Let’s face it: PR is a fast-paced, often stressful industry. When the expectation is that you’re always on, how do you make the time and mental space for relaxation, self-care, and healthy habits? As PR practitioners, we know how hard this can be, so we wanted to share some advice and mental health tips from our years of experience.
Even under normal circumstances, finding a proper work-life balance and maintaining good mental health can be challenging. During the pandemic, this has proven especially difficult, as clients have relied on PR firms to guide and adjust strategy, manage crises and find unique ways to engage with reporters to earn coverage. PR pros and professionals of all kinds have faced extreme burnout from working longer hours, coping with increased stress and anxiety, and addressing isolation due to working from home.
Now, as the days get shorter and the sun sets earlier, workers must also contend with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Our Seattle office has years of experience dealing with long, gray days, and our advice is: take vitamin D pills, invest in a “happy lamp,” and adjust your sleep schedule to maximize the amount of sun you see in a day. Brisk walks on cool autumn days can also be very refreshing.
Four Tips for Better Mental Health Year-Round
Our team has found that these four strategies make a huge difference for your mental health, quality of life, as well as your ability to feel joy in your work:
- Take Breaks: Rather than working through lunch, take a 15- to 30-minute walk. Staying active throughout the day helps the body stay relaxed while leaving the screen for fresh air allows the brain to rejuvenate and spark new ideas. Periodic screen breaks also help promote eye health and reduce headaches for professionals who spend most of their day staring at screens.
- Practice Good Sleep Hygiene: We all know that adults should get eight hours of sleep, but did you know that the quality of those hours is also crucial? Dr. Dawn Gonsalves, behavioral health medical director at MVP Health Care, recommends setting a time to hop off all electronics and allow yourself to unwind prior to falling asleep. We know this can be especially hard for PR pros, who regularly go to bed with a phone glued to their hand and check emails during the middle of the night, but it is important to set boundaries for uninterrupted sleep. This will allow the brain to reset and focus for the day to come.
- Look After Your Health: During the pandemic, health has focused primarily on the virus — such as how to stop the spread and who is eligible for the vaccine — but our general health and well-being are still important, and we must continue to take care of our bodies while we mask up and social distance. Dr. Sarah Weaver, massage therapist and acupuncturist at Northwestern Health Sciences University, recommends eating well-balanced meals and staying hydrated by drinking lots of water, not just coffee.
- Reserve Time for Yourself: In PR, you spend the entire day supporting client and team goals, but it’s important to focus on your own goals, too. After work, dedicate time to focus on yourself and whatever makes you happy, whether that’s reading, exercising, or picking up a new hobby. You’ll be surprised how much this boosts your mood and provides a sense of accomplishment.
Habits like the above are essential, but good mental health is not just the responsibility of a single individual. Organizations also play an important role in shaping a culture where colleagues can rely on each other for understanding and support. During the pandemic, we at RH Strategic have focused on giving each other the grace and understanding that someone might need to be on video-mute or dial into meetings while on a short walk. We’ve also placed an importance on interpersonal connection through virtual hangouts and carefully planned in-person parties to help teams bond and mitigate stress. We hope that these mental health tips and practices will help you maintain balance and build healthy habits well beyond this pandemic.
RH Strategic is a Seattle and D.C.-based PR agency with a nationwide presence and additional global reach via membership in the Worldcom Public Relations Group. We provide strategic public relations for innovators in the technology, government and healthcare markets.