Event planning has always been stressful, but add the challenges of a pandemic, and a mental health crisis has erupted. Where can you turn for help?
A global pandemic. Heart-wrenching scenes coming out of Ukraine as Russia continues its invasion. An unstable job market. Skyrocketing inflation. Controversial Supreme Court rulings.
Stress is at unprecedented levels, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). “Americans have been doing their best to persevere over these past two tumultuous years, but data suggests we’re now reaching unprecedented levels of stress that will challenge our ability to cope,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., Ph.D., APA’s CEO.
Add to this worldwide stress the everyday tensions of event planning. CareerCast, an online career site, creates a list of the most stressful jobs globally. For the sixth consecutive year, event coordinator ranked fifth.
“Event planners are being asked to do so much more and maintain an always ‘on’ level of work further impacted by high levels of uncertainty, job changes, a looming recession, increased costs, additional pressures with contracting, resources, and sourcing, the weaponization of travel, and the Great Resignation,” said Jenn Artura, a global marketing executive and founding committee member of Event Minds Matter, a LinkedIn group for event professionals to discuss mental health and well-being.
Event Minds Matter was created by Janice Cardinale of Cardinale Creative as a place for worldwide event professionals to openly share all the nuances of mental health in the meetings and events industry. Its mission states, “Building brave spaces to amplify the industry’s conversation on mental health.”
Cardinale adds that the discussion around mental health is not just a trend. “It is a topic which is important to the caring culture that we are heading toward in the future,” Cardinale said.
How can event planners deal with all this tension? We reached out to industry insiders for their recommendations.
Connect With Other Event Planners
As stress in the world increases, online communities become more important. They are a place for planners to vent, share mental health challenges, and encourage.
Dahlia El Gazzar the founder of DAHLIA+Agency, a company that specializes in assisting event planners working with event technology companies, has a weekly webisode every Thursday at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time called “Cut the Shit, Cue The Genius.” One of the most recent episodes, “This Conversation is Personal — Repercussions of Current Events,” was powerful.
“Our discussions have been very raw and have spurred some interesting comments and direct messages that have validated that this is a hot topic for sure,” El Gazzar said. “I am not surprised at all. It’s urgent, relevant, and dangerous if we don’t take care of our team members. Mental health is what will pause our industry even more.”
This is not an issue that can be swept under the rug. “Not dealing with mental health or not creating safe spaces for our staff, peers, and partners to air their emotions — especially if it impacts their professional world, can be a long-term detriment. Plus, it’s amazing how when people do have safe spaces to discuss issues like imposter syndrome, dealing with chronically ill loved ones, and loss, they find each other. They are no longer alone, and then the team members bond even more,” said El Gazzar.
Events Minds Matter started in January as a place for event professionals to discuss mental health and well-being. On November 2, it is teaming up with Meeting Professionals International and E180 Braindate for a full day of talks about mental health in the events industry.
The Realize Foundation, a non-profit focused on mental health awareness with a focus on suicide prevention, was founded by Deana Mitchell, an event professional with more than 30 years of experience.
“I lost a friend who worked in the events world to suicide in 2018. I, too, survived a suicide attempt and realized the importance of starting a nonprofit to help others,” said Mitchell. “It’s not a hotline, therapy, or walk. To save lives, we have to do something different. We need to have conversations and form a community where we share personal stories to connect with others, so they know they are not alone.”
Connection is critical. “Human connection can save lives,” said Mitchell.
Smash the Stigma
If there is an upside to the increase in stress in the world, it is that people are becoming more vocal about mental health, overcoming the stigma.
In the past, discussing our mental health with colleagues or management was not encouraged. That is not the case today. Working from home can be isolating, and issues that may be obvious in an office setting can be hard to spot. Therefore, it is more important than ever for leaders to ask their employees how they are doing and to listen openly without judgment.
Buy-In From The Top
A commitment to employee well-being must trickle down from the top. “Leadership must set the tone and give people cultural permission to prioritize their well-being. Leaders must model healthy practices, protect boundaries, and give people the space to empower them to do the same. Organizations must pay attention and act because when employees suffer, there will be an impact on morale, retention, and, ultimately, business metrics. It’s just too important to ignore.” explained Artura.
HubSpot, a company that offers software and resources to help manage teams and customers, is combating mental health with its Modern Health benefits. Since rolling out this benefit, 53 percent of HubSpot’s global workforce has engaged with a coach or therapist.
“Between adjusting to remote work, caregiving, and heartbreaking headlines around racial injustices, violence, and Covid around the world, we wanted to support employees by offering a program that gave a variety of resources,” said Elissa Barrett, VP of HR at HubSpot.
The company says it rolled out its platform to provide employees with accessible mental health support, regardless of location, and help build a culture that normalizes and encourages mental health and well-being.
“Providing space to support employee mental health should be a no-brainer at this point,” said Katie Burke, chief people officer, HubSpot. Burke strongly believes that senior leadership must truly support these initiatives for them to succeed. “Our CEO recently shared how she’s been using our Modern Health benefit and the impact it has had on her life in a company-wide all-hands, spurring even more conversations across the organization,” added Burke.
Establish a Routine
Covid upended the entire world, leaving nothing or no one unscathed. Offices closed, and we went into lockdown, all as an insidious virus spread.
Richard Yep, the recently retired CEO of the American Counseling Association (ACA) believe that routines become even more important in uncertain times.
“The routines we were used to were upended. They are important for feeling in control,” said Yep. “Find a rhythm. Wake up at the same time every day, making sure to get enough rest to recharge. Take the time you are saving from not commuting and use it to take a walk or meditate.”