Carrie Abernathy CMP, CEM, CSEP is an award-winning event strategist who has been active in the world of meetings for over 15 years. Carrie was co-founder of the Association for Women in Events, the Events Industry Sexual Harassment Task Force, and is a speaker, blogger and coach at A Woman with Drive. Carrie also co-hosts the talk show “Events: From Black to White,” which explores equality in the events industry.
Shift Happens: How to Successfully Navigate Difficult Times
The events industry (among others) has certainly taken its share of hits over the past 18 months. Just as we’ve discussed change and resilience in this space, I now want to challenge us all to start to move forward and shift! Below I detail some of how we can efficiently handle chaos and start to shift through our most difficult moments.
When life goes into complete chaos, there is a human response called fight or flight – you’ve probably heard of it. However, a third response that I’ve seen (and felt) lately is that we also tend to freeze. It is a physiological response to some stressors—in the business world sometimes we hit a state of non-movement in our moments of shock. Once we start to wrap our head around something as huge as the pandemic, it is easy to push the pause button on our business and want to reconsider all options, but I caution you against overthinking as it can become – one of my favorite terms – “analysis paralysis.” This phenomenon is the state of wanting to have all the facts and scenarios before moving forward.
As event professionals or leaders of our organizations, we want to plan for every outcome. However, remember that we are all learning and living through this together and give yourself some grace to move forward and adjust as you go. Overthinking in this situation will get you nowhere, especially when the world of events is opening and in full swing again in many areas of the world.
Progress, not perfection
Speaking of grace, when was the last time you let yourself rest? Like, really rest. Working from home has pushed us to always be “on” even though we may be sitting in our PJs or yoga pants behind the screen. It is important not only to find a way to “walk away,” but to also learn to give yourself some grace when you don’t execute perfection from behind the screen.
Lately, I’ve been implementing Friday as my CAMERA OFF day. Mondays I block my internal calendar and try not to schedule meetings so I can hold space to catch up and ideate. I can smell burnout a mile away, even from my home office, and I am doing what I can to mitigate the stress before it lights me on fire. I even scheduled two staycation days to unplug and step away.
If you don’t have time available, I understand. If you are like me, you are busier than ever. Just remember that if you neglect your mental and physical health now, you will be taking even more days off in the future if you fall ill or burn out. Make sure to weigh your choices properly!
Ask your organization if they support mental health days/breaks. They can only say no. This is also a great time to check out your company’s EAP (Employee Assistant Program) offerings. I just found out that my organization provides me free stress and wellness counseling. Had I not reached out I would have never known this was an option. For those who own your own companies or consult, make sure you are doing self-awareness check-ins so that you don’t burn out and check in with your employees to make sure they are also in a place to tackle their workload.
Now is also a great time to tap back into your resources. No one succeeds in a complete silo. Reach out to colleagues and friends—I can promise you that many of us are experiencing the same challenges right now. An idea share or group discussion to find a solution may be just the ticket to help you find your fire to start moving forward again.