Stress – for event organisers it’s part of the job. Budgets to meet, contracts to finalise, tickets to sell, attendees to manage and a million and one things to organise… no one becomes an event planner for an easy life!
So, how do the really great organisers stop stress in its tracks and keep a cool head regardless of what’s going on around them?
We take a look at the common traits these individuals have and pinpoint coping mechanisms everyone can turn to when the going gets tough.
Adopting a ‘stress helps’ mindset
The way you think about stress plays a big role in how you handle it. If you believe stress is debilitating and harmful to your health, it is more likely to become so, according to psychologist and researcher Alia Crum. On the other hand, if you believe moderate stress can help you perform you may thrive under pressure.
She says in a white paper ‘Rethinking Stress’: “This focus on the destructiveness of stress—this “stress about stress”—is a mindset that, paradoxically may be contributing to its negative impact. Our research suggests that improving one’s response to stress may be a matter of shifting one’s mindset.”
But how does one go about ‘shifting their mindset’? Alia offers this three-step process:
- Acknowledge stress when you experience it and notice how it impacts you psychologically and physically.
- Recognise that stress is a response to something you care about. Try to connect to the positive motivation behind the stress.
- Make use of the energy stress gives you.
Talking about feelings
Instead of bundling up every challenging emotion they experience under the banner ‘stress’ and telling people they’re ‘stressed out’, successful event organisers are more likely to analyse and acknowledge their feelings.
When their spouse asks them how their day went, rather than brush it off, they will take the opportunity to describe the challenges they faced. Starting a dialogue about the day’s ‘stressors’ enables them to talk about how they made them feel.
Says Kelly McGonigal, the author of ‘The Upside of Stress’: “As soon as you start to pay attention to what you’re feeling, you increase activation in parts of the brain that give you more control and flexibility over your behaviour and responses.”
Mindfulness is the ability to omit negative or distracting thoughts to enable complete awareness of one’s feelings and senses in the present moment. The practice is believed to reduce anxiety and stress.
By bringing their full attention to the task at hand, successful event organisers can stay focused and prevent the pressure of other tasks from dominating their thoughts.
According to a study published in the journal Mindfulness, a good way to obtain a positive state of mind is to mindfully carry out a mundane activity such as dishwashing.
In a study involving 50 people, half were told: “while washing the dishes, one should only be washing the dishes. This means that while washing the dishes, one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes.”
The whole group was then asked to wash dishes. The results found that mindful dishwashers experienced a 27% reduction in nervousness and a 25% increase in mental inspiration, compared with control dishwashers.
“By attending, intentionally to the dishes in front of them, the mindful dishwashers were likely to be less swept up in the stream of mental chatter that can preoccupy daily life. Stress, worries and concerns are often fuelled by this chatter,” study co-author Adam Hanley told Medical News Today.
Successful event organisers, no matter how busy they might be, do not neglect their physical needs, meaning they always eat and sleep well.
When under pressure, it’s more important than ever to take proper care of yourself. Skipping breakfast, for example, will have an impact on your ability to respond to demanding situations.
Whenever a challenge arises — meeting a deadline, for example— the hypothalamus in the brain signals the adrenals to make cortisol. This boosts metabolic power supply by signalling the liver to release muscle-fuelling glucose. If you haven’t eaten, your liver will be low on glucose to fuel the brain and muscles. Aim to eat regular, well-balanced meals with complex carbs in order to maintain blood sugar levels and feel energised all day long.
How well rested you are is another major factor in the way you are able to handle stress. Studies have shown that even partial sleep deprivation has a significant effect on mood. University of Pennsylvania researchers found that subjects who were limited to only 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. When the subjects resumed normal sleep, they reported a dramatic improvement in mood.
Of course, when you’re on an event late nights and early mornings may be unavoidable, but try to make sure the sleep you do get is as high quality as possible. Avoid both alcohol and caffeine – you might wonder how you’re going to get through the day without the latter, but caffeine actually triggers a stress reaction in the body. A strong coffee in the morning can put your cortisol levels out of sync for the whole day and can interfere with sleep.
Where possible, you should also make some time to relax – even if it’s just 10 minutes reading before bed. Another thing successful event organisers do after a big event is take a day off. Making time to unwind and recharge is one of the most positive steps you can take towards coping with stress when it does occur.
While some people naturally deal with stress better than others, these simple actions can help you change the way you think about, and subsequently deal with, pressure.