A matter of life and death for PR Pros

Recently, a new study found that (as in previous studies on men) women with high stress jobs have a significant increase in their risk of having a “cardiovascular event” – an almost 70% increase in heart attack risk, and nearly 40% more likely to have other cardiovascular traumas, such as a stroke.

In other news (though it’s not news to us), public relations is often listed as one of the top 10 most stressful jobs. These statistics hit home last week when the sad news broke that Chick-fil-A’s vice president of public relations, Don Perry  – in the midst of that company’s current PR firestorm – passed away of a sudden heart attack.

While over-reaching headlines and Chicken Little proclamations are common on PR blogs, rest assured this one is no joke: when the medical research refers to an “increased risk of death” due to “high stress jobs,” they are talking about us.

In addition to the usual advice to exercise and take breaks to relax, what can we do to mitigate the stress while we’re at work, thereby reducing our risks?

Keep Things in Perspective

Ask yourself: are you saving babies? If you do PR for a cancer research charity, an African aid nonprofit, or some other similarly serious pursuit, a certain amount of self-sacrifice can be justified. But for most of us, our on-the-job stress comes from simply wanting to do the best job we possibly can for ourselves and our employers/clients.

True PR professionals are a highly perfectionist and self-critical bunch. It’s not uncommon for us to feel like throwing up at the sight of a minor typo. Few issues are as earth shattering as we make them out to be, and stepping back occasionally to remind ourselves of that fact can go a long way in keeping our cool.

Have a deep bench

Making sure you have a strong network that is both broad and deep can be a huge help in the most stressful times, so you’re not shouldering it all yourself. Resources like Solo PR PRO or a local networking group can help alleviate stress in the short term through education and camaraderie, and help you establish strong contacts if you ever need backup.

Realize your strengths

Even when we’re not in the midst of a crisis, solo PR pros sometimes over-stretch, with stress-causing results. While reaching outside one’s comfort zone is part of being successful long-term, be sure you’re venturing out with a plan, in directions that make sense. Using our strengths makes us happy, and is the surest way to be successful.

In life, there is stress in life that we can’t control, such as a sick loved one or a family member in dire straits (as someone currently in the throes of one of these situations, I’m getting good reminders daily of what’s important). But there’s much about our careers that we can control, and we owe it to ourselves and those who love us that we take this seriously. I want you all to be around for a long time!

Do you have any tips for keeping your cool and reducing your stress levels? Let us know in the comments!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  • I guess I’m doing a good job keeping my offline/online, work/family balance in tact. I had no idea the Chik-fil-A PR guy died. That is sad and horrible.

    I learned years ago how much stress impacted my health and happiness. I also learned that I don’t deal with it well when it sticks around for any length of time (a little bit of stress is good, but when it hangs around, my whole body hurts).

    This is why my morning walks at the beach have become a ritual. Getting outside with my son and dogs and talking to others who know nothing of what I do is relaxing and a great way to start the day.

    The hardest thing I had to learn was giving myself a break when I make a mistake. That used to eat me alive for weeks. Now, I choose to not focus on anything I can’t control. If the mistake is done, do what you can to make it it better (if possible), but don’t beat yourself up. Learn from it and don’t make that mistake again. Mistakes are necessary for growth.

    Another tip. If you really need to scream, do it. I’m not kidding. Put a pillow over your head, get in the car, whatever. The release can be exhausting, but afterward I feel like a 100 lb weight has been removed. Try it. I dare you. 😉

  • Great article. I learned a lot about keeping your body healthy and not to get too stressed out. Thanks for the helpful information.

  •  Glad you found it useful, Alice!

  • On a larger scale, when you look at stats like this, I wonder what companies, what agencies and what solo pr pros are going to do to ensure they manage the stress. After 7 years solo, this past January I had a realization that the stress had gotten to a point that wasn’t healty (see my post: http://soloprpro.com/on-benefit-and-bonuses-or-how-i-let-down-my-only-employee/).

    Since I went public, I’ve been trying to keep the balance, set the right expectations, and focus on the priorities and not the distractions. It’s a daily effort to keep the stress in check.

  • Susan Ditz

    Making time to get plenty of restful sleep and exercise is critical for anyone under a lot of business or personal stress. And know when to ask for help is essential too.

  • Great point – sleep is so important, but it’s often one of the first things we sacrifice. Thanks for sharing your tips.