Even without a pandemic, the role of a PR professional is stressful enough.
Last year, a study painted a grim reality for the PR industry: Nine in 10 professionals struggle with mental health, 60% have been diagnosed with a mental health condition and 59% said the major cause of stress in their life was due to their workload—which was also the reason most PR professionals noted their inability to take time off of work.
But things are worse now.
According to data from Healthline and YouGov’s COVID-19 tracker, Americans are reporting significant and sustained increases in symptoms of anxiety and depression related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the data shows that women, minorities, people with preexisting health conditions and adults under 34 years of age have reported higher rates of fear and anxiety—and the number of people reporting these symptoms are higher than historical norms.
While some people are able to “tune out” all the “bad news” when they start their workday, as PR professionals, our jobs are dependent on knowing what’s happening in the world, how it relates to our clients and their businesses, and what negative trends are taking off on Twitter.
So what does that mean for us now, when we can’t go on “vacation” or “get out of the house” in the same ways we used to before? Given the fact that my own mental health has been tested as a vice president at Method, a new mother working from home 24/7, a wife and many other “roles,” I’ve identified some practices that have made a positive impact in my quarantine-life that I thought might be useful for other PR pros dealing with similar issues (back-to-back calls anyone?):
1. Set a routine and stick to it.
- If you can “show up” to five or six client or work calls in one day, you can show up for yourself for 30 minutes to an hour.
- I’ve begun setting time on my calendar (viewable to the entire agency) indicating when I’m taking self-care time to either work out before work (my preference), take a quick coffee break mid-morning, or do yoga in the afternoon while my daughter naps.
- Pro Tip: Put your own mask on first before assisting others (figuratively—and now literally as well).
2. Set a start time and end time to your day.
- Without a commute, in-person meetings and office watercooler talk to keep you distracted, you may find yourself heads down for a 12-hour workday before you realize you haven’t taken any breaks or eaten lunch.
- I try to start my day between 8:30-9:00am (and I block my calendar off until then) and end my day between 5-7 p.m., depending on the amount of breaks I need to take for my one-year-old. It’s up to you to set a schedule for yourself and remember that it is incredibly important to separate your work life from your “home” life, even if the two are undoubtedly intertwined these days.
- Pro Tip: We teach others how we want to be treated. So, remember that if you teach others you’re online 24/7, that will be daunting to unteach.
3. Find something that brings you joy, and keep on doing it.
- I made a goal that each week I’d set a new fitness goal for myself. It’s allowed me to get excited every Monday morning about the goal I am determined to reach. So far, I’ve kept this up for over a month, and have found I love yoga and dance cardio classes, both of which I wasn’t into before quarantine.
- Pro Tip: Whether this is finishing a book you’ve wanted to read, listening to a podcast series, walking that mile, or downloading an audiobook, find something that makes you happy, and do it, every single day.
4. Share, share, share.
- Now more than ever, we’re in a period of learning and listening. As an industry, and as individuals. Our agency is great at sharing resources, books, podcasts, articles, Netflix documentaries and more that have positively shaped an experience for us during quarantine.
- Pro tip: Don’t be embarrassed to share something that you loved, or something you learned from, especially if it helped you deal with a client interaction or your workload. It’s so important to connect right now and identify things that bring you joy, and your colleagues are likely going through incredibly similar things.
5. Relationships move markets.
- It’s not impossible to build relationships during quarantine. Engage with reporters on Twitter and LinkedIn, like and share their posts, and better yet, invite them to do a Q&A over video with your firm!
- Pro Tip: Reporter Q&As are win-win, they get to see the people behind the emails, better understand how thoughtfully you approach pitching, and it allows your junior staff access to reporters they might otherwise not get.
Of note, I am not a mental health expert, but I did earn my degree in Industrial/Behavioral Psychology with a focus on leadership training, so I like to think that my interest in psychology and work has a positive impact on how I’ve coped with shelter-in-place during quarantine.
I hope you’re all doing well, know you’re not alone in shelter-in-place, and are taking care of you.
Kylie Mojaddidi is a vice president with Method Communications.