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How to Manage Stress in a Stressful Career

Photo by: Aaron Burden

After I graduated college, I had MADE IT. I landed my dream job as an event planner for a big-name financial services firm. This meant travel, fancy hotels, interesting people, and big budgets to play with. But what 23-year-old me didn’t know is that event planning is consistently ranked in the top five most stressful jobs—just after, you know, neurosurgeons and firemen

I was sitting in the Newark airport one afternoon, about to board a plane to California, when I got an email from a venue I was working with for an event the next week. They were asking me to clarify the date of my event.

“Ummm, it’s Tuesday—why are you asking me this?” I responded, super annoyed.

“Well, because the contract you signed says ‘Wednesday’, and we have another group in your space on Tuesday, so we can’t switch it.”

“WHAT?! No, no no. We must fix this, invitations went out, people booked flights for this. We contracted speakers and other vendors. We cannot change it now. Please tell me there’s a way we can do SOMETHING. Anything.”

In that moment I was flooded with judgment, blame, guilt, shame, ALL of those negative feelings. How could I have made this mistake? Was this really my fault? I don’t make mistakes like this—I’m good at my job.

The lump in my throat grew bigger as I boarded my six-hour plane ride without a resolution to my problem. Then the doors shut, and I was stuck.

As I settled into my seat with my heart racing, I flipped open a magazine to try to distract myself and calm down. That’s when I saw it. A full page spread about mindfulness that would go on to change my whole life.

On that plane ride, with the guidance of that magazine, I meditated for the first time, and I have been sucked into the practice ever since.

Thankfully, my event catastrophe sorted itself out quickly when I got off the plane that day, but the lessons I learned about mindfulness, meditation, and the brain on the plane ride will be with me for a lifetime.

What is mindfulness?

I like to describe mindfulness as “being intentional about what you pay attention to”. It’s living in the moment, instead of thinking about what you should have said in a meeting you had last week or complaining about a difficult conversation you need to have tomorrow. Some people practice mindfulness through meditation, while others practice it through the act of cooking or whatever else brings them joy (floral arranging, gardening, walking, etc).

Your method doesn’t matter—chose whatever resonates with you. What matters is that you practice consistently so you can enjoy the benefits mindfulness has to offer.

The benefits of mindfulness

The effects of building a consistent mindfulness practice have been nothing short of miraculous in my life. There are thousands of studies that have shown mindfulness and meditation can positively impact mental and physical health. Whether it’s by reducing stress, improving sleep, increasing focus, or improving relationships, research shows that mindfulness works.

I like to think of it as all of the tabs open on your computer. At any given time, I have 50 “tabs” open in my mental browser. I’m reading emails, planning my weekend, pinning away, adding new shoes to my Zappos cart, going back to the other shopping cart from 2 weeks ago to see if I want to buy those other shoes I already saved, and so on. But the simple act of meditation helps me close out of all of those tabs one at a time before the computer (ahem—your brain) crashes down.

Get mindful about your business

Mindfulness can help you in your business life, too. Here are a few tips you can use today to help you get intentional about what you pay attention to in your business:

1. Release your inbox’s hold on you.

Focus on your three big priorities each day, instead of letting your inbox take over. Batch time so you can become intentional about how you spend your day.

2. Unplug and set boundaries around work hours.

Research shows that unplugging after work hours improves your health and overall happiness and helps you feel more refreshed the next day.

3. Every day. Consistently.

Think you don’t have time? 1-3 minutes a day can still have dramatic effects on your personal productivity (not to mention all of the other benefits mentioned above!). Consistency is key, though—you’ll get better results meditating for three minutes a day, every day, then meditating once a week for 20 minutes.

4. Let go of “what’s next?” syndrome

We often go from one project to the next without stopping to celebrate our wins (whether they’re quick wins or long-term ones). Instead, try to incorporate some gratitude into your daily routine. I like the five-minute journal approach, where you take five minutes each morning to record three things you’re grateful for and three things that would make your day great.

5. Let yourself off the hook.

There are always going to be crazy days when things go wrong no matter how much we plan. When you feel that little voice of self-doubt or judgment creeping in, simply notice it and then let it be on its way. Then, decide what you want to focus on instead.

Learn more and grow your business with HoneyBook’s software for event planners.

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