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Coping with coronavirus: protect your mental health in a pandemic

We’re all used to seeing event planning listed among the world’s most stressful jobs – and we’re all hopefully aware of the impact the industry is having on our mental health.

But throw a pandemic into the mix, with all its associated event cancellations, postponements, fear and uncertainty – and it looks like the industry’s wellbeing is set to be tested to the limit over the next few months. As such, we thought it would be a good time to look at some coping mechanisms that might be useful.

We spoke to Laura Capell-Abra of workplace wellbeing organisation Stress Matters to find out what event professionals throughout the industry, from board level to freelancers, can be doing right now to safeguard their mental health during the coronavirus outbreak…

For those at a senior level:

Laura Capell-Abra

Laura Capell-Abra

“It is a global health pandemic of an unprecedented level and it’s OK that you don’t have a policy already written,” says Capell-Abra. “It’s ever-changing and it’s going to cost you and your client a lot of money – that will happen but it is also why we have insurance. Put your team and your delegate’s safety first. If you’re concerned, go with your gut feel. This is one of those better to be safe than sorry situations. It’s not a case of taking no risks but calculated risks. Your word for the month is Caution.”

For those that work in events:

“Someone is going to make a decision that is going to have a big impact on your workload, whether it’s that you have had all your events cancelled or that you are no longer able to work in your office with close to contact with any of your team,” she says. “The way we work is likely to change over the coming weeks. The word to remember is Adaptability. We know that event organisers love to plan but think about this as simply as being on-site… for the next 3-6 months… Things are going to change every day and rather than worry about it, move with it just as you would on-site. You will adapt to the situation and then you will de-brief at the end to look what could have been done differently, until that point, you do the best you can with the current information.”

For those that work in events and are independent:

“The level of cancellations are going to be scary, you are likely to suddenly have a big wide open space in front of you,” says Capell-Abra. “Again, your word is Adaptability. Can you use your project management, design or production skills in a different industry over the next few months? Can you pick up that side-hustle which you’ve barely shown any time to over the last couple of years? Look at your finances, how long can you go without earning money? A lot of stress comes from feeling out of control. If we can regain some of the control through feeling more aware of your situation, that’ll ease that stress.”

For all of us on a personal level:

“How many of you have seen the empty shelves in the supermarket?” she says. “The papers aren’t exaggerating, there is a loo paper/paracetamol/baked bean/hand sanitiser/pasta shortage. Holidays are being cancelled (mine included ☹) and it’s worrying that if work is being cancelled, what that means for the personal bank account. Our word is going to be Acceptance.

“When we think about what we can control, what we can influence and what we can accept, global health pandemics fit into the Accept category! Do what you need to do to feel prepared but don’t panic, we are likely to be more impacted by processes being put upon us than negative health. See it as an opportunity to try agile working, clearing a space at home for a desk and spending more time with your children. For all of those that live in the UK, the government have made arrangements if sick leave or isolation is required so hopefully any financial impact will be minor and we have a fantastic healthcare system so try to focus on the benefits this situation could create!”

Stress Matters runs a Buddies Matter scheme aimed at finding event professionals someone else in the industry to talk to, sign up here.