Personal Mental Health Takeaways from Recent Business Travel & Big Annual Conference

In the past, for over a decade, I was my own brand of business road warrior and it wore on me and my emotional and physical health.

Translation: I mostly dreaded it.

I didn’t like being away from my family. I don’t like airports. Airplanes are so uncomfortable. And living out of a suitcase for a couple of days for business was never my glamorous dream.

There were huge benefits and wins and joys in that travel though. I don’t want to paint an overly gloomy portrait of it.

The biggest gifts and joys of it were:

  • Meeting and spending time with incredible people and friends
  • Having the opportunity to share my experiences and expertise on stage
  • It was incredibly externally affirming
  • And pockets of time and space for reflection that sometimes only “getting away” can do

But over time, it became a chore.

Last week was my our biggest annual conference (same circuit/same industry) in a year and wanted to take some time to reflect on what I saw and heard and learned …. from inside of me.

After my burnout and the life change of the last year and longer, I tried to be more intentional about taking care of myself as I resume some business travel.

Here are my takeaways:

  • I’m always better with Lindsey — we got a day of fun and touristy stuff in D.C. before the conference start. It’s tougher than our early days to do travel like this together now that we have two school-age kiddos, but I’m so thankful she could go and that we reserved time for just us to enjoy each other and explore. Exploring is our thing together. The Library of Congress, Arlington Cemetery, seeing the White House and walking the Mall …. and the view she got us for dinner were TRUE highlights and joys for me. I want to have more “us” time like this and make it mandatory when we do business travel to buffer that time together. It’s healing for my soul to be with my partner in this life.
  • Finding and anchoring in pockets of beauty and nature — I’ve done this in the past but one thing I noticed and longed for was fresh air. Seeing beautiful things. One morning I woke up early (not intentional) and went for a 1.5 mile walk along the Potomoc River and around the neighborhood we were in. That was incredibly refreshing to me. We had excellent weather, but I need more “beauty and nature” anchors like this. I realize I yearn for them and it refreshes my soul.
  • I committed to Ghost everyone when I was getting near my wall — mostly I did it. Lindsey knew this was my plan and was able to do so with me several times and in conversations, I mentioned I might just Ghost at some point. Go back to my room, which was across from the venue and super smart to do, so I had a short walk and wouldn’t accidentally bump into more conversations when my energy was on the redline and I needed a break.
  • I also got some just me time too, which is very worthy of note. We co-hosted some dinners and attended the conference after-party. Afterward I walked a mile or so in D.C. by myself, getting some fresh air and just enjoying it. Then slowly made my way back to the hotel (25 minutes away), got out of the Lyft a couple blocks from the hotel and just did my own thing. It was breathing space that I really really needed and relished. Reflective, and restorative.
  • I noticed times and places where I started feeling nervousness, anxiety, unsettledness — of note was the airport, even with Lindsey beside me. Airports make me felt trapped and antsy. So many people around in various emotional states. I think I take that on, combined with what I’m already feeling inside. It’s uncomfortable physically and emotionally. A state of limbo, almost. I don’t know yet what else to do about that. It’s a price to pay.
  • Minimizing Decision Fatigue — Not having to figure things out so much on the fly, lie where to have more private talks, or plan and be responsible for logistics of things, or even what to do next was supremely nice and minimal. It’s just not what I do best or even enjoy. But I don’t have to make the decision on all of that either. Next time we’ll likely get a booth to have a base of operations though.
  • I always get sappy on the way home. I end up watching movies or thinking of the people I love and end up weepy. I think it might be homesickness.
  • Another emotional note was being AT and IN the conference — frankly I felt more at peace and comfortable than I ever have. I think that’s because I had a plan for when I felt depleted and low on energy to “ghost.” But also because I set very very low, simple, small and clear goals. It could be boiled down to one thing though: Show up as I can. But I had 2-3 intentional things to accomplish: touch base with our business sponsors, talk with our members as we ran into each other and just relax into it. That’s simply from years of experience, now applied and overdoing myself all those years. I told my coach before the conference in prepping for it that when I take my tight grip off having a dozen “must do” goals, it always, always, always goes better. When I lean into the relational side, it just comes naturally. AND take care of myself. And that’s mostly what I did, with a few bumps. Don’t stress out on all these impossible, overwhelming things I should do … and just be there. WIN!
  • Speaking and sharing from my heart — too often I’m in my head and I talk and respond in my head. We co-hosted two small dinners and I gave the toast for the night and mingled with our guests, which felt natural. And every time, I simply spoke from my heart I felt incredibly fulfilled. My mind is militant like what I’d guess of a bootcamp Army sergeant … but my heart is tender and loving and kind, but it still needs guarding. When I know my heart and speak from it, I’m just better and all the things around me are too. As my counselors has guided me dozens of times — it’s all about values. What I really care about.
  • Supporting others feels good, really good — I attended the PRIDE party and supported those who organized it and attended and also a former colleague in his lightning talk. I wanted them to know I was there for them. But I know I can also overdo that. Showing up for people and getting external affirmation is a drug for me. And it pushes me to try to do and be everywhere for everyone…. and I did a little bit. It’s really tough for me not to give myself away. Mostly I know the sacrifice in that and mostly I’m OK with that. But it’s something I want to be aware of. Finding that delicate balance between showing up for others and showing up for myself (see all the above).
  • Breakfast with Corey rocked —My friend and business partner and I got to share some one on one time and it was a highlight. I got to hear a lot of his backstory and he got WAY more than he bargained for with hearing mine. But it felt nice to get to know each other more. A deepening friendship. And I’m incredibly thankful for it. He and I have been on similar journeys and it’s always nice to know you’re not alone and someone else gets you on the long worn path of life.

Overall verdict — Success!

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