According to Business News Daily, public relations executives have one of the most stressful jobs in the U.S., taking eighth place under military personnel, firefighters, airline pilots police officers and the like. With five years of a career in public relations now under my belt, I can certainly attest to the amount of stress that can circulate a PR office.
The first three months of 2020 have seen headline after headline about impeachment, the plummeting stock market, the global Coronavirus pandemic, and the resulting event cancellations and postponements. It seems as though the entire world is in a panic at the moment — and, to a great extent, it is. Working at a public relations firm with a job highly dependent on the news cycle comes with many challenges, rewards and…stress. However, something I’ve realized is that there are ways to turn that stress into productivity, even when situations feel completely out of my control.
I made it a goal of mine in 2020 to turn my stress into productivity. How? By simply looking at stress as a driver to keep going, be better and continue striving for results. An endless loop of anxiety can hinder your performance, but when you take a step back you can achieve great things. No matter whether you just started with a new client or are new to the business, I’m here to tell you that the pressure and stress won’t ease up with more time. The only thing you can change is how you react. Pressure and stress will always be a part of your daily life, but they don’t have to jeopardize your health or hinder your ability to perform.
Where do you even start? Here are a few tips to make good ol’ stress your friend (okay…maybe not your friend, but the annoying little cousin that you have to pay attention to momentarily before he’ll leave you alone).
- Identify good stress vs. bad stress
- Yes, there is a difference. Did you know that good stress promotes character growth, emotional growth and even muscle growth? Who knew? Determine whether the stress you’re feeling can be turned into success, or if this stress is debilitating and contributes to a different mindset before you take it head-on. For example, select PR firms manage crisis communications, which of course is going to fuel up some stress due to the situation; however, it’s key to remember that the so-called crisis will come to an end. It might seem like the end of the world at the moment, but sometimes it can turn into a great placement, interview, career opportunity, learning experience and beyond.
- Adjust your perspective:
- As I stated previously, you have to get outside of the stress. Look at it as something that helps you and motivates you – not as something that brings chaos to your life. I realize my stress begins to boil when I have multiple unrelated initiatives going on simultaneously, or when my weekly to-do list is running off the page and it’s only Monday. This is when I take a breath (or ten) and make an effort to adjust my focus from the entire week’s to-dos to a list of what I can achieve in one day. I get outside of the thoughts of what I can’t do and reframe my headspace to think about what I can accomplish in a given timeframe. If you’re in PR, you know this kind of positive spin is the bread and butter of what we do, so put it into practice!
- Decide what’s most important
- Clarity can help us with our overall productivity, and when we focus our attention on one single task (cue: deep work) we actually put more energy into coming up with solutions. Donald Miller, an American author and public speaker, is always talking about “saving your calories” for the important things. When your mind is churning mind with thoughts that are negative or unimportant in the larger scheme of things, you’re devoting valuable energy (and burning useful calories) away from a task that might be better for your business or your client’s. Set a time limit for yourself if you’re someone who tends to “fall down the rabbit hole” of tedious or unproductive tasks to hold yourself accountable for when you’re going to finish.
- Permission to disconnect: Granted
- Do interruptions have you snowballing into a bundle of stress because you’ve been sitting at your desk for the last 3 hours, looking at your long to-do-list, and the email dings and pings seem endless? Ditto. Take the time you need to disconnect from your work and then come back to it. Trust me, the work isn’t going anywhere. This can be as simple as getting some fresh air, eating your lunch outside or even practicing some mindful breathing techniques. And before you start thinking “I don’t have time to disconnect” — yes you do. Twenty minutes is all you need. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our daily tasks, we don’t take the time we need for ourselves. Mini-breaks throughout the day help interrupt the cycle of stress that can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed. They give us a chance to restore ourselves physically and mentally, which makes us better, happier publicists in the long run.
As we brace for whatever else 2020 has in store for us, remember stress can truly be a motivator. Don’t fight it, invite it!