So now that you’ve got strategies for healthy eating and moderate yet enjoyable drinking, what can you do to quiet your mind, energize your body and find meaning in the hundreds of interactions you will have experienced over the course of the event?
Here are some suggestions:
If you have an exercise routine you like to stick to, conferences can feel like a major disruption. But you don’t have to lose the momentum completely. If you set realistic goals, call ahead to find out what the hotel’s options are for exercise, and bring the right clothes and equipment, you can certainly set yourself up for success.
If your hotel doesn’t have a gym, you can research local exercise classes. Given that conferences are a great time for networking, you could even invite a colleague or professional acquaintance and try doing the class together. Or, you may look to exercise to provide some much needed alone time to counterbalance all of the networking. Solo exercise options include: talking a walking tour (especially if you’re in a new city); getting to the airport extra early to walk through the longer, or larger, terminals; committing to taking the stairs over the elevator (every time!); or using an exercise app to get your sweat on in your hotel room. (I like Pocket Yoga and one of my colleagues swears by The 7 Minute Workout). When all else fails, I’ve also been known to just set the timer on my phone for 30 minutes and have my own private dance party in my room to get moving and work up a sweat.
Mining for Meaning
Wellness isn’t just about the physical. Conferences can be stressful and exhausting—chock-full of people, programs and schedules. If you want to stay well throughout these marathon events, you need to pay attention to your mental health as well. Try pausing at various moments throughout your day – perhaps during a workshop, or while scanning the room prior to a party or other event. Ask yourself: “What am I giving?” or “What am I getting out of this?” Checking in with yourself is a powerful way to moderate your anxiety and tap into your inner calmness. Set boundaries for yourself and make sure to make conscious decisions about what you’re delegating back at home or at the office, and what opportunities are worth missing, or not.
Conferences are also a phenomenal time to practice active listening – in my opinion, one of the best ways to mine for meaning. Focusing intently on what the other person is saying is a great way to take yourself out of the conversation and to be generous to the other person. Not only does it feel good, but it can help you relax while you maintain presence in your conversations and deepen your social relationships. For some expert tips on how to have meaningful conversations, check out this insightful TED Talk.
Your days are likely to be hectic, so starting your day with a relaxed nervous system and resetting it periodically throughout the day will be key to maintaining your energy. Practicing deep breathing or meditating are two powerful ways to stay on top of stress. Starting your day in this way sets the tone for going slow and taking pauses as you navigate the day’s experiences and decisions. Create a powerful pause with your breath, and you’ll equip yourself to make more conscious decisions by giving yourself the space to step back from your impulses. Practice what I like to call “Break Escapes". Set three prompts a day for 5-minutes of deep breathing or meditating. Use the stopwatch on your phone. We live on our phones and devices anyway so why not use them for some self-care? Remember: even 5 minutes of something good is better than no minutes of something good for you.
Arrive at the conference knowing your optimal sleep hours. As tempting as it might be, don’t let yourself go too far below your optimal limit! At the end of your day a good way to decompress is take five minutes to let your mind wind-down. Pop your ear buds in and play some soothing music. Or write down tidbits from your day – maybe some follow up things you don’t want to forget or even some things you’re grateful for. Often, falling asleep isn’t the problem, remaining asleep is. If you find yourself up in the middle of the night and panic starts to set in that you won’t fall back asleep before your alarm, I highly recommend Calm’s Deep Sleep Release meditation which is now a regular go-to sleep strategy of mine.
Staying healthy and energized at a conference can be tough, but don’t let your preconceptions scare you. With some minor planning, a distinct strategy and a commitment to being mindful, it doesn’t have to be stressful. Oh, and don’t forget your water bottle, healthy snacks, sneakers and earbuds!
Wishing you a stress-free and productive conference. Safe travels!