Simply reading the word stress in the title of this blog might make you cringe. In a 24/7 work environment, especially for those in public relations and public affairs, stress can be inevitable. When you experience stress, it may make you uncomfortable and hinder your productivity. But it doesn’t mean you can’t harness how it affects your ability to achieve success at work and reach your long-term professional goals. By looking at stress in a positive way, you can leverage it for better outcomes, personal growth, and for your professional success.
“Stress has many wonderful attributes. It reminds us that we care; it connects us directly with the most challenging and important aspects of our lives.” –Alia Crum and Thomas Crum, Harvard Business Review.
Let’s start with a simple concept. If you’re stressed, it probably means you care. Realizing that you care can help change the way you feel about being stressed and how you frame it when it happens. I care about making sure press materials are clear, concise, and engaging, and that I have to meet deadlines or respond to breaking news. Consider the moments in your life, at work or at home, when you felt the most accomplished. We naturally push our limits when working towards something we are passionate about. Whether in a 24/7 communications work environment, or a more personal situation, like when I was preparing to run my first half marathon, moments of high intensity and stress can become opportunities that force us to work to our absolute limit. When pushed to our limit we can then grow and evolve, often because of these stressful situations. Embracing stress can become your fuel for growth, not your ultimate detriment.
“If people actually embrace the concept of stress, it can make them stronger, smarter and happier.” –Clifton B. Parker, Stanford University.
If you’re able to change the way you think about stress, you can employ certain techniques that will help you manage it and use it to your advantage. In their Harvard Business Review article, Alia and Thomas Crum outline a three-step process (see it, own it, use it) that can help you recognize when you’re stressed, accept it and frame it in a positive way. They write that “when the body encounters stress, it pumps hormones such as adrenaline and dopamine which fuel the brain and body with blood and oxygen, a response which propels the individual into a state of increased energy, heightened alertness, and narrowed focus.” By recognizing that, you can harness that energy for good to accomplish what’s in front of you.
“The goal shouldn’t be to cope with or eliminate or even reduce stress, but to learn how to harness the power of stress for positive outcomes.” –Jared Lindzon, Fast Company.
Stress is a natural part of any job, especially in a public relations environment that often includes crisis communications, daily deadlines, and a constant media cycle. Everyone will experience it at some point or another. The way we handle that stress can have a vast impact on our ability to learn and grow. By taking a step back and recognizing when you’re stressed, what it means, and how to treat it head-on, we can leverage stress for our own personal good.