Ten ways to reduce stress

PR is inherently stressful. It’s highly task- and deadline-oriented, fast-paced, collaborative and rapidly-evolving. Any situation where a group of people need to cooperate with several other groups around detailed information within tight deadlines is a good recipe for stress.

Here are a few ways for PR professionals to reduce the stress levels:

1. Get organized – Stress normally peaks when you feel out of control. Take 10 minutes to write down all your actions and prioritize them. Which really need to get done today? You’ll feel much less stressed once you can see the magnitude of the task ahead. Write down time allocations next to each if that helps.

2. Tidy up – A tidy desk will help you feel more in control. If papers are flying everywhere, and empty coffee cups encroach on your workspace, you’ll subconsciously feel more tense and those items will distract you. Yes, you may know where everything is, and sure, you may feel you work better that way – but you’re only kidding yourself really. Same goes from your computer desktop.

3. Get fit – I’m serious. Healthy mind, healthy body is absolutely true. If you are unfit, you are less able to cope with stress and the demands of the job. Plus, getting fitter will help you focus, be more productive and attack the root cause of stress.

4. Drink less – Stimulants, like your morning java, and depressants, like that ice cold beer or glass of wine, are like stepping on the gas and then the brakes for your body. They can contribute to stress over the long term, even though short term they give a boost. In fact, it’s best to drink water – probably more than you think you need.

5. Share – Are you the burning martyr who turns the lights on, then off at the end of the day? Could be a sign you need to trust others, and share the load. Sure, your team members might not do it in the same way as you would yourself, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Stress and an inability to delegate are strongly connected.

6. Say no – Try it. Just say no to a few minor requests. Even from clients. It takes practice but not accepting a task when you have more important ones to deliver is perfectly legitimate. Much better than accepting it, and having it rot at the bottom of your to dos. If you explain why you are declining, we’ll understand.

7. Say yes – Accept help when it’s offered. I’m staggered at how few people accept a helping hand when offered and then stay until 9.00pm slaving on a task for the next day. People don’t offer if they don’t mean it. Together you’ll get through it much faster.

8. Get out – Put your pen down, step away from the computer and just walk around the block. That big yellow thing in the sky will make you feel much better. You’ll probably work better when you get back, or sit down with the answer to the vexing question if you get some perspective and fresh air.

9. Get in – Arrive early at work. Before clients, reporters and colleagues. These vital moments can be used to plan your day and do the real mental weightlifting. They can often be the most creative and productive of the day. Then leave promptly at the end of the day.

10. Get off – Close email, IM, Twitter, turn off your Blackberry or cell and put the landline on DND. These are tools to do the job, but they are also distractions and a source of incoming requests. What you need at present is to get across the current ones. Don’t drop off the grid entirely, just limit your availability until you hit the deadline. If you have an office or cube, shut the door. If not, then book a room for 30 minutes and work from there. People will respect your space – we’ve all been there.

It’s worth noting that not all stress is bad. No stress at all, can be unproductive too. People work best when under a bit of pressure – but too much can be debilitating. Hopefully these techniques will help you manage your stress levels a bit better. One final thing – smile. There’s nothing like laughter and a few gags to reduce the tension.