April is Stress Awareness Month
By Jeff Tieszen, Senior PR Consultant
It’s Monday morning and you’ve mapped out your day. You have no less than nine video calls and five deadlines, and the rest of the week isn’t looking too much better. But you’re pretty sure you can make it all work. And then it happens. A story breaks on a client (or your company) and it’s not good. In fact, it’s pretty horrible. Suddenly, you’re in full-on crisis communications mode. You pour another cup of your preferred caffeinated beverage and frantically try to figure out which tasks can be delegated to other team members and what, if anything, can be bumped to a later date.
Welcome to the job of a PR professional. The things that many of us love about our career — the variety, the fast pace, the lack of routine, the many challenges — also bring the potential for stress. In fact, studies have shown that public relations is one of the most stressful professions, and for plenty of valid reasons: tight deadlines, unpredictable hours, interacting with the public or the media, and dealing with crises, to name just a few. Some of us even get a “rush” from stressful, fast-paced situations — but over the long term, that’s not a good thing.
April is Stress Awareness Month, and whether you work in PR or one of the many stressful jobs out there, it’s important to know that there are things you can do to cope with it. After all, stress is no joke, and we all experience it in one way or another. Reactions to stress can be physical (headaches, stomach disorders, neck or back pain) as well as mental (depression, smoking, overuse of alcohol or drugs). Long-term stress can even lead to serious health issues like stroke and heart disease.
To make matters worse, this past year has been more stressful than most, making Stress Awareness Month take on even greater importance. Working for long periods of time in lockdown, not being able to travel or see family members, and general uncertainty over the pandemic has been particularly stressful and exhausting for most. In the CIPD’s Health and Wellbeing at Work report, 37% of respondents said that stress-related absence had increased in the past year.
According to The American Institute of Stress, one of the most important things you can do to cope with stress is to simply accept that there are things you cannot change. Recognize when things are out of your control and let it go.
Some other pieces of advice they offer to deal with stress:
- Take care of yourself. Focus on eating healthy, exercising regularly and getting plenty of sleep
- Take breaks whenever you start to feel stressed
- Share problems with close friends or family members, or with your doctor, pastor or counselor
- Recognize when you need more help and talk to a mental health professional
Finally, as PR professionals, it’s important to put things in perspective. We may spend a lot of time putting out fires, but they are of a figurative nature. Getting coverage for an important announcement may be “make or break,” but it’s not life or death. Front-line healthcare workers, first responders (including police/firefighters/EMS), military personnel — these are just a few examples of professions where stress takes on a whole other meaning, and would make our jobs seem like a breeze by comparison.
So take a deep breath, take a break, and try not to worry too much about the things you can’t change.