COVID-19 has put stress on several industries, and public relations is no exception. We are working harder than ever to handle crisis communications, media relations and more. Working from home and at a distance from our colleagues is adding extra stress and can lead to feelings of overwhelm and burn out.
How can we work through stress and anxiety in such a turbulent time, so that we can be our best selves at work and for our loved ones? I sat down with renowned psychiatrist, Dr. Suvrat Bhargave, M.D. and author of the highly praised book A Moment of Insight, and Ashley Bernardi, founder of Nardi Media, a strategic media relations agency, to identify steps that we can take to remain motivated and resilient and maintain our well-being as we navigate this pandemic.
Here is what I learned:
Working from home can lead us to feel unmotivated, especially when we are tempted to work in our pajamas. When we are ready to work, we should dress for the occasion. Doing so tells our brain that we are in work mode and are ready to be productive.
Setting realistic goals is important, especially for list makers. Throwing too many items on your to-do list can set yourself up for failure, as we can only accomplish so much in one day. What works better, is to place five actions on your list, and prioritize the first three. Then, let four and five serve as bonus items, that you can reward yourself for accomplishing. Taking this approach can change the conversation that we have internally and build momentum for the next day. Rather than talking down to ourselves for not achieving our goals, we feel accomplished that we met our objectives for the day.
Dr. Bhargave defines resilience as an ability to cope with adversity and make it work for us. Think of an object that bends, but eventually retains its shape and is stronger than before. To achieve this bounce back, we must accept what is and is not in our control.
This is incredibly difficult in public relations. We can get down on ourselves when a pitch does not land press coverage or when a client is not happy with what we think is a creative idea. Then, we stress about the consequences. We need to get over this quickly and focus on what is in our control, which is our attitude.
When feeling overwhelmed, stop and ask what are three things that you are grateful for in that moment. Are you grateful for working on such an exciting client, even though that one pitch did not work? As soon as you make this shift in mindset, you will bring yourself to a better space and realize that you are more in control than you might realize.
Controlling our relationship with social media can directly impact our well-being. As public relations practitioners, we use Twitter, LinkedIn and more daily to track the news cycle, interact with customers and influencers and more. When working from home, we are bound to shift to our personal social media, which can trigger our anxiety and cause us to question whether we are doing a good job.
We need to construct our own guidelines for social media that benefit our mental state. Know what works for you and do not worry about what works for everyone else. Accept your feelings, acknowledge your stressors, and decide. How many times per day should you communicate on Instagram? How often during the day should you check the news on Twitter? These are the kind of questions you should ask when developing your guidelines.
Generating a schedule that keeps you productive but allows you to tend to yourself is crucial to establishing balance between your personal and professional lives. Perhaps you can schedule work hours that leave you available for only a couple of hours in the evening or allocate two breaks in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Your goal should be to replenish your energy so that you can be fully present for your colleagues and family. Try not to succumb to the feeling of needing to respond to emails right way that do not require a quick response. Set boundaries for yourself so that you avoid burnout that could have lasting implications.
This is a challenging time for public relations practitioners around the world. Though we can take these measures today to stay productive and healthy so that we can be there for our teams and loved ones.
Justin Goldstein is President and Founder of Press Record Communications based in New York City.