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22 May 2020

Mental Health Awareness Week with Nicola Pinder

The events industry is one that is well known for its high-pressure deadlines, but what impact does that have on our mental health?

With Mental Health Awareness Week drawing to a close, we chat to Head of Venue Sales, Nicola Pinder, to get her perspective on mental health within the industry. So grab a cuppa and get settled in ☕

⏰ 10 minute read ⏰

How do you think mental health affects event professionals?

I think everyone is aware that event professionals have an extremely stressful job and the long hours, combined with the pressure that comes with working in the industry can have a massive impact on mental health if you don’t manage to take the time out.

I think it’s about trying to be in tune with your own mind/body as well and knowing when you need to take a break. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you’re concerned or finding things a little overwhelming – mental health has become much less of a taboo topic now and I think having that open dialogue with your line manager or employer has become more streamlined. If you’re nervous about having that conversation though, I’d recommend just chatting to a friend, family member or even an anonymous chat line such as the Samaritans, for some impartial advice and to gain some clarity.

Also, with the current climate at the moment, we’re all adapting to the situation. The fact we’re having to get used to the new normal of video calls instead of face-to-face interaction is really difficult and I think this adds to our own personal anxieties. I was meant to have a Zoom call to go through all of this but to be honest, I was too nervous because I don’t like hearing myself speak or constantly looking at yourself on team meetings – it’s not for everyone and I think it adds to the stresses of daily life. But if you put me in a normal situation, I’m absolutely fine and I’ll chat away for England!

Do you think it’s hard for event profs to maintain a healthy work/life balance?

Definitely – it can be really tricky, but honestly I think it helps if you’re organised in your personal life as well. Event planners that are working with their client very rarely have a lot of time to look after themselves throughout, as it’s all about the client and their needs. This often means that things like lunch breaks or even just taking a quick 10-minute break can be difficult.

There’s so much work that goes into planning an event, so prior and then throughout it it’s very all-consuming, so the long hours and lack of sleep kicks in, the diet seems to go out of the window and then the glass of wine at the end of the day becomes all to easy. Preparation is the key, so having snacks and meals prepared, basic things such as drinking enough water and making sure you take time out, and supporting your colleagues, generally looking after one another helps massively.

Do you think mental health is still a taboo topic in the industry?

No not at all, I think we’re completely accepting of it. The events industry, I believe, is quite open about it and very supportive, as we’re an industry that likes to talk and are generally very honest with each other.

I’ve worked with numerous clients who have wanted to include a mental health session within their content which is great; keeping delegates engaged, thinking about how the day will look for participants in terms of food, sufficient break times, having natural daylight etc., is now the norm. There are some agents out there doing incredible work around mental health and I think some who have really led the way.

How do we as a venue support staff with mental health?

I think our venue has really improved as we’re lucky enough to have weekly exercise classes and yoga sessions and we’re encouraged to take break. We also have access to Health Shield, which is an amazing staff benefit, as we have access to online health assessments, 24/7 counselling and there’s an app which monitors and manages mental wellbeing.

I also think a big part of good mental health is having a great team around you and having fun while you’re working too – and that’s something we have in abundance.

What tips would you give to an event prof on maintaining good mental health, particularly in the run up to an event/trade show?

It’s got to exercise. Even though I find it hard sometimes, I always feel better after I’ve done some form of activity. At the moment, I’m really enjoying my walking and I think it helps to clear your mind and refresh you.

Also, eating healthy, nutrient rich food and getting a good 7 – 9 hours sleep (if that’s ever possible!). Our industry likes a good chat so it’s also about being honest – if things are a bit tough or if the pressure is just getting a bit too much, we need to speak up as we’re all there for each other.