Carlin Putman has spent the majority of her entire 20+ year career with AIG. She started in 2000 as a junior meeting professional and ultimately worked her way up to director of meetings and events, a role she held for 10 years. Putman also founded Page-One Meetings and Events LLC through which she focuses on, and performs, nonprofit work for several charities in the Houston, Texas area, including HOPE International and Tourette Syndrome Association-Texas, and supports planning and trip directing needs for other companies.
“How are you holding up?”
This is a commonly asked question posed to friends and family across the internet and the world’s social media platforms. The answer may vary greatly depending on how each person addresses the stressors posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The “how” depends on which hardships confront each of us. There are several areas of concern that may overlap, including our age, health status, family responsibilities, strained resources, support systems and the overall picture of our lives in the time that this pandemic has attacked. All of these areas can affect the state of our mental health.
Our mental health is calculated not only by how we feel, but also how we answer the “how” in each area of concern. For example, are we taking care of our physical health and maintaining a healthy diet? Are we giving ourselves permission to rest and keeping our sleep time regulated? Are we carrying out an exercise program that keeps us moving despite the restrictions of sheltering in our homes? Are we able to keep our youngsters on track with e-learning? These, and many other issues, are confronting meetings professionals and hospitality partners as they affect all of us facing these novel and difficult times. The surrounding issues are all related to the “How are you doing?” answers concerning our mental health.
Satisfaction comes with a smoothly run program or hotel experience with our FICP meetings professional members. The skills needed for the job can also be applied to managing the stressors confronted on the home front. Setting an agenda for the family is one step that helps anchor the family and provide a sense of stability. For example, children who have a schedule know what to expect each day. Filling our own schedules with learning activities, and conference calls, and figuring out ways to engage in “out-of-the-box” activities, can lead to feelings of increased stability. Some families have taken to planting herbs or vegetables. Others plan scavenger hunts in the home for additional entertainment. Organizing closets or kitchens with the help of family members can give everyone a sense of accomplishment when these small objectives are achieved.
The capacity to visualize an event from start to finish can be a useful application of the meetings professional and hospitality partner’s talent. Maintaining a positive attitude in experimenting with a new normal for the family can assist us as professionals in avoiding the tendency to become caught up in the anxiety that floods situations of uncertainty. The tension we all face can create increased anxiety and depression.
Here are some ideas to consider during these times:
• Face the ambiguity of the situation by staying in the present on the homefront as much as possible. Avoid negative “What-if” thoughts. One cannot provide solutions to problems when we have insufficient information about the status of the virus.
If your thoughts continue to plague you with planning for back to school (or not), remind yourself that, in some things, we must “wait and see.” As meetings professionals and hospitality partners, we often have access to the general information needed to develop a successful event. It may be very uncomfortable to be left with too many “What-ifs,” but are we not already prepared with how to pivot in times of uncertainty in our professional careers? Think weather, airport closures, political unrest and technology issues. Using techniques borrowed from cognitive behavioral therapy may help stop the drift toward negative thinking. For example, by using “thought stoppage,” mentally rating the probability of a good outcome, recalling the past problems that you have solved can bolster your confidence. Remind yourself that “this too shall pass,” and talk to friends and family about your feelings, journal your experiences and compartmentalize your negative thoughts in an imagined balloon and send it off. These are but a few helpers in maintaining your mental health and avoiding stagnation.
• Using your special skills in imagination, pick a metaphor for your journey. For example, one person may choose to see the future as a path that crosses many pebbles. COVID-19 may represent a boulder in the path. Going around the impediment may involve planning a strategy to circumvent the obstacle by finding creative solutions to move forward. Instead of making a hasty decision, it may be fruitful to gather information from colleagues and friends to experiment with solutions. (Also known as “pebbles”). These might include ways to secure groceries, planning distanced visits, having friendship walks at a distance with a neighbor, enjoying the time with the family that you may have missed in your hurried lifestyle, joining a CMP virtual study group, taking an online class to help keep your mind moving and participating in our FICP Chats to come together as a community. Find ways to help others in whatever way you are able. Avoid watching too many television news programs. It can become addictive. Becoming a better listener can help now, and when you return to your assignments in the workplace in the future.
• Avoid self-judgment during this crisis. Remember, this is new for all of us. You will have good and bad days. This is not unusual. Utilize whatever has worked for you in the past to stay afloat. Meditation has helped some stay calm and achieve emotional control. Religious beliefs and rituals that bring with them the comfort of familiarity have been useful to many. Expanding time to listen to your favorite music can be very satisfying.
I hope when the next person asks, ”How are you doing?” you will be able to say, “I’m using this time to practice what helps me the most, and expanding my world to learn new ways of finding happiness in whatever circumstances I find myself.” | I&FMM |