One of the things that drew me to work in PR most was the diversity; the diversity of clients, the range of topics you “become an expert” on, the fluidity in your schedule and how no two days are alike. It’s liberating… but it’s also very consuming. Your brain is always running and playing connect-the-dots between your clients and the seemingly unrelated beats desirable journalists want to cover. And although I argue that those right for the field should thrive in this state, sometimes it can be a bit much. [Insert disquieting yearly statistic where PR is ranked as one of the most stressful jobs in the nation.]
When you find your brain is giving you the spinning beach ball of death, try doing one of these:
1) Put Down the Coffee
I know. This is blasphemous for our industry. And believe me, I am the last person who’d say this because I’ve proudly flaunted my Starbuck’s Gold Card since 2008… but you can’t ignore the facts. When you’re stressed, your body is already on high alert, pumping cortisol and adrenalin into your veins to ensure all systems can fight or flight at a moment’s notice. (Yes, this is what’s chemically happening as you nervously wait for your turn to present at the all-hands meeting.) Adding copious milligrams of caffeine to the mix would be like adding water to a grease fire. I suggest substituting with tea until things settle down.
2) Get Some Vitamin D
More than likely, you’ve been sitting at your desk, glaring at LED lights and typing away for the past 6 hours, agonizing about an impending deadline you don’t feel prepared for. Sound familiar?
Get up from your chair and step outside for a quick recess. Walk around the block for a new perspective. Breathe in the fresh air, and let it fill you with new ideas. A simple 10 minutes is all it takes. Sunrays have a way of thawing your worries and shedding light on what’s important.
Whoever coined the phrase “laughter is the best medicine” was a poetic genius. Everyone and their mom still says it because it really is true. (Read this 2013 article by Mayo Clinic for the nerdy details.) Find something, anything, to laugh about. Make it a full-bellied chuckle because pity laughs don’t count! If you’re in dire need of a quick fix, a funny animal video usually does the trick.
4) Get KRAFTy
After a long stressful day, I find one of the most relaxing ways to unwind is to crack open a bottle of wine, crank up the “Chillin’ Playlist” and cook a gourmet-style dinner. Don’t worry if you’re not a master chef; it’s about letting yourself disconnect from outside worries and putting all of your concentration on what’s in front of you, while simultaneously expressing yourself through a creative outlet. I find that cooking shares the similar cathartic effect of painting, only you get the added bonus of getting to eat your masterpiece afterwards! Baking works for this too; however, I prefer to cook stuffed bell pepper + risotto for the week’s dinner than have two dozen baked chocolate truffle muffins sitting on my counter right at the start of beach season. Whatever melts your butter, do it.
5) Werk It Out
** If you chose baking from the last stress release tip, you may want to try this one too.
Stressful energy is a powerful force if you can learn how to make it work for you rather than against you. Use all of that pent up frustration to propel you and push you forward in whatever type of exercise you prefer. Swim laps, run, cycle or dance until you’ve exchanged your anxiety with endorphins and self-accomplishment. Can’t solve how to get a client into Us Weekly’s national gift roundup? Okay, but you can run nine miles and feel great afterwards. Do something that builds your confidence outside of work to remind yourself how competent you are the next time you step into the office.
By now I think we’ve all agreed that in this profession (and life in general), stress is inevitable. However, there is still a silver lining! Though you may not always be able to stop things from going bananas, you CAN control the way deal with troubles when they do occur. If you chose to frame life’s stressors, not as the enemy, but as an opportunity to ‘rise to the challenge,’ it would make the idea of stress a lot less, well, stressful.
And if all else fails, call your mom.
Megan O’Neal graduated from UCLA in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, emphasizing in mass communications. She is currently the PR Coordinator at Marketing Design Group and volunteers with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, freelancing for the public relations department. Connect with her on Twitter @megannenicole.