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Stress Matters presents Once Upon A Pandemic

Once upon a pandemic: Emma Cartmell

The nineteenth in a series by Stress Matters, who have been asking those across the events industry - how are you doing? 

Emma Cartmell, CEO of CHS group, on how self-care can make a real difference.

Right now I am feeling fantastic! I've made a very conscious effort to make sure I feel that way. It isn't because I'm deluded and had my head stuck under a rock for the last eight months but I made the decision to spend the winter in Fuerteventura. I’m still working but this is giving me some time out after a crazy eight months.

Early on in the year before this was declared a pandemic, we had one of our meet the buyer events. In the days before the event people started dropping like flies and I could just see everything falling apart. That affected me really badly. But we took the attitude that we would not be beaten and, for the people who couldn’t travel, we got them there on zoom. Even if we had to move laptops around tables, which is exactly what we did.

Then things went from bad to worse and it became apparent that our biggest event of the year couldn’t go ahead. We naively moved it back a few months.

When I realised that wasn’t happening either, I had my lowest moment,

I saw all that hard work over ten years of building a business just fall down piece by piece. I think it was the lack of control over the situation along with worrying about my team that made me so low. It was also soul destroying not being heard as an industry by the government.

My high point though has got to be me growing as a business woman. I threw myself into business recovery plans and learnt a lot. We’ve made mistakes, but it’s helped me to improve my skills. I’m forever the optimist and it’s made me realise that you do need to have a robust plan in place as optimism alone won’t see you through something like this! There were some other high points as well such as still being able to get away to France for a break, climbing Mount Etna and being able to enjoy drinks from my friend’s bar by the river in York in the summer.

I think coming out here has allowed me to have more space to become more of myself. It’s given me the chance to really reflect on what I want to do and who I want to be over the next few years. I’ve got a lot of experience and a lot of stuff that I'd like to share, but I'm not comfortable with the idea of suggesting how others should live their lives. However, I was listening to a podcast on a walk recently that inspired me so I rushed home and drafted out an entire book. It all just came to me! So now I'm researching and speaking to people about how feasible this is as a book and whether it’s something that people would want to read.

The other thing I’ve learnt about myself is thinking about my definition of ‘Success’. I think I concentrate more on the journey rather than the destination and I wondered how that impacts the way we speak to ourselves? Are the things we tell ourselves helpful or not? If I’m having a negative thought, I now think about how I can change that and replace it with something positive. It’s made me realise how important self belief really is.

I thought it was important to get into good routines to look after myself when I came out here, otherwise I might have just partied for three months. Each morning I do some oil pulling which is great for getting rid of toxins from your body. I feel proud of myself for doing it and it’s good to start the day with a pat on the back. I then make myself a cup of hot water with ginger, sit out on my balcony to have a look through and add to my gratitude diary and goal book. I find it great to just spend some time getting in tune with them each day.

Every afternoon I go for a long hour walk down by the beach and pop to the Spanish supermarket. I’m currently trying to write my shopping list in Spanish so it can take a while! I do pass my friends bar on the way home so occasionally I pop in for a drink or two as well!

The advice I did give myself, and followed, was to review on a daily basis how I'm spending my time and what I'm thinking about. I also told myself to fill my brain with really positive stuff. Regularly writing down all the things that I've done and am grateful for has helped me stay positive. I’d tell myself to learn as much as I can and take as many positives out of it as possible, and I feel like I’ve done exactly that. I’ve done so much cooking, got into journaling, done loads of courses, I’m learning Spanish and I’ve still come out to the Canary Islands for winter as originally planned.

The things I’m most looking forward to in 2021 are seeing all my event industry pals and being able to do CHS Birmingham, which will be the first industry event! I can’t wait for that and the big party afterwards! I’m also really looking forward to continuing the habits I’ve developed here and think about my time more and to stay in a positive rhythm.

If you would like to share your story, please visit for more information.

Read other stories in the Once Upon A Pandemic series here.