By Susanna Kalnes, Senior Associate
The job title “public relations executive” consistently appears on the top 10 most stressful jobs in America list, right up there with enlisted military personnel, firefighter, and taxi driver. I can’t say this surprises me all that much after spending nearly 15 years in PR, often having to excuse myself from the Thanksgiving dinner table to accommodate a timely media request or wake up at 4 a.m. to ensure proper delivery of updated talking points. Not to be too dramatic, but the PR profession has a tendency to either make or break people, and unless you take full control of your emotions and get your anxiety levels in check, you may get swallowed up by the stress.
Realizing this very early on in my career, I turned to the gym as an outlet for releasing stress, as many people do. By experimenting with various forms of exercise, I quickly found my “happy place” in Tuesday night cardio kickboxing class at my local club. And while this was a speedy way to an endorphin release, it was also putting high-impact stress on my body, which was only adding to my overall stress.
It wasn’t until I found yoga – and practiced regularly (three times per week) – that I was able to meaningfully combat my stress and anxiety. I suppose what I was missing all along was that “mind-body connection” everyone always talks about (which I used to think was complete and total b.s., by the way).
I’ve been an avid “yogi” for the past two years and I’ve never been more calm than I am today, which is pretty amazing considering the fact that my career has only progressed during that same timeline. I attribute this, in part, to additional years of experience and truly being an expert in my field. But I also believe the lessons I have learned by practicing yoga regularly have somehow weaved their way into my workplace subconscious.
Here are five yoga lessons that I find to be highly valuable at the workplace, whether you are in PR or another field.
Lesson 1: Flexibility doesn’t always come naturally, but we can always work on it
In the world of agency PR, you are working with a variety of different clients, businesses, and personalities on a daily basis. Flexibility is key here. Allow yourself to bend, twist, and morph throughout the day to provide excellent service to both your client and your professional contacts. Become a chameleon of sorts and realize that flexibility is an ongoing process, not a destination.
Lesson 2: Try to find comfort when you feel challenged
One of the biggest principles of yoga is to try to find a sense of calm, even at times when your body is working hard to balance, hold, or contort in a challenging position. Throughout your career, whether you are in PR or another profession, challenges will arise. In PR, they tend to pop up, unannounced, in the form of a “fire drill” (hence the “Top 10” list). Yoga has taught me to keep my cool during those instances, so I can focus and set my intention on finding a solution, rather than panicking.
Lesson 3: Have compassion for yourself and others
This is a big one. In PR, you serve as a intermediary between your client and the media. And because of this, you walk a fine line between pleasing your client and pleasing a journalist. Oftentimes, things go off without a hitch. But when they don’t, and you feel like you haven’t fully pleased either party, it’s really easy to get down on yourself and allow stress to overwhelm you. But yoga has taught me to have more compassion for myself – and for others – and to push myself greatly, without all of the negative self-talk.
Lesson 4: Let go of the outcome
Do your research, prepare your clients for interviews, conduct mock interview practice, and over-communicate. You do all of these things, but at the end of the day, you are not in full control of what is ultimately published or said. So, just like yoga class, do the very best you can with what you have to offer. And then, let go of the outcome. The majority of times, if you do your due diligence, things will go according to plan. And if and when they don’t, revisit lesson two.
Lesson 5: Just breathe
I believe stress it is at least 90 percent self-imposed, if not more. So whether yoga is your thing or not, I think we can all agree that health is a top priority for all of us, and that involves both physical and mental health. When we take care of ourselves, we can put our best foot forward – in life and at work. Sometimes, that just starts with a deep, detoxifying breath and a few minutes of silence to meditate and remember that there is more to life than stress. Be kind to yourself. Namaste.