PR Stress Can Kill: 5 Things Communicators Can Do to Manage Stress
By Jennifer Lee Magas, Magas Media Consultants, LLC
Ever since Don Perry (obituary here), the long-time head of Chick-fil-A’s public relations department died from a heart attack last week on the heels of the company coming under intense scrutiny for its same-sex marriage stance, I wake up in the middle of the night to make sure my husband — who owns a PR firm — is still breathing. I worry that my husband, like Don, will fall victim to the stresses of the job.
What no one tells you when you enter the world of PR is that it is not a jog in the park or even a sprint — it’s a grueling, hard fought marathon not for the faint of heart. A PR position, like a PR campaign, requires persistence, tenacity, and yes, physical stamina. The demands of the job are 24/7 and no matter how many successful campaigns or placements you have for your clients in their desired media outlets your inbox is still filled with “Show Me the Money” messages demanding more NOW and your phone will painfully cry it’s crisis ringtone on your weekend or much needed family vacation. No sleep. Constant stress. Eating on the Go. No downtime.
But there are 5 Things PR Pros Can Do to Manage Stress:
1. Hit the Gym or Hit the Road.
The best way to relieve stress is to release the cortisol. My husband and I run. Together. Alone. 3. 6. 10 miles. We get up early and take turns while our 4 and 6 year-olds are sleeping. Not only does it set the pace for the day, but in the past year since he started running my husband’s cholesterol and blood pressure numbers have dropped. At 42 he just ran a 5K (a charity event we provided pro bono PR for) in 22 minutes, seconds behind our 22-year-old intern. If running is not your style, go bike, hike, Zumba, whatever. Find an exercise shoe that fits and wear it.
Every day as a PR pro you make fast decisions. Instead of grabbing for the processed or high-fat foods that someone in the office picked up on a D & D run, fill your office with healthy snacks like fruits, nuts, even gluten-free Z-bars. Your blood sugar will not spike and then dip you into a mid-afternoon coma and yes, most importantly, your heart will thank you. (And don’t tell me you can’t find 30 minutes to get out there and move. I’m a mother, an adjunct professor, and the communications pro for a PR agency and I carve out time for my health).
3. Plan and Take Your Vacation.
One of our clients, Chad Oakley, head of executive search firm Charles Aris, was just featured in a NY Times article where he talked about how he used to take vacations — he would try to do work and squeeze in pockets of relaxation. He returned home more stressed than before he left. To take a real vacation, he realized he needed to plan ahead, rely more on his 30 employees, and let his clients know he would be away. You too, need to plan. Hand over your responsibilities to others, turn off your cell phone, and stick your toes in the sand. You need and deserve this break.
4. Laugh, Often.
We all know we feel better when we laugh. Research has shown that the health benefits of laughter are far-ranging. Laughter can help relieve pain, bring greater happiness, and even increase immunity. If I know my husband has had a really tough day I’ll pop in “Anchorman” in the DVR and after a little time with Ron Burgundy he chuckles. Sometimes he even snorts.
5. Spend ‘Alone Time’ With Your Partner (Hint. Hint).
This is not Glamour or Cosmo, so I’m sure you’re catching on here. You probably already know that alone time with your partner is a great tension reliever, but have you officially thought of it as a stress-relieving practice? You should. The physical benefits are numerous and they work very well toward relieving stress. When my husband asks me what I want for my birthday I tell him, “I’d like a weekend alone at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, MA.” Wink. Wink. My husband knows exactly what I mean when I say this. And yes, the only time we leave the room during our weekend away is to eat our healthy bowls of oatmeal at the coffee shop next door to the inn or to get in a run around downtown, historic Stockbridge.
And as for you? Go get your own room. I promise you you’ll feel better. And less stressed, of course.