4 Mental Health Tips For PR Pros
By Angela Baldwin, Director of Special Events, PRSA-SF
In honor of the recent Mental Health Day (October 10), we wanted to share some mental health tips for PR people -- beyond the usual “stop checking your phone so much” song we always (used to) hear at dinner parties.
As most of you work in high-stress environments or are in the newfound COVID job search situation, taking care of yourself mentally is incredibly important. From creating a routine to designing boundaries, it’s up to you to draw the line. It will make you a mentally healthier colleague, and without overpromising, a happier person. So, we recently spoke to Dr. Milo Dodson, a licensed psychologist, and therapist Kelsey Law, MA, LMHCA about what you can do to improve your mental health this fall.
Here’s what they said:
Create A Balanced Routine
Working from home can bring its challenges as well as some conveniences. Whether you’re someone who thrives on uninterrupted solo work time, or is an extrovert going crazy working out of your small downtown apartment (She is me. I am her.), creating a routine and workspace helps your brain know when it’s time to work, and when it’s time to rest. Similarly to how children thrive with consistency, adults can also benefit from keeping as much of a routine as possible during such a chaotic year.
“Since 9-5 work hours usually don’t apply, I can’t stress enough how important it is to independently create a personalized and balanced daily routine. Consistently sprinting to meet deadlines all day, every day, won’t be sustainable over an extended period of time. PR life is an ongoing marathon, so rest is success.” - Dr.Milo Dodson
Whether you give yourself a start and end time or don’t sign on until after your morning walk, create a routine that works for you and your workload. For best results, loop your team and clients in on your schedule. Most people will respect the transparency and keep requests within the appropriate time slots (PR emergencies aside). The one benefit of COVID and WFH is that we’re all in it together. Someone on your team or your client could have kids at home or want to create a routine and schedule as well. You may just inspire them to share their “office hours,” too. Blocking off working hours on your public calendar is another way to set the boundary.
Disengage From Technology
We are constantly in demand, whether via email or social media, and it can feel overwhelming (who’s watched Social Dilemma?). But, that doesn’t mean it should run our lives. Whether it’s creating a 5-minute quiet time after you wake up, or a few hours in the evening where phones are not allowed, creating boundaries gives you the peace and focus you need to do your job well. Recently, Reality SF encouraged its members to spend time alone in meditation or with God before checking their phone every morning. It’s a simple but proven way to prepare for a day full of news, emails, social notifications, and so on.
“Be intentional about disconnecting from news and media, and connecting with yourself and nature. Our nervous systems are on overdrive with so much information constantly being consumed, so disconnecting gives the nervous system a breather. It’s important to recognize the toll something like PR takes on your body.” - Kelsey Law, MD, LMHCA
Some PR professionals will argue that their team needs them, or it’s too costly to take a break. If that’s the case, let your team know that between said hours you will be out of reach. If they can’t handle things on their own without you, for a few hours, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate your role as a manager or leader. We should be creating team members who can thrive independently, not who rely on you for everything.
“Doing “your best” does not mean pushing yourself to exhaustion on each project.” - Dr.Milo Dodson
Likewise, offering to cover for co-workers when they need solo or family time should be a cultural norm in our workplaces. It could be as simple as planning alternate days where one team member covers off on early morning emails and one handles evening emails. Prioritize giving people a break from technology. You and your team will be happier for it.
“Self-care is most effective as a mindset, not an action. So, when we can intentionally plan downtime, it will create career longevity and greater adaptability to respond to future crises. We wouldn’t DARE let our phone batteries dip below 1 percent, and we shouldn’t let our mental health, either.” - Dr.Milo Dodson
In actuality, it’s easier than we think. WE JUST NEED TO DO IT.
“Leave the phone in another room, play a card game, go for a walk without it. I think it’s beautiful how simple mental health can be sometimes.” - Kelsey Law, MD, LMHCA
One of the most famous leaders who doesn’t allow phones in the bedroom is Arianna Huffington. And, well, let’s just say she’s no less successful because of it. The latter, in fact.
You Are Not Omnipresent, And You Don’t Need to Be
I get it. The PR industry has taught us from very early on in our careers that being online, available, and having all hands on deck, at all times, is what the best PR people do. Sure, there is some truth to that and some clients would be furious with a delayed response or a missed media opportunity. The real issue here is, what have we, as an industry, done to ourselves?
PR people are notorious for not creating boundaries for themselves, and in turn have taught our clients bad habits. Let’s not ignore the fact that “agency burnout” is a real thing. With the growth of mobile phones and email, it’s worse than ever before. Now more than ever, if you’re responding by email after 10 p.m. to non-urgent matters, your client will expect that. Without saying “I told you so,” it’s definitely a situation we put ourselves in. So what do we do about it?
Mental health is now more openly discussed in the workplace than ever before. This means, now is the time to create the boundaries that will help you live a healthy life. Whether it’s creating formal email hours, letting clients know to reach you with a phone call if it’s urgent because you won’t be checking email all weekend, or simply saying a task is not a part of that quarter’s priority list, do it. No one else will do it for you, and no one else has your mental health in mind.
“Please, please, know your limits. Everyone has them and those who think they don’t are lying to themselves. Interpersonal boundaries are healthy and “no” is a complete sentence. If a company has an expectation that you are omnipresent, then they don’t need PR help, they need a Superhero, and they’re all kinda busy these days.” - Dr. Milo Dodson
Overall, 2020 has made it very clear what really matters. Whether through social injustice, politics, health, and job loss, we are being pushed and challenged in many directions. It’s not an easy time. At PRSA SF Bay Area, we want you to know that taking time for you is okay. Your family, friends, and job will be better for it. But, most importantly, you’ll be better for it.
While you’re not omnipresent or a superhero, even though some clients may think so, you definitely have some superpowers. So preserve them; treat them with care, get your sleep, and drink your water. After all, we all know your client or company’s world would fall apart without you.