Have you ever returned from a professional conference, particularly a social media conference, feeling all pumped up only to crash and burn a few hours after getting home? If so, please know you’re not alone. Your level of post-conference exhaustion will depend on different factors like how long the event was, whether or not you had to travel, whether you presented at a panel, attended a workshop and more. One way or another, it’s rather normal to feel like you were hit by a truck for a day or two.
When I first started attending conferences I loved the “high” I experienced during the event. When you work at home—alone, it’s a lot of fun to meet with colleagues, get real-life feedback on your output, network, and chat with likeminded people. I loved all that. But I was not ready for the “down” that followed. At first I wondered whether I was getting sick, depressed or both. Now that I know what to expect: a surge of energy followed by extreme fatigue, it’s easier to deal with.
A few of my reasons for post-conference exhaustion and how I tackle them (if indeed I do):
Being ON all day.- I work at home by choice and I’m used to being chill most of the time. I turn myself “on” only when I’m on business calls, doing live social media or photo shoots. Otherwise, you’ll find me writing in my loungewear while listening to music so I can focus. My teens, my husband, who also works from home, and the dog are my only interlocutors. When I’m at a conference, I’m “on” from the moment I walk out of my hotel room. At the conference I chat all day, take pictures, possibly speak at the event. And well, since that’s not my regular routine, it does take a toll, even if I don’t realize it while it’s happening.
Less sleep than usual.- I love my sleep and I’m not an early riser by nature. Of course I will wake up early if I must, but waking up early coupled with late nights (even if there is no partying involved) puts me on the fast track for exhaustion. Also, since I work from home, if I’m tired during the day, nothing keeps me from taking a nap. Long days and short nights a few days in a row … well that adds up. I do try to fit in a bit of yoga nidra, (form of yogic sleep) during the day, even if only 15 minutes, to recharge. It leaves me refreshed instead of groggy like a nap can sometimes do.
Less exercise than I’m used to.- I’m relatively active: I hit the yoga studio every day and lately I also try to walk more. I stand up from my desk every hour to make sure I get my daily steps. That doesn’t happen at a conference. I always pack my travel yoga mat, but I can never seem to fit in a full yoga practice when I’m on the go. Maybe 15 minutes in the morning and another 10 or 15 at night.
Odd meal times and different foods.- I’m extremely fortunate to not have any dietary restrictions or allergies. And yet, I never seem to make it in time for breakfast. And if I’m late to lunch, sometimes the food runs out. I’ve learned to carry protein bars and a water bottle, but that is still a far cry from my regular meals at home. Eating out each and every meal for a few days always leaves me feeling bloated and just “off.”
Tweeting, Instagramming, FB-living.- Some of us are paid to share online what we´re doing at the conference, and so it´s one more thing to add to our stress (even if it´s positive stress). And even if we´re not paid, we feel compelled to share with the world what´s going on at this fabulous event. It´s really cool to finish speaking and then check all your quotes and photos shared on social media by attendees. Did I really say that? I sound smarter than I thought! 😀 It´s also wonderful to be able to read tweets from a session you missed.
All that excitement!.- Conferences are packed with inspiration, possibilities, relationship-building. That’s not what my daily life is like at all. It’s more like kids’ schedules, doctor appointments, bill-paying and trying to run my digital publications and do my writing in the middle of the chaos. It’s easy to lose sight of how great it really is to be a digital entrepreneur. During a conference, I always feel so excited that I can’t wait to get home and follow up with new contacts, launch new ventures and implement ideas. All of the above, plus travel time and energy, possibly jet lag and any family or work-related fires you had to put out while at the conference will leave you feeling drained when you head home.
The way I deal with all of this while it’s happening is I try to prioritize my time and energy. If I’m speaking at an event, that’s my priority. I will turn down invites to dinners, slumber parties with colleagues, and anything that might interfere with my mental clarity before delivering a talk. If I’m there to network, then I focus on the key brands or people I want to connect with and turn down the volume on anything else. If I’m there to learn, then you’ll find me in the rooms and focusing mostly on that.
How I recover when I get home
Now that I already KNOW that I will spend a couple of days feeling like I lost a boxing match, I prepare accordingly. I plan to sleep longer and allow myself to take some time off if I need to. I understand those with regular office jobs may not be able to do this. But perhaps you can ask to come in later or work from home for a day of two.
I avoid emailing everyone I met until a week after the conference. It’s a personal choice. I feel everyone else is most likely decompressing, just as I am. I received a follow-up e mail from someone I met at a conference right as I got home and my first thought was, “Oh, my, this is way too soon for me to even think of answering!” That’s why I wait.
I do a brain dump of all the great ideas, concepts and visions that popped up in my head during the conference. I may or may not implement them all but at least it’s all on paper or in a digital document for when I’m ready to tackle it. I let this sit for no more than two weeks while I tend to daily life and my regular work (writing, blogging, preparing an upcoming talk), and then get to work on it.
I allow myself to feel tired, or “down”, and trust that it will pass. It always does, and by then I’m getting all worked up and planning for the next conference!