How to protect your mental health when working in PR

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Impression provides some tips for PRs looking for a healthier work-life balance

Can you recall a negative piece of news you’ve recently read? What about something positive? Chances are, the former will spring to mind more quickly. Why? Because statistics show that approximately 90% of all media news is negative, and headlines with bad news are 30% more effective at catching people’s attention. What, then, can we do to protect our mental health, when consuming the media is part of our job? Rebecca Tee, senior digital PR specialist at Impression, shares her thoughts.

Let me start off by saying that the news is not the only thing that might be contributing to a PR’s poor mental health; recent research by the PRCA and CIPR found that PR professionals are more likely to have poor mental health than other UK workers.

Having an ‘overwhelming workload’ was cited as a key source of workplace stress, but the irony of this is that 54% of those who didn’t take time off work for their mental health cited the heavy workload as the top reason for not doing so.

There is also a sense that, at times, working in PR can be quite ‘toxic’ due to the fact other PRs are constantly boasting about the campaigns that attract hundreds of links, but rarely the ones that don’t.

NeoMam discussed this further, in a blog post called ‘Dear Digital PR Industry, We Need to Talk About Burnout,’ referencing the fact that a) we’re working too much and b) we’re rewarding team members who work late nights and weekends with public shout-outs on their big wins.

As someone who started her career in journalism, where low morale was the norm and overtime expected, I find this concerning. Here are some tips that have helped me to approach my job in a more positive way, covering a few topics that may contribute to poor mental health.

1. Stop reading the news

OK, that was a bit ‘clickbaity.’ I don’t want you to stop reading the news, per se, but I want you to limit it. I have been doing this for years and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. If you have an inkling that the news is contributing to low moods and stress, then here are a few suggestions:

  1. Put a timer on. I know, it’s stupidly simple, but if that is what’s needed to stop you going down the ‘rabbit hole,’ then so be it

  2. Bookmark some awesome positive news sites such as Positive.news and Happiful

  3. Make a conscious effort that for every bad piece of news you read, you’ll also read an uplifting one

  4. Become more aware of clickbait headlines and question – as you’re about to click on it – whether you really need to. Is it going to serve you any good?

By concentrating more on the good, you’ll also start to train your brain to come up with more positive and uplifting campaign ideas for your clients. I recently wrote a blog about this where I list nine of the most meaningful digital PR campaigns for inspiration.

2. Have a social media ‘spring clean’

Links have been made between social media and how we view ourselves and our worth, and yet we get trapped in an endless loop of scrolling. If someone’s posts are making you feel rubbish about yourself, you need to unfollow them. Seriously, do it and don’t look back. They are not serving you any good and will feed your negative energy (take this from someone who started to feel like a bad mum after following lots of ‘mumfluencers’ on Instagram). Remember, people only tend to shout about the good – you never see the full picture.

3. Create a ‘positivity’ folder on your desktop

At Impression, one thing we’re awesome at is praising each other. We have a team channel where we talk about our ‘wins,’ a wider company channel called ‘Showcase’ and a system whereby we can give others a virtual ‘high five.’ It’s so important to adopt a positive culture because a) it’s inspirational and b) it’s motivating. I recommend also creating a desktop folder where you store anything from motivational quotes to screenshots where you’ve been praised by clients and colleagues. Be your own cheerleader and big yourself up.

4. Start your day with affirmations

Now I appreciate this may seem a bit ‘airy-fairy’ to some, but practicing affirmations and gratitude has made a huge difference to my mindset. Affirmations are simple self-empowering sentences that you tell yourself (in your head or out loud), with the aim of boosting your confidence. So, for example: “I am successful at work.” I recommend checking out Coffee Self-Talk by Kristen Helmstetter if you’re new to this. And if you enjoy a bit of swearing thrown in (to make you feel even more kick-ass), definitely give Affirmation Babe a follow on Spotify.