plate. “There are a lot of tasks that are easy to do, and we get caught up in a mindset of, ‘Oh, that’s easy, it’ll take me five minutes so I’ll just get it done,’” Everett says. “Well, if you add up too many of those, no matter how easy the task is, your plate overflows.”

  • To help you plan: If you don’t already have a planning template, this MPI checklist can get you started.
  • To help you delegate: Learn when, how, and to whom you can (and should!) hand off tasks.
  • Try this: Planners sometimes have a hard time judging when they need to start delegating or saying “no.” Pick a metric or two and use them as a measuring stick. If you’re an inbox-zero champion, maybe your metric is having more than 10 emails in your inbox at any given time. People who are devoted to their to-do lists might notice when a task keeps moving from day to day. When you see those things happening, it’s time to delegate.

Self-Care During Events

You’ve prepared for this. You’ve planned for this. Now your job is to be in the moment.

Part of being in the moment is trusting that you’ve fulfilled your job, even before the event starts. You’re a meeting planner, remember?

“The biggest sign of success is that as a planner, you’ve planned it well enough to get all the way up to the day before it operates—and then you could disappear and it still runs well,” Everett says. “There’s self-care in respect to having more people know what’s going on so that if something happens, everything can still go as planned.” (Remember that bit about delegation? Yeah, it applies during the meeting too.) Building in some redundancies and leaving a paper trail can help those around you step in when your attention needs to be drawn elsewhere.

Another part of staying in the moment: mindfulness. This might bring up images of yoga and meditation, and sure, that can be part of it. But even if you’re not able to incorporate a full meditation into your big day, you can always take a deep breath with the intent of remembering where you are and why you’re there. In a culture and industry focused on the future, that can be difficult—but it’s also simple.

  • To ask for help in the moment: Say these phrases out loud so that you have language at the ready when you need to ask for help.
  • To take a deep breath: Give the one-minute breath a fair shake.
  • Try this: A morning ritual can anchor any day, let alone a big day (or a string of them!). It doesn’t have to be something spiritual or out of the ordinary if you don’t want that. It can be sitting down with a cup of coffee, going for a morning walk, or applying makeup with care—whatever makes you feel the most like the successful planner you are.

Self-Care After Events

Here’s where you get to—and need to—step away from the event for a bit. When you’re so plugged into an event and have been planning it for months or years, it can be difficult to let it go. But it’s important that you do so, because it’s the only way you can refuel your tank for whatever comes next.

The most obvious route here is to take time off. If you’re in control of your schedule, give yourself a couple of comp days after the event’s end. If someone else controls your paid time off, check in before the event about comp days. Then—and this is trickier than it might seem—rest.

Depending on your lifestyle, resting at the event’s venue might be the way to recharge. (After all, if your event venue is associated with accommodations, you’ve probably spent a good deal of time talking it up to attendees—now it’s time to take advantage of that fitness center!) If you have reward points racked up with a hospitality group, consider using them to treat yourself.

If you have responsibilities at your home that draw you back, do what you can ahead of time to give yourself a break upon return. Use your delegation skills to ask other household members to do simple meal prep or step up on chores. And consider bowing out of social obligations for a few days post-event, giving yourself space to recuperate.

One thing to watch out for: the “letdown effect,” or a funk that arises after a big event, no matter how successful. Remember that it’s normal to feel a little blue after the rush of an event is over—but if it lasts for more than a couple of weeks, you could be looking at something like depression, and it’s best to seek help. Being gentle with yourself during the days and weeks following a major meeting can help you transition back into what you do best: planning for the next big event.

  • To give yourself true rest: Read up on the seven types of rest—physical, mental, sens ory, creative, emotional, social, and spiritual rest—to make sure you’re giving yourself a well-rounded break. (All the sleep in the world won’t matter if you return to work emotionally depleted.)
  • To treat “the letdown effect”: Learn about a full-spectrum protection plan. If you have a history of getting sick after a big meeting, read up on health resilience in the face of the letdown effect.
  • Try this: For 24 hours post-event, do not check your lines of communication. No email, no texts, no exceptions. It might seem difficult, but the more you flex the muscle of letting go, the stronger it becomes.