This year has been one of the toughest many of us have faced in our lifetimes and as communications professionals many of us have worked harder than ever before while dealing with our own personal circumstances in relation to COVID-19.
I recently attended a webinar with Alistair Campbell, hosted by the PRCA, where he said 9 out of 10 PR professionals experience mental health concerns throughout their career.
I have never underestimated the mental toll our roles take on us. We often have to deal with really challenging issues within our organisations, be knowledgeable about a vast area of topics, work to many varied deadlines with a huge number of priorities and support our colleagues and audiences to engage with us 24/7.
The CIPR Health Group have stated that through COVID-19, 8 out of 10 communications professionals have reported a marked depreciation in their mental health as a direct result of the pandemic. Over half of respondents worked longer hours than usual, with only less than a quarter having access mental health support in the last six months. 28% had not taken any annual leave and 15% worked five or more extra hours a day.
Some of the things my NHS communications team and I have faced have been tough. Communicating the tragic news of colleagues passing away from COVID-19, working 60+ hours a week for weeks on end, crafting and sharing often difficult and emotive messages around PPE, risk assessments, infection control – the list is endless. And all of this on top of what I know many communicators have felt, guilt that we are struggling when we have colleagues on the frontline dealing with some of the most poorly and vulnerable people in our communities.
Here are a few things we should consider to support our mental health and wellbeing.
Take time off You might feel bad taking leave when things are so busy, but you need to have a break to recharge, reset and deal with what you are working through. Encourage others to take time off too.
Talk to each other Share what you are feeling and going through. It may feel awkward or difficult, but you will find that others are experiencing similar issues and talking them through can really help.
Show your emotions Don’t try to bottle up how you are feeling. I have cried at work on more than one occasion, in front of my boss and in front of my team mates. We are all human. It is ok not to be ok. And being honest and open may even support others to share things that are on their mind.
Express gratitude Even in these difficult times there are things that we are all thankful for. It might be something seemingly tiny and insignificant to others. Spend a few moments each day reflecting on what you are grateful for and if it relates to another person, thank them.
Build a support network Reach out and find the people who can form part of your support network. It might be a group of friends who you What’s App to check in and share, it may be a virtual meet-up with colleagues. Whatever works for you.
Seek help If you are struggling reach out. Some employers have staff wellbeing support in place, sadly not all. The PRCA and CIPR are doing more to support the mental health of communications practitioners so check out their offers. Please don’t be afraid to speak to your GP or another health professional.
Be kind Always.
I am sure there are many things we are all discovering to help with our mental wellbeing and resilience. Please do share any tips you have and make sure you take care of yourselves.