The World Health Organization (WHO) says the near-constant stream of news about coronavirus can cause stress (and suggests getting factual information from trusted sources at set times, once or twice a day). This can be almost impossible for PR professionals or people working in media.
The novel coronavirus radically shifted day-to-day life in our country, creating difficult times for everyone. How we react to stressful events is based on our background, the things that make us different from other people, our beliefs, our communities, and our levels of support. The next few weeks will undoubtedly present even more challenges. Things are changing rapidly, and the heightened media attention can add to the fear and anxiety that you may already be experiencing.
“I think one of the most important things you can do for your employees during times of uncertainty like this is to try and make the workday as normal as possible. Right now in communications-related industries, we are busier than ever, helping our clients communicate how coronavirus has impacted their services,” said Shannan Boyer, Scooter Media president. “That means we are thinking about, reading about, or writing about coronavirus 90% of our workday. That amount of exposure to coronavirus related content, on top of adjusting to working remotely for the first time, can lead to a stress overload.”
Is it possible to completely reduce stress in times like this? No, but there are steps we can all take to prevent burnout.
Here are some tips from our network to help manage stress when unplugging is not an option.
This may sound trivial but remember to breathe. According to the American College of Cardiology, being anxious tightens the muscles that help you breathe, and this makes you start to breathe faster. As your muscles fatigue and your breathing become more labored, you may panic.
Whether you are watching a press conference or feeling the pressure to meet a deadline, remember that taking 10-20 seconds to take a few deep breaths can make a difference. Breathe in for about four seconds and breathe out for six to eight seconds.
SCHEDULE & COMMUNICATE WHEN YOU AREN’T WORKING
Sometimes it feels like we have to be connected all the time. While it might be hard to step away from the screen, it is incredibly important. Take your dog for a walk, make lunch for your kids, or take 20 minutes to work out. Choose a time that works for you, and make it a priority to put your phone away.
“I’ve been on an a 2000s tv show binge (One Tree Hill, Sabrina the Teenage Witch. etc). It’s kind of a comfort spot since they are the shows I grew up watching,” said Hannah Foureman-Smith, brn Digital marketing manager. “It always makes me feel better. Anyone else watching Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist? It has some tough subjects, but always makes me feel warm and fuzzy.”
For Jesy Herron, US Digital Partners client leader, working out gives her the stress relief she needs.
“Besides wine? In truth, I recently purchased a Peloton bike and I’ve been starting each day jumping on the bike and plugging into the positive health community that I’ve grown to appreciate more than ever. This helps me be a better wife, mom/teacher and USDP team member,” said Herron. “The clarity and peace I gain from my morning ride sets the stage for the rest of the day.”
“Don’t get me wrong… I check out all the online posts and comments and the incoming stream of text messages from friends, so sometimes I work out twice!” Heron added.
Also, make sure to communicate your alone time to your coworkers. Mention that you are taking a break in which you will be unavailable and for how long. Keeping an open line of communication is vital for companies now working remotely.
SOCIAL DISTANCING ≠ COMPLETE ISOLATION
Remember that you are not alone! Take time to connect with others through appropriate social distancing or virtual opportunities.
“My small business community is certainly leaning on each other during this time and friends and family have reached out for both advice and to offer support,” said Molly Berrens, Spotted Yeti Media president. “Yesterday, I had a devastating phone call leaving me feeling very down most of the day. An evening chat with another business owner facing similar challenges reminded me that I am not alone in this.”
Not all communications have to be professional either. Zoom doesn’t have to be used solely for video-conference meetings… it can be used for some fun, too!
“Our Office Manager has transitioned into our Remote Work Engagement Manager and works to find ways to add fun to our workday,” said Boyer. “This has included the addition of a virtual happy hour, trivia competitions with prizes, and our new weekly IG takeovers by staff.”
Make a point to connect with your network and colleagues as well we your family and friends. In the era of social distancing. we suggest trying the following apps to help facilitate virtual connection:
- Marco Polo combines the best of texting, social media, and video chats – all in one private, easy to use app. Marco Polo works when you have a moment to talk, even if your schedules don’t match. Unlike other video apps, you don’t need to be live to see a familiar face.
- Houseparty is the face-to-face social network where you can connect with the people you care about most. The app makes video chat effortless, alerting you when your friends are “in the house” and ready to chat so you can jump right into the conversation. The app also offers the opportunity for anyone to connect whether you are using an iPhone, Android, or a computer, all at once.
MUTE UNNECESSARY “PINGS”
We’ve all been there – you receive an email notification at 3 a.m. While it’s tempting to check the message, we suggest limiting your notifications outside of work hours (when possible). Communicate the best way that your coworkers can reach you if it’s necessary.
Slack is a good example. If coworkers are communicating across multiple channels and the message might not pertain to you, mute the conversation and tell them that you are taking a break from the conversation. Tap the three dots in the top-right corner of the app interface, then choose Settings and Do not disturb. You can set hours in the day (local time) when Slack alerts won’t come through.
STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER…AND SHUT THE DOOR
All of this pressure can make people feel like they’re expected to be working every minute of the day—in ways they generally wouldn’t be expected to do when they’re in the office. Those that are working from home, may be tempted to steer away from their normal schedule, but consistency is key.
“I’ve always scheduled my day so that I can work when I am fresh, focused, and receive minimal interruptions. For me, that means starting my day at 4:30 a.m. It sounds crazy, but I take on critical projects and my toughest challenges early in the day,” said Kara Williams, founder and client strategist at The Marketing Collective. “I have a home office that is my space. No kids, no husband, no entering without knocking on the door. The only family member allowed in my office is my Golden Retriever.”
Transitioning to WFH can be tricky, even more so in times of constant news updates. Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Establishing “rules” and new “norms” is imperative in setting realistic expectations – personally and professionally. We need to take care of ourselves in order to successfully serve our clients.
About Scooter Media
Scooter Media is a full-service communications agency in Greater Cincinnati specializing in public relations and social media.