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