Self-Care Can Help You Navigate Your Return to In-Person Meetings

From working in meditative moments to bringing back bleisure, there are lots of ways to focus on yourself while managing the complexities of an in-person event.

Self-care isn’t an unheard-of concept when it comes to the meetings industry—after all, the rush of trying to coordinate everything in a few days is famously stressful, for attendees and organizers alike.

But trying to do so today in an in-person context—which could put you in proximity with large crowds for perhaps the first time in months, even years—could promise to be more than a little nerve-wracking.

So, as you reintegrate yourself into the world of meetings, remember to keep in mind your own feelings. Here are some self-care strategies that could help make the experience enjoyable.

Create a Meditative Routine

You may not be able to control what happens inside of a large expo hall, as much as you might try with protocols and social-distancing strategies. But you can control how you spend your time, building routines into your travel to give yourself a little room to breathe.

Maybe you take a moment first thing in the morning while you’re getting your clothes ready for the long day or brushing your teeth; perhaps you work in short walks between sessions to allow time to clear your head; maybe, at the end of a long day, you spend 10 minutes giving yourself the space to relax.

The website Zenful Spirit notes that you don’t necessarily need to bring any tools to meditate while traveling, but an aid such as a candle or mat might help you focus.

Even if the moment for mindfulness is brief—say, between educational sessions—you could download a mindfulness app or podcast, with a pair of headphones at the ready, to allow yourself a moment to relax.

Roll Out Slowly

Taking on an event with hundreds or even thousands of people after spending most of the past two years in your home office might be a bit of a change to your routine, to put it lightly.

If you’re not used to dealing with that many people at once, you may want to slow-roll it by testing the waters before the event. Perhaps you go out in public a little more, say to a coffee shop or shopping center, or spend some time working your way up to being around groups of people again.

And if you’re still nervous about it, remember that there are probably a lot of people in the room who are in the same position as you. Speaking to on the matter of reentry last year, New York University psychologist and professor Ariane Ling noted that everyone has their own speed when it comes to making a return of this nature.

One strategy that could help: Asking others what they’re comfortable doing, without assuming otherwise.

“Ask people what they’re comfortable with, and share what you feel comfortable with,” Ling told the outlet. “Try to make it part of the conversation. We’re all trying to reintegrate back together.”

Lean Hard on Breaks

Maybe in the “before times” you made a game of networking to see how many business cards you could exchange during a given event. But as you dip your toes back into the networking game once again, you might find yourself better appreciating a less-is-more approach.

Less hitting every single event, more breaks.

Speaking to The Tradeshow Network Marketing Group in 2019, mindfulness speaker Lee Papa suggested that it was important to stop worrying about fitting too much into conferences, but instead to allow yourself frequent breaks—and to give yourself the white space to enjoy the relationships you do forge at these events.

“Take necessary breaks and be gentle to yourself by being nonjudgmental about taking that downtime,” she advised. “Slowing down is part of self-care. Part of that is not feeling like you must schedule as many meetings or network with as many people as possible. Be mindful of the quality of the connections you make, not the quantity.”

Bring Bleisure Back Into Your Life

Bleisure—remember that word? Before the pandemic, that was the hot trend in event travel, the idea that you could have a vacation while taking in a conference … maybe by sneaking in a couple of days after the big event.

(It was even the subject of a 2017 feature story in Associations Now.)

It might feel like the last time you heard that word was a million years ago, but it could be a good way to get past some of your event-return anxiety—knowing that, once all the sessions are over and done, you can take a nice, long break.

It might just be the ultimate in post-event self-care.

This is the last of our three-part series on attendees’ return to in-person meetings. Part 1 shares five things to expect from meetings today; part 2 gives a tune-up to meetings etiquette for the era of COVID-19. For a planner’s guide to the return to in-person gatherings, see our Deep Dive package.

(andresr/E+/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!