PR vs Mental Health - Where's The Middle Ground?

Frankly speaking, it is easier said than done as I myself have been guilty of this crime multiple times.

PR vs Mental Health - Where's The Middle Ground?

Let's face it - if your job title bears the term "Communications", a break is the last thing on your mind right now. In times where we navigate through natural disasters and pandemic spikes, times where it is imperative to be in the know of what's happening across various news verticals and social media platforms 24/7, taking a break just might seem like detrimental professional judgment.

While many head off for the holiday season, squeezing in a last hurrah and a well-earned vacation to recharge, the same can't be said for PR professionals. Just how many of our peers can truly say they had a well-rested, well-recharged weekend in the midst of floods, typhoons and omicron? How many of us can truly say we spent an hour away from our phones, without the world coming to an end? 

Frankly speaking, it is easier said than done as I myself have been guilty of this crime multiple times. Sneaking a peek at your inbox just to end up going back to work to make sure the world doesn't crash and burn. Recently, it seems to be crashing more than usual.

At this point, it seems almost impossible to switch off without the fear of jeopardizing your career. If 2020 - 2021 has taught us anything, not carving the time to address your well being is even worse. Research by Sabine Sonnentag suggests that detaching from work is essential to enhanced productivity - as those who do recover from job stress are more likely to have higher engagement levels at work.

As idealistic as that sounds, how is this even possible for PR professionals during these unpredictable times? How do you stay on top of everything required and more without spiralling? 

Start with your foundation - a solid, holistic and human-centric foundation

Whether you're managing horizontally or vertically, it's crucial to have a team and a manager that you can communicate and lean on with trust and honesty. Now more than ever as we continue to navigate between hybrid work set-ups, having a solid foundation that will support you when the going gets tough is essential to ensure you maintain your spirit and drive to fight through for the company's communication aspirations. For without, is the fight even worth it?

To put in more actionable steps, a part from supporting each other mentally and emotionally, make sure you and your team have a holiday plan in place - who's off, who's available to pick up, who to call in case of emergencies (of course, with the exact definition of what counts as an emergency).

Invest in your own self-care - with mini breaks

It's daunting imagining the worse case implications of taking a full-on vacation especially when your job involves managing crises. No matter how crazy times can get, it's crucial to have mini-breaks - at least 10 minutes to yourself - to meditate, to journal, heck just to breathe and hear your thoughts! 

In millennial terms, you do you. Find what works for you to take the stress off, it could be a 5km run, spending some quality time playing with the kids, giving back to society. The thing about stressors are, they don't disappear with time. They only build with time and it's only a matter of time before one cracks.

If taking a couple of weeks off seems more terrifying than the actual process, then at least make a pact to yourself to schedule mini-breaks to keep your sanity. 

Don't be afraid to ask for help

Mental health has always been a taboo subject matter, especially in Southeast Asia. It's been a constant battle for mental health professionals to educate the general public. With the pandemic, we've seen more people take mental health seriously with the influx of wellbeing apps, HR tech solutions offering support, mobile therapy, etc available. Despite all the help you can get at your fingertips, if you don't take the most important step i.e. addressing the warning signs then it all goes downhill from there.  

In a nutshell, despite the pain and heartache 2021 has brought, there's also a silver lining as we observe the PR industry being more proactive in putting forward mental health and well-being initiatives, especially in the agency space. Understandably change takes time however we're off to a good start in breaking unhealthy practices and looking out for our people.