Public relations might not seem like an ideal career choice for people who can sometimes be anxious.
Every day in PR is nonstop. Emergencies are de rigueur. The pace can be unrelenting.
It took three years of working in PR for me to realize that the anxiety and panic attacks I’d been living with my whole life weren’t just a personality quirk but an actual medical diagnosis.
A 2005 study found that anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorder in the United States, and a 2015 study found that anxiety disorders affect 18% of American adults on an ongoing basis.
Having an anxiety disorder can really complicate your life and work. However, it doesn’t have to mean walking away from a career you love.
Here are some of the ways I’ve learned to manage my anxiety so I can thrive in PR.
Make time for what you love
Practice an activity you enjoy for at least a few minutes each day. For example, five minutes of yoga is better than no yoga at all.
Find some music that relaxes you
Music can be a powerful mood adjuster, and playing relaxing music while you work can be “instrumental” in keeping your anxiety in check. A therapist told me that many people use mindfulness to help end anxiety attacks. There are amazing mindfulness albums in music apps that can help you relax, even during a stressful work day.
Manage your time
This is a useful for everyone but especially those with anxiety. Knowing in advance what you need to accomplish in a given day and developing a plan of action ahead of time can help you avoid moments of rush and frenzy that will stoke your anxiety.
To this point, set realistic and honest deadlines.
Take time off when you need to
It’s OK to take a sick day for mental health.
Don’t let your anxiety define you
You are not your disorder or disability. You have a struggle, yes. But it’s not the sum total of who you are. You’ve got a lot to offer; don’t forget that in the difficult moments.
Identify your triggers
When your day goes off the rails, take time to figure out what triggered you. Once you learn to identify your triggers, you can avoid or prepare for them in the future.
Communicate with your colleagues
It’s important to be open with yourself, of course. But for me it was also very useful to be open with those I work with. If you’re having a difficult day, it’s going to be better for everyone if you feel comfortable saying that out loud and asking for time or flexibility. This will create a work environment that makes you feel safe and, ultimately, increases your productivity.
Don’t live in denial
Own it! Anxiety is going to be a part of your life, so you have to come to terms with it and make adjustments accordingly. It’s OK to have off days, and it’s OK that sometimes it will get the best of you. But, it’s not OK to have a fear of anxiety ruling your life.
My anxiety will always be high. It’s just the way I’m built. But by actively managing, mitigating and treating my anxiety, I am able to thrive in my work and life. So can you.