Nova Browning Rutherford Gets Real About Self-Care for Stressed-Out Planners

October 4, 2018

Starting her career at 19 as a budding marketing and promotions executive, Nova Browning Rutherford spent much of the next six years on autopilot. She worked in the hip hop music business in Toronto and Hollywood with artists such as Kanye West and other top names.

Under the pressure of it all, combined with personal incidents that led to depression and anxiety, she hit a wall.

“It was 18 hours a day, a million miles an hour, celebrities, athletes—that was my job, and I made mistakes,” Browning Rutherford said.

At 25, after coming out of the worst of it, she slammed on the brakes big time, opting for “sunshine breaks” while others had smoke breaks, taking lunch as a time for meditation and self-reflection, and always having flowers on her desk as a reminder of something pleasant.

“It’s just where I intuitively began,” she said. “My coworkers thought I was crazy. But I knew I was on to something.”

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Fast forward 13 years—several certifications later paired with years of applied knowledge—and those same former coworkers are calling on her to present to their companies on the topics of wellness, personal development and professional achievement.

Today, Browning Rutherford is a workplace wellness and mindfulness facilitator, a personal development coach, a fixture as the resident wellness expert on the internationally syndicated Canadian TV show “The Social,” the equivalent of “The View” in the U.S., as well as a sought-after National Speakers Bureau keynoter on mindfulness, meditation and prioritizing self-care.

After speaking to thousands of people as a personal development coach, the one thing everyone has asked for is help learning to process, decompress and balance, she said.

With information coming in at a million miles a minute (sound familiar, meeting planners?), she can certainly relate and said while people may go to the same place of destiny addiction—“Once I get through this project, once I retire, that’s when I’ll take care of myself”—the wheels will start falling off and work and personal relationships will suffer in the meantime.

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One of Browning Rutherford’s biggest rewards is being able to influence the influencers, the decision makers who deal with hundreds and thousands of people, including meeting planners.

“That’s the person I want because when you’re on autopilot and burned to the ground, those interactions are not pleasant with your clients and colleagues and everybody else,” she said. “I understand the pace and pressure of meetings and events and the 10,000 moving parts.

“That’s not going to change,” she added. “But you can change how you respond and how you set yourself up for success and happiness professionally and personally. It’s time to shift the way we look at wellness.”

Browning Rutherford is quick to reflect on what she has learned to help meeting planners best deal with their high-stress careers and balance their ever-busy and challenging professional and personal lives.

Meetings Today (MT): What key advice do you have for busy meeting planners?

1. I know meeting planners are on the road a lot, so I would say to make the travel enjoyable. Travel requires decompression, and you should schedule it into your arrival time.

Use the hotel room as your personal spa and schedule your own wellness time.

Pack things like Epsom salt, give yourself three hours to settle in, take a nap, have a bath, have some food and get in the present wherever you are. That way you’re fresh when you’re meeting whomever and you’re not carrying any stress into each interaction moving forward.

2. Be knowledgeable when you have a good event of what you did well that day. So if it was getting up early and eating breakfast, really note that.

3. Delegate. Don’t be a responsibility hoarder. Take some of it off your plate. You don’t have to do every single thing. And just know this is the nature of the beast.

There will be times that will be busier than others so adjust accordingly.

4. Schedule self-care, especially during busy times and seasons, and use your workplace benefits. Use every dollar of them and schedule it all out from January 1 for the entire year. It’s a lot easier to work around it than work it in. Your health insurance may cover things like chiropractic care, psychotherapy and even massage. Use your personal days, sick days and vacation days.

It’s your employer’s investment in you, but many people don’t use their benefits.

MT: What are some of your other top self-care and personal development tips?

1. Sleep is crucial. Naps save lives. Try to always stay within an hour of your normal wakeup time or it can really throw you off, even if you try to make up for lost sleep after a busy event, like on a weekend. And keep that phone away from you. Plug it in the bathroom if you need to. And sleep. Really sleep. Aim for drool. Also, nap during the day or just have what I call low-impact time, decompression time. Twenty minutes or less is all you need for a nap. Longer than that and you hit REM sleep and you wake up groggy.

So put on the timer and just try and lie there. Even if you don’t fall asleep.

Just lying still for some minutes gives you a chance to catch your breath and put your feet up, and you will be refreshed going into the next meeting or session. It’s a wise use of time.

2. Practicing mindfulness is also important, and it essentially starts with noticing. It’s noticing your thoughts and feelings, noticing your body’s sensations and noticing your physical environment. On busy days when you forget to eat, it’s noticing what I call your resting bitch face. So notice when you’re smiling, when you’re standoffish, snappy, intense. That’s the opportunity to make a change. Notice when you’re hungry, haven’t eaten, haven’t gone to the washroom or you’re feeling fatigued.

Notice it and therefore delegate and take a break.

3. Meditation is also key. Some people ask, ‘How do I start meditation?’ I say start in the shower. It’s just doing one thing in that moment and focusing. When you’re in the shower, take a minute to let the water sit on your forehead or on the back of your neck and just have the image of it washing off of your body and the stress washing down the drain. Or have a bath and focus. I take time for a quiet rest and soak in the tub, especially after I’ve been on a plane or traveled for a while or after a long day in my heels.

Just make time for that and not scrolling Instagram or talking on the phone in the tub.

You don’t have to overthink meditation. Start with things you’re already doing—when you’re running or when you’re walking. I lead a walking meditation group in the forest here in Toronto. I talk about grounding techniques, awareness and breathing techniques—all out in nature, and it’s essential to connect regularly with nature. Mindfulness, meditation and wellness is the old new way.

We’re getting back to the basics of ancient wisdom. It just makes sense.

Browning Rutherford is available to speak on a variety of topics related to workplace wellness, mindfulness, meditation, personal growth and professional achievement.

Visit You can obtain a copy of her eBook, How to Start a Self-Care Practice, by visiting

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About the author
Lori Tenny | Destinations Editor, Contributing Writer

Lori was formerly Director of Strategic Content at Meetings Today where she oversaw feature-related content for the brand, as well as custom publishing, content marketing initiatives and strategic digital projects.