It’s no secret that PR is one of the most demanding industries there is. At any given time, PR practitioners are juggling tasks, commitment their mantra and multitasking their superpower.
For many, it is precisely this fervid nature of the industry that makes it so appealing. Unlike desk-bound jobs that can be dull, if not numbing for some, PR work means going out, encountering different kinds of people and getting exposed to various tasks. All that adrenaline can be intoxicating.
But the hustle and bustle can also be taxing over time. In the midst of all the activity and noise, how do PR people find the time to take a break and switch off? How do you give yourself the freedom, time and space to recover and recharge? Are you still able to look at things, maybe a problem, at work and even in your personal life, with a fresh perspective despite feeling overwhelmed?
On taking a break, practicing mindfulness
It’s easy to be carried away by the high-functioning nature of PR and all that energy and overwork oneself. Many draw a sense of fulfillment from being a workhorse or overachieving, even hoping to leverage such performance to stand out and move up the ladder.
It’s no wonder taking a break can be a novel idea. Some look at pausing and practicing mindfulness as ineffective and would take up too much of precious time that could otherwise be given to work.
But taking five and slowing down for a bit are a necessity. We can’t function fully if we’re always drained, physically and mentally. In a creative field such as PR, easing up once in a while provides that much-needed balance with the hectic pace.
Taking a breather means looking after oneself. It means being mindful, and mindfulness starts with being intentional and present. It’s knowing oneself and listening to what the body needs. It means being attuned to one’s green, yellow and red light moments and responding accordingly. It doesn’t mean one need not work too hard nor push one’s limits. It does mean, however, that one needs to stop and recharge as well. All work and no play is still true even in our digital world today, and stopping once in a while to smell the roses is an invaluable truth we can all live by.
It may sound like a vague concept but upon closer scrutiny, mindfulness is knowing when to take a break and taking a break gives us time to nurture ourselves. Mindful exercises such as yoga, focused breathing and time in nature enable us to be in the moment, pause away from our work desks and the noises of everyday life, and replenish our energy and mind.
Indeed, taking a break and being mindful come hand in hand. Question is how to apply it in the fast-paced world of PR. It takes some practice and strategy but yes, taking a break and practicing mindfulness is not only possible but a need in PR. It could be the weapon against burnout and the higher attrition rate in PR companies. Those that have made it a part of their lives know that not only does it banish work stress but also improves work quality and work ethic.
Seize your break
The breaks we take depends on our needs and preferences. For some, this can be several days of rest or vacation after working nonstop for days or weeks or even months. Or inversely — some work nonstop so they can then take time off after. Others go on a longer holiday, take a sabbatical or leave work altogether, essentially going for a longer time to pause, unwind or rewind, maybe even think about their life choices or what they want to do next.
That last one is more along the lines of a life-altering break, and not what we want to discuss here. A longer pause may, in fact, not be necessary if we are able to give ourselves time to reenergize regularly.
Taking short breaks during the day or between tasks, no matter how short or mundane that pause may be, is — or should be — an integral part of our routine. Going for a 15-minute walk, getting coffee or even just closing our eyes to empty our thoughts before going back to what we’re working on are all valid and useful kinds of breaks.
Of course, this doesn’t mean leaving work in the middle of a busy day to unwind and forget our deliverables. Take breaks when necessary but keep it within reason. Assess the situation first and always let someone know that you’re stepping out and keep your lines open.
If you’re feeling stuck and uninspired, try stepping away from the computer for a little while. Draw inspiration elsewhere. Try nature or whatever little bit of it is accessible to you — maybe a tree in the yard or a pocket garden in your building, the clouds you can see outside your home office window, even memories of your last time on the beach. Set a timer if necessary so you don’t spend more time than allowed wandering off or letting your mind drift away.
You’re not doing your job or your company a disservice if you take a few minutes to rest and recharge. In fact, you’re doing the opposite. You’re making sure that you function at your best so you can continue turning out high-quality work. Think having a creative block in the middle of preparing for a big event or campaign. Staring at your blank screen and forcing your already stressed brain to work is like deliberately jumping in burnout quicksand, not being able to come up again unless you relax and let go.
So next time your feet start to get numb from sitting too long or your eyes start to twitch, try taking that as a sign to stretch and break for a while. Actually, don’t wait for that to happen. Incorporate short breaks in your routine to keep physical problems from worsening.
For longer breaks such as the weekends and holidays, switching off is a good way to go. Give yourself space — literally and figuratively — to breathe and experience the present. Put away that phone and computer for a while if you can. Go analog and de-stress from your digital life. Don’t obsess over work. For starters, try not to check your email. Unless it’s an urgent matter that no one else can accomplish but you, try not to do work and wait for Monday.
Invest in hobbies that are unrelated to work. Learn a new skill and invite friends to experience it with you. For that matter, hang out with friends more. Bolster life outside work. Not knowing how to switch off is a definitive route to burnout avenue, and you don’t want to head in that direction.
Mindfulness your way
Mindfulness is personal. What works for some may not work for others, and vice versa. It’s about listening to our body, knowing when to push ourselves and when to step back to be mindful of our mental and physical needs. Maybe it’s not another cup of coffee that will re-energize us but a power nap. Maybe taking a shower while fleshing out ideas in our head is what will help organize our thoughts.
Notice changes in your mood, physical strength and other patterns? Maybe it’s time you gave yourself more time. Keep track of what helps you perform at 100 percent and calm down. If you’re the on-the-go type and laying down a yoga mat regularly is not plausible, there are calming podcasts that you can try. ASMR audios have recently been popular, and there are varieties you can choose from depending on your preference. For some, listening to nature sounds such as rivers flowing, birds chirping and even thunderstorms is what works.
Mindfulness is being in the now and being in control of oneself. It’s getting out of auto-pilot mode and activating proactive senses. When it comes to work, it’s evaluating one’s work and performance, even the direction one’s career is going, and making conscious decisions accordingly.
In daily PR life, it’s being heedful of client requirements, be it a complex campaign or project or a simple product announcement, while objectively thinking of every possible reading of a material or message we put out knowing different audiences have different interpretations. It’s being sensitive of the message we communicate, knowing fully well that words do have an impact. With communication being the core of PR, practicing mindfulness of our thoughts and ideas is even more crucial. That’s why it is important to always think twice — in reality it takes more than that sometimes — and review the messaging or press release from a different angle. Is this specific concept experienced by everyone the same way or do you risk sounding out of touch? Are you reflecting the current sentiments of your target market? Being mindful is a constant process of doubting and reassuring yourself, and it could be tiring but can be learned and mastered.
On days when PR work seems to be taking over our lives, the simple act of mindful breathing can do wonders. When there just seems to be too much to do, focusing on one thing at a time can be the trick. So try to sit down, close your eyes and tune out the noises of daily work life for a little while. Take deep breaths and feel the air come in and out of your body. Just a few minutes of doing this has been proven to be beneficial: More than helping you relax, this can keep you from making stressed-induced and abrupt decisions.
Taking a break is practicing mindfulness amid the work that we do. In PR and similar fields where stress and the occasional anxiety are inevitable, looking after our well-being enables us to be at our 100 percent. It is surviving the present and gearing up for the future, our way of showing our commitment to our work. Because we can’t give our all at work if we’re not okay to begin with. Going for that break and always being mindful may not be a one-size, fits-all solution to every challenge there is at work, but it surely makes coming to work and conquering the day much easier.