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Ten ways to support your mental health if you work in PR

The news is distressing, the weather is miserable and the nights are drawing in. We asked PRs for ways to protect your mental health at this difficult time.

1. Limit your exposure to news

Armarni Lane, digital PR manager at marketing agency Wolfenden: “When being glued to the media is a core part of your role, it's inevitable that you'll be affected by the news cycle. One way to limit the negative impacts on your mental health is to limit your exposure to upsetting content. For example, creating custom newsfeeds in media monitoring tools like Buzzsumo that only show content relevant to your client's industry and customer base. Or using non-traditional media forms to gain insight on reactive opportunities, from TikTok to trending shows on Netflix.”

2. Go for walks

Aceil Haddad, founder of agency MATT PR: “PR is fast-paced, fun and generally all consuming. But when the news cycle gets really difficult, it is a really hard place to be in, especially if you’re a minority. We PRs need to keep on top of the news agenda, and it’s tough for all. I’ve seen more distressing images in the last three weeks than the last three years, the normalisation of rape and murder - especially amongst women and children - is a chilling reminder if you’re a woman that you become fodder in war.

“To find space for calm, I’m taking time to walk most days, I’m doing more ‘mundane’ tasks to keep myself busy and I’m reminding myself regularly about what is in my control, and what is not.”

3. Keep colleagues informed

Tristan Van den Berg, account manager at PR agency Napier: “Working in PR can be stressful, whether working towards an urgent deadline or managing a crisis. I find the best cure to keeping your mental health intact is maintaining discipline and being open and transparent about any situation you are facing. Keeping your colleagues informed about current or upcoming challenges harming your mental health is vital in overcoming mental roadblocks and downward spirals.”

4. Help others

Janice Isabel Torres-Perez, publicist and social impact advisor at agency The Brand Phoenix: “As a Zennial who entered a career in media as a teen, I learned that the best way to protect your mind and heart from the blues of the news is to live a life of balance that entails efforts that harness your PR capabilities for good throughout the year. Uplifting non-profits dedicated to societal betterment elevates your spirit. Knowing that I do my small part year-round with organisations I care for helps me cope with the things I can’t control. Purpose and philanthropy is a healer.”

5. Schedule a time for checking newsfeeds

Kirstie Nickson, director and co-founder of agency Sidekick PR: “When the nature of your job is to keep pace with the news - and the news is simply awful - it can feel overwhelming. However, in any communications role it’s vital to understand what’s happening in society to ensure your messaging is appropriate at that time.

“I have learnt that this must be done with intention. For me, this means limiting my news intake as much as I can, and scheduling time into my day when I can prepare myself mentally before purposely checking news feeds, rather than having it rolling continuously. It also means ensuring I get my news from reputable sources that are fact-checked, and avoiding social media doom scrolling.”

6. Share positive stories

Leah Archibald, digital PR lead at performance marketing and development agency Herd: “Working across various brands within multiple industries, means that although I get to see lots of happy news, I’m unfortunately exposed to many hard-hitting news stories too.

“One way I overcome this is by sharing as many positive news stories as I can for my clients, at any given opportunity. And of course, creating and executing campaigns that will impact readers for the greater good. This makes me feel better about the upsetting news I see, knowing that I’m doing my bit to share content that’ll bring a smile to people’s faces or even make their day.”

7. Support others in the industry

Chloe Walden, associate director at agency Spider PR: “Whilst those of us working in PR might not be dealing with life and death situations, like any job there are still different pressures and stresses which, long term, can take a toll on your mental health. It’s often a fast-paced life with numerous demands and projects, all which need to be delivered with a smile on your face and positive attitude.

“Mental health and protecting your mental health is an incredibly personal thing. As PR professionals, especially those in senior roles who mentor and guide, it’s our responsibility to create workplaces free from stigma where team members feel they can be open with any potential struggles or mental health challenges. Every situation should be treated individually, and no one should feel shame to ask for help - be it time to let off some steam, help with having workloads rebalanced, or time to speak to a professional.

“For me I find the support I receive from colleagues and friends in the industry incredibly important, especially during trying times, and am incredibly grateful for having such a strong support network of people around me. I’d like to hope they feel the same way.”

8. Take time out

Jen Kelham, senior campaign director at agency Babel PR: "Resilience, by its very definition, is the capacity to withstand or recover quickly from difficulties and toughness. But, when the world seems at its most turbulent and at home all the colds are kicking in with the darker nights, everyone needs to dig that little bit deeper to keep positive, be actively resilient, empathetic, and solutions-focused.

"But it’s OK not to be OK. As an industry, we need to be more accepting and supportive of that. It sounds simple, but taking time away from the relentless news and demands of your PR job at regular points in the day is crucial. It gives you time to breathe and gain perspective.”

9. Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help

Katie Ellen, senor account director at PR firm M&C Saatchi Talk: “In the dynamic world of PR, professionals often grapple with relentless deadlines, demanding clients, and the juggling act of multiple projects. Whilst these challenges are inherent to the job, they can sometimes become overwhelming. Safeguarding your mental wellbeing, especially when starting out in the role, is so important.

“First and foremost, foster open and effective communication with account leads, managers, and project directors. Establishing clear expectations can prevent tasks from slipping through the cracks. Secondly, prioritise work-life balance tailored to your mental clarity, whether it's a rejuvenating lunchtime walk or a post-work chat with a friend. Plan your day to what helps you and your wellness.

“Lastly, self-awareness is key. If persistent stress or anxiety plagues you, seek professional assistance. Remember, even in the most demanding PR scenarios, the old adage holds true: it's PR, not ER. Your wellbeing should always be a priority.”

10. Listen to podcasts

Claire Simpson, associate director at Hard Numbers: “One of the biggest things I’ve changed up in the last 12 months is how I consume news. I’m a sucker for doom-scrolling and, during the pandemic, would start and end the day looking through the feeds of various news apps and social media channels. But I got some good advice to seek out a more analytical source of news… And found myself turning to podcasts. So much so that I can’t imagine how I got my news before. Not only do podcasts offer more in-depth analysis and insight over a short news bulletin or clickbait online content, but listening to them is something I genuinely look forward to, as they help me unwind. It’s been a boon for my mental health and made me better informed on the topics that matter to me the most.”

And talking of podcasts, you will find many educational, uplifting and enlightening PR interviews here.

If you are struggling right now with overwhelming feelings of anxiety or depression, please take the time to nurture yourself and we hope some of the advice above helps. For more support as an individual you can turn to the Mental Health Foundation, for advice as a manager to support your team check out resources from the charity Mind.

Image credit: iStock/melitas

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