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It is common to feel depressed following the close of an event. Fortunately, there are ways to cope with and overcome this feeling.
“What am I Going to Do After This?”
The question came from a seasoned event planner friend I was assisting during an international conference. She had spent years on this project that was now wrapping up.
The conference was moving on to a different country the next year and had a new event planner in that country as was its tradition. Over the course of planning the event she met many new people, learned about an interesting industry and pushed herself to the limit to create a great conference. She had other events and clients to focus on after this event, but life as she knew it would be different. Her routine, sense of purpose and relationships would change.
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Perhaps you’ve felt it yourself. The feelings of joy and excitement are mixed with stress, uncertainty, and sadness. What is happening? As the event draws nearer, the days get longer and the stress gets higher. Your family and friends hardly have any quality time with you. You have no time for yourself. Life has been taken over by the event and you can’t wait until it’s over… but then it’s done and you can’t shake feeling low.
At the close of an event, your focus and daily schedule instantly become different. The hours that have been growing longer and longer come to a halt. The lengths that you have been pushing yourself further and further each day suddenly stop. Your life has changed. The event was a success. You love your job and could not think of doing anything else. The client and/or your boss were extremely happy. You are proud of yourself and know that you did an amazing job, but still can’t seem to shake this nagging feeling of emptiness.
Sense of Purpose
Through my research and discussions on the topic, I’ve found that this feeling is very common in our industry as well as other fields that focus on creating and producing something and having that purpose end. It’s commonly referred to as Post Project Depression or PPD. After the extreme “high” and adrenaline rush of finishing a major project that has been an obsession, comes a low or sadness of lacking that sense of purpose. It could be a writer completing a novel, a runner after completing a marathon, but whatever the task, the project owner is left feeling empty after the storm has passed.
As you work longer on a project, you begin to make friends with the vendors, sponsors, and staff you speak with on a regular basis, usually through phone calls or email. Once on site, you put a face to the voice and continue building the bonding experience. This bond intensifies the longer you work on the same event. The long hours and stressful situations bond people together. You become a team. You are “in it together.” Being part of a team is something that most humans enjoy. I’ve known some people to be overwhelmed and cry at leaving their “event friends” behind. Once the event is over, everyone goes their separate ways. Sometimes forever or sometimes until next year. You’ve met some really great people and you swear you’ll “stay in touch”, either through LinkedIn, Facebook or email. However, at the end of the day, everyone you have been working with for months goes home bad back to his or her “normal lives.” Sometimes you may feel alone.
Tips to Battle Post-Event Depression
One positive thing to note is that since we know when the event will end, we can predict when these feelings of depression may strike and take action to prevent them. Here are some of the ways you can minimize or eliminate your feelings of post-event depression:
1. Reorganize - It helps to get yourself reorganized. Don’t forget to wrap up the event you have been working on! Have a wrap-up celebration, do your wrap-up calls/meetings. Gather and analyze event data. Take some notes or maybe translate your previous notes so you can understand them later. Set some new goals. Enjoy the process of preparing for that next event.
2 . Relax and Recover - As event planners, we tend to consider ourselves last. Make sure to give yourself time to rest and recover from the long, stressful hours. Get in touch with nature. Go for a hike. Go camping. If possible, consider an “epic win reward” and take a vacation or go to the spa.
3. Reward Yourself - You did it! You deserve a reward! What should you choose? These rewards should be very personalized and can be anything that makes you happy.
4. Reconnect with Family - Remember those family and friends that took a back seat as your days got progressively busier? Re-introduce yourself to your family - they probably have not heard from you in a while! Unless they are in the industry, your family and friends may not understand why you feel low about being done with something that seemed to cause you so much stress. Talk with them and share your thoughts.
5. Rediscover Yourself - Think about the things you used to enjoy doing that you did not have time for while your event planning ramped up. I always go back to a knitting project that was put down as my days became busier. When I pick it back up, the purpose of my crocheting project returns and I feel better. Maybe you like gardening, running, playing scrabble, or going to concerts. Whatever it is, get back to doing it.
Each year, event planning is consistently rated as one of the most stressful jobs (we even touched on the pressures of how planners can relieve stress on the Event Manager Blog here and here. Even if you absolutely love your job like I do, you have to find a way to manage the stress that comes with it, which could be contributing to the occasional post-event depression feelings. The topic of depression is widespread, and has a tremendous amount of variations. If this feeling does happen to persist or worsen, please seek professional assistance.
One of my favorite aspects of meeting and event planning is how we have the opportunity to be a part of the lives of so many different people and get a small peek into their different worlds. Don’t forget to be thankful for those opportunities. Don’t lose the understanding that the next meeting or event will bring even more connections, bonds, and new experiences. Though our job can be stressful, focusing on the positive parts and remembering to take care of yourself makes all the difference.