The past couple months have been stressful to say the least: the fear and uncertainty of staying healthy while trying to balance work and family while at home. And what about those who are out of work such as the hospitality industry? While event professionals are usually resilient, adaptable, and calm under pressure, the current pandemic is completely unfamiliar and unprecedented and therefore has caused many professionals to struggle with anxiety, depression and worry.
“People are forced to react to circumstances that we don’t have any precedent for,” said Michelle Karl, a therapist with Healing Choices Counseling, during a recent ICA webinar entitled Managing Your Mental Health and Well-Being During Crisis”. “We are grasping and longing for what we used to have.”
Crisis leads to stress
There has been a long history of national disasters dramatically impacting mental health. Large-scale disasters, everything from the SARS epidemics to the World Trade Center attacks to hurricanes to oil spills, have shown increases in depression and anxiety.
“A lot of us are putting a lot of pressure on ourselves because of all of the should,” said Beth Chapman in a recent Wedding International Professional Association (WIPA) webinar on mental health titled “It’s Okay to Take Your Mask Off. “We really have to let those should go, and instead focus on coping with our current situation.”
Other reactions to a national crisis can include:
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
Regardless of how you are being affected in the current climate, it’s become imperative to take steps to manage your own wellbeing in order to come out the other side with a positive and healthy outlook.
“Right now, we are mourning the loss of normalcy,” said Beth Bernstein of SQN Events during the WIPA webinar. “We feel like every day is a crisis, every hour there is more bad news, so we need to take a step back and allow ourselves to work through it.”
The road to acceptance
The first step in managing your mental health, is to work through the first stage of grief, which is acceptance.
“There are so many people that are still in denial and mourning,” said Greg Karl, owner of Red Quill Solutions, during the ICA webinar. “By accepting what’s going on, you can look at the world the way it is, not the way you want it to be. You can take control of what you can control and not worry so much about what we can’t control.”
After conquering the first major hurdle of accepting the current situation we find ourselves in, the next step is to take care of yourself and your mental state.
“It’s not really acceptance that I’m striving for right now,” Bernstein said. “I’m not accepting that this is the way its going to be forever. Right now I’m adapting to it.”
Maintain a routine: Wake up, eat and go to sleep at the same time you normally would. Find a project to keep yourself going, whether that’s work, learning something new or getting outside to exercise. Maintain connections with others by phone or online.
“Its’s really all about the baby steps right now,” Chapman said.
Acknowledge your emotions: It is important to be honest and acknowledge your emotions, while also digging down deep to figure what exactly it is that is causing those emotions.
“What is your real truth,” Karl said, “are you angry because your husband was loud and woke you up in the morning, or are you afraid because you’re not sleeping well and you’re worrying about bills?
“You have to spend some time looking under the emotion.”
Take care of yourself: Take some time for selfcare, such as: taking a few deep breaths, meditating, journaling. exercising, eating well, sleeping, limiting media andsocial media, sun exposure, taking a walk, or even just making your bed.
“It’s important to get out of bed and have some time for yourself.,” Karl said. “Something as simple as breathing is like a massage for your nervous system.”
Lastly, start thinking about what’s next.
“It’s important to try and not lose sight of your vision for the future,” Chapman said.