Ways to De-Stress a Stressful Decide Meeting

How to add a sense of calmness to any serious-matter meeting

Planning is an inherently social (and often envy-worthy) profession. We organize large-scale parties, interact with diverse groups of clients and colleagues, and help prepare (and subsequently dine on) menus that would make a food critic’s taste buds sing. But for all the glittering Celebrate parties and social Network gatherings, there are those meetings we plan that call for boardroom tables, fluorescent overhead lighting and decidedly somber, tense expressions.

That’s not to say that Decide, Produce and Ideate meetings aren’t enjoyable or interesting to plan. But they can be challenging when attendees are faced with serious subject matter, long hours listening to presentations and an added sense of stress. Here, we outline four ways to keep the energy high and attitudes positive at your next Decide event. 

Stock Snack Trays with Unconventional Bites

Just because attendees enthusiastically dive for the neatly arranged set of doughnuts on your snack tray as soon as you set them out doesn’t mean you’re doing anyone any favors in regard to energy or calmness levels. But why, exactly?

Bacteria living in our guts might be the culprit. As an article from Reader’s Digest reports, when that bacteria starts to get out of whack, a significant bulk of our body’s energy funnels to fix the imbalance. Switch the crowd-pleasing sugary foods for snacks that, while somewhat less conventional, will help boost your attendees’ probiotic balance. According to one study, individuals who eat diets rich in yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles and other fermented foods benefit from less social tension and reduced anxiety, in addition to increased energy (which can, in turn, help to boost our mood). 

Skip the Continuous Coffee Refills

According to a study from Wake Forest University, caffeine reduces blood flow to the brain by 27 percent, in addition to increasing a sense of nervousness, shaking and panic. While you might have a difficult go convincing attendees to show up to a tense Decide or Ideate meeting sans their caffeine fix, try not to encourage a continuous refill habit with nearby brews. Instead, keep a beverage on hand that’s likely to keep them energized the natural way, like water. To make plain H2O more appealing, infuse yours with fresh fruits. See one of our recent posts on water-infusion ideas for inspiration. 

Encourage Mini Relaxation Breaks

Although what you put into your body can have a big effect on calmness (or lack thereof), what you exhale through your nose and mouth can also have an impact. According to an article from Harvard Health, taking “mini-relaxation” breaks can help you reduce stress and even pain when in an uncomfortable or tense situation. The best part? All that’s required is one to three minutes. Try integrating these one- to two-minute relaxation periods into the work agenda itself: 

  • One minute: Place your hand under your navel as you feel your belly rise and fall with your breath. As you breathe in, pause for three counts. Breathe out for a count of three. Repeat for 60 seconds. 
  • Two minutes: As you count down from 10 to zero, take one complete breath with each number. For example, as you say “10,” breathe out. Then repeat with “9.” 
  • Three minutes: Relax your facial muscles and allow your jaw to open slightly as your shoulders drop. Let your arms fall to the side and loosen your hands so there are spaces between your fingers. Uncross your legs and ankles as you feel your thighs sink into your chair, letting your legs fall apart naturally. Allow your shins and calves to become heavy as you visualize your feet rooting to the floor. Breathe in slowly, then out. 

Have a half-hour or hour to allot to relaxation? Consider tapping into the meditative talents of a local yoga instructor to lead a session. Again, try not to make it during a lunch hour, instead integrating the relaxation period into the agenda itself.

Have a Hearty, Unexpected Laugh 

Despite the phrase “laughter is the best medicine” sounding a bit trite, especially when the meeting matter is serious, laughter as a tension reliever has its merits. According to the Mayo Clinic, genuine laughter stimulates organs that help to increase oxygen-rich air to the heart, lungs and muscles, further invigorating the body and increasing energy. But how can you make that laughter authentic and nonforced when in a tense event? 

An article from The New Yorker that sought to find the origins of what makes something funny highlighted that comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Sarah Silverman find their success identifying outrageous things in the benign. What made those things funny, however, was that the outrageous aspect wasn’t dangerous. As far as how that logic translates to your meeting, is there some strange or unusual aspect to your day or the meeting itself that you can highlight as a comedic source? Comedic success comes from both spontaneity and planning, so be on the lookout for good opportunities for a moment of levity, but prepare a joke or two as well for good measure.