PUBLIC relations is a stressful job. I don’t have to tell you that, right? No two days are the same. We may be dealing with a product launch one day, then trying to manage a crisis the next day. Or worse, those two (and many others, heaven forbid) may be happening all at the same time.
But that’s also what makes PR so exciting and addicting. If you’re anything like me, you get a high every time you successfully overcome a crisis, roll out a new project, or get relevant pick-ups for your brand or clients. The feeling is exhilarating.
Given the nature of our job though, the source of our highs can also be the cause of our lows. You may not feel it in your 20s, but as soon as you hit your 30s and 40s—boom! You don’t have as much energy as before. You easily get drained and your thoughts can sometimes feel a little fuzzy around the edges. You can’t even pull all-nighters now without feeling like you downed a whole keg of beer the night before.
And let’s not even begin to count all the physical aches and pains. Long hours seated in front of a computer can wreak havoc on your lower back and shoulders. Your once-20/20 vision is now supported by glasses. I can’t read fine print anymore—I literally need my glasses and a magnifying glass. There are pounding headaches, too. All that brainwork has a really explosive way of manifesting physically.
Because we spend so much time working, we often forget to take care of ourselves. Those aches and pains, the lack of energy and rest—we usually ignore them, putting off executive check-ups because those can wait, but our deliverables certainly cannot. We take care of other people—entire organizations, actually—so much that we forget to take care of ourselves.
I know a lot of people who would rather not visit a doctor because they’re afraid to find out what ailments they may have. They would rather be blissfully ignorant—then suffer the consequences later when they do discover something wrong. I used to be one of these people.
After suffering a personal tragedy two months ago, I realized that we really must take better care of ourselves. After all, we can’t be of any use to our organizations if we’re constantly tired and sick. Even worse, we might not live long enough to really enjoy the love and care of the people who truly love us. In an organization, none of us are indispensable. For our families, we are irreplaceable.
The past eight weeks for me have been crammed with hospital visits: consultations with various doctors, physical therapy sessions, tests galore. My recurring headaches, which I’ve been having for years and have grown increasingly worse over the past two years, turned out to be tension headaches brought about by stress, poor posture, and lack of exercise. The good news: it’s treatable. But I need a lifestyle change if I want to get well.
I’m sharing what my doctors and therapists have advised me because I feel many of us are in the same boat. It takes a certain type of person to succeed in PR, and that kind of person is usually passionate and driven to the point of self-destruction. Let’s not allow ourselves to reach that point. Below are some of the things we need to do to become healthier and more productive.
1. Mind your posture
With most of our waking hours spent in front of our computers, many of us have already grown accustomed to—comfortable even, or so we think—slouching or having our shoulders hunched. This contributes to the stiffening of our shoulder muscles, which then lead to tension headaches. Be more conscious of your posture. If you find yourself hunching your shoulders, deliberately relax them and straighten your back. It may seem tedious at first, but my doctors and my therapists swear this simple act will make a world of difference.
2. Use the right tools
To prevent yourself from always having your neck bent and your shoulders hunched while working on your computer, use a laptop stand to keep the top of your laptop’s screen at eye level. Your arms should also form a 90-degree angle when typing. If you have access to one, use an ergonomic chair with adequate back support. You may likewise use a lumbar support pillow.
3. Get up and stretch
Take time to get up and stretch every 45-60 minutes. You may walk a little bit or do some simple stretching exercises in your work area. You don’t need a lot of space for your stretches, so having a small cubicle shouldn’t hamper you from doing this regularly.
No matter how busy you are, take some time to exercise. Brisk walking or jogging for 15-30 minutes a day, three to five times a week should do the trick. If you don’t like doing this outdoors, you may do this on a treadmill. Do core strengthening exercises, too, to help you achieve better posture. Do weight training to strengthen your shoulder and back muscles; do yoga or pilates to strengthen your core.
5. Manage your stress
It seems simple enough, but this is the hardest to do, at least in my case. Learn to detach from your work—don’t let it rule your world and your life. Do things that will allow you to fill your cup. You can’t pour from an empty cup, after all. This doesn’t mean turning in half-baked work or output that screams “mediocre.” Cliché as it sounds, learn to balance your work and personal life. Remember that no job (in our field) is worth dying for.
The road to a healthier and longer life goes beyond physical interventions. Your mental health is equally important, and so are your work and personal environments and the people with whom you surround yourself. But that’s a story for another day.
PR Matters is a roundtable column by members of the local chapter of the United Kingdom-based International Public Relations Association (Ipra), the world’s premier organization for PR professionals around the world. Abigail L. Ho-Torres is AVP and Head of Customer Experience of Maynilad Water Services, Inc. She spent more than a decade as a business journalist before making the leap to the corporate world.
We are devoting a special column each month to answer our readers’ questions about public relations. Please send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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