We are often known as “Type A” personalities and even workaholics to our families and friends; and when our smart phone is more than an arm length away, we feel we are somehow disconnected. We have mastered the art of walking and emailing an executive or reporter at the same time, while planning PR strategy in our heads. Consequently, the list of tasks being added to our plates has only increased with the growth of social media, along with the widespread changes in the media landscape.
In the Forbes report earlier this year of “Most Stressful Jobs,” the public relations executive was listed as number five in their top ten. Forbes noted the high demands of the position and the constant rejection and lack of appreciation as attributed factors to the placement of PR in this not-to-be-touted list. Is it any wonder that PR professionals are not usually known for their best practices in relaxation? And yet, with the ethical commitment of our profession to our client(s) and the public good combined with the important responsibilities in our day-to-day work, there is a great case to be made for the need to de-stress. With that, here are some proven strategies to bring some much-needed balance into your life.
1) Health & Fitness First
We can only do our best, when we are at our best; and that means taking better care of your health. There are many easy ways to start to increase self-care. For instance, simple things like taking vitamins are often the last thing on your mind. Keeping your daily regimen of vitamins – that keep your immune system strong – in a handy travel pill case and taking them when you eat lunch is a simple thing once you are in a routine. Likewise, we often are too tired or time-crunched to work out, but I’ve found no energizing equivalent – that can also reset my mind with fresh ideas or perspective – to a good swim, run, or yoga session. Find the time of day and exercise that works for you and start exercising regularly. You won’t regret it, and your body will thank you.
2) You Are What You Eat
Smart meal choices – buying healthy meals instead of junk food (yes, we have all raided the snack machines at lunchtime because we were pressed for time) and bringing them to work – will help us to fuel our day properly and keep us going strong through the onslaught of meetings. We PR pros are notorious for skipping lunch, but your empty stomach will cost you in productivity. My most successful weeks are energized by leftovers I eat throughout the week from a large, healthy meal I’ve prepared at home; or simply choosing to go buy a salad instead of making a beeline for the vending machine.
3) Stilling the Mind
Meditation has received a large following, thanks in part to the wave of support by none other than Oprah herself. And there is plenty of research to back up her claims on the benefits she and her staff have received through regular practice. Meditation is now considered a “complementary and alternative” medical treatment by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Even more important, in a survey by Massachusetts General, researchers discovered that regular meditators had greater sensory perception and ability to process information over their non-meditating counterparts; that’s right, bigger brains! While I have meditated off and on over many years, I decided to implement a regimen in my life almost two years ago, and it has made a difference in how I show up in the rest of my life. Every morning and night, my meditation time is my own time to grow quiet and still, allowing the thoughts and worries of the day to dissolve into nothing. Relaxation ensues and a calm focus comes to my day, and I sleep better at night. There are many forms of meditation, and guided meditation is best for the beginner. Find the one that works for you and embrace this gift that keeps on giving.
4) Schedule Fun Time
As hokey as it may sound, we all live by our Outlook calendars, and if something is not in a time slot, it does not exist. I typically take a look ahead at my week on Sunday and schedule time for activities I enjoy; coffee or brunch with a friend, a movie night at the local theater, or even a day hike on the weekend. Our list of things-to-do is long and we are not given much room for error in our demanding PR jobs, but the ordinary act of having fun increases our overall joy and enthusiasm for our lives. It’s a proven fact that the simple act of smiling can make you feel happier, and creating more opportunities for you to smile, will only increase your ability to perform positively in your workplace.
You might be shaking your head because you have heard all four stress management techniques above before and immediately think “I don’t have time for all that.” Consider this before you decide. If you do not have time to take care of yourself and enjoy your life with your workload and other life responsibilities, you certainly do not have time to be sick, and stress is often connected with sickness, headaches, and increased irritability (Mayo Clinic). If you still don’t think you have time to implement one or more of these tips, I would simply ask, what might you lose by trying? Just give it two weeks and try one, or even all of the above, and see how it affects your stress levels and your workload. My bet is that a “less-stressed you” will make an even more successful PR professional.
Sultana F. Ali, APR is a corporate communicator for a leading technology/e-commerce company with more than 8 years of agency experience prior to serving as an in-house PR counsel. She serves on the PRSA-NCC board of directors as the liaison to the diversity committee. Sultana holds a master’s degree in Strategic Public Relations from The George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in International Business Marketing from the University of Central Florida’s College of Business Administration. She has served as a mentor in the public schools as well as to other young women in the PR field and volunteers for a number of DC-based non-profit organizations.