The public relations profession isn’t for those who wish to enjoy a mundane and casual work life: non-negotiable deadlines, late night crises management and constant pressure dealing with extreme personalities — no wonder public relations is the sixth most stressful career of 2016! Despite the ceaseless stressful conditions, public relations professionals are expected to get the job done. Learning to deal with stress in a stressful career is essential to success.
To help students learn to cope with stress, Brigham Young University organized a stress management workshop on Oct. 7. Tyson Williamson, the university’s stress management workshop leader, gave some concrete solutions to overcoming stress.
Before you can learn to manage stress, you need to understand the fundamentals of stress. The American Institute of Stress defines stress as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change.” Although we usually look at stress in a negative light, stress is actually just your body responding to change. How you respond will determine whether stress impacts your life positively or negatively.
Stress management revolves around finding balance in life. Williamson read from Luke 2:52 to illustrate the balance necessary: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” School and work relate to wisdom. Physical and emotional health relate to stature. Spiritual well-being relates to favor with God, and social well-being relates to favor with man. “When one pillar is off, it’s like a car crash in one lane — all the other lanes get congested,” Williamson explained.
Good stress vs. bad stress
Williamson helped the students in the workshop understand the basic differences between good stress and bad stress. Good stress motivates you to confront the problem. For example, when you’re stressed about a phone call with a client, you mentally rehearse what you’re going to say, create a checklist and make the phone call. This kind of stress helps you to perform well and get the job done.
Bad stress compels you to avoid the problem and engage in other distracting activates. Given the same scenario, instead of making the phone call, bad stress would encourage you to watch another YouTube video or check your Facebook. Bad stress leads to procrastination and underperformance.
How to deal with bad stress
In public relations, you’ll likely experience both kinds of stress. You’re not a victim to your circumstances, however. You can tackle negative stress in a number of different ways to help transform bad stress into good stress.
1. Reward System
Rewards can help incentivize you to complete stressful tasks. Even if you don’t want to do the task at hand, sometimes a reward is sufficient encouragement to help you get the job done. Try to think of different things you enjoy doing: reading a book, watching YouTube, going to the gym, eating ice cream. Now tie any of your pleasures together with a stressful activity. When you finish the first 300 words of your paper, take a five-minute break to watch a YouTube video. Once you finish studying for your exam, celebrate with a huge ice cream sundae!
2. Make a List
When you know what needs to get done, you’ll be better prepared to deal with stress from uncertainty and never-ending workdays. Lists help you visualize and prioritize the day ahead of you. By creating lists, you free up mental RAM and allow your brain to concentrate on the most important things. Take care of the highest priority tasks at first. As you gradually cross items off your list, you’ll find your stress alleviating.
Lotus823, a public relations agency, exercises at work to combat negative stress. Lotus823 encourages a variety of exercise alternatives to their busy go-doers who find no time to go the gym during the workday. The agency schedules planking challenges to encourage employees to get up and exercise while at work. Some employees sit on exercise balls to engage their core muscles and improve their posture. When on phone calls, employees will stand up and walk around. A little exercise can go a long way in the battle versus bad stress!
4. Squash the Ants
ANTs stands for automatic negative thoughts. Public relations professionals will have daily opportunities to instinctively assume the worst. With important deadlines, costly projects on the line and consistent pressure, it’s easy for public relations specialists to take this pessimistic perspective. Williamson taught students to squash the ANTs by asking ourselves an important question. “What’s the worst that could happen?”
The public relations career is loaded with stressful days and nights. To survive the stress and find success, you’ll need to learn to “thrive on the stress and excitement.” You can either let stress motivate you to succeed, or you can let stress knock you flat on your face. The choice is yours.
Jesse Sumrak is a public relation’s student at Brigham Young University. When he’s not out competing in ultramarathons, Jesse is helping individuals get post-apocalyptic survival fit with his fitness website, Fallout Fitness. He likes to spend his free time exploring the world with his wife and looking for new adventures.