I’m an eternal optimist. Finding silver linings through difficult times has been my lifetime default switch. The COVID-19 pandemic has tested my positive outlook, however, and I’m not alone. More than 90% of people who responded to a July 2020 nationwide survey by Harvard Medical School and the University of North Carolina School of Medicine reported feeling increased worry, frustration, boredom or anxiety during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
PR and marketing communications pros are highly skilled multi-taskers, adept at juggling the care of clients, vendors, partners and loved ones. Our profession is fundamentally a pressure cooker of 24/7/365 news cycles, writing deadlines, social media and an “always on” culture. Combine that with helping clients communicate during the COVID-19 pandemic and the anxieties wrought by uncertain times, and you’ve got a recipe for burnout.
As Forbes Senior Healthcare Contributor Tara Haelle recently wrote in a piece she penned for elemental, a Medium channel, most of us were on “surge capacity” to operate at the start of the pandemic. Ann Masten, PhD, a psychologist and professor of child development at the University of Minnesota, explained to Haelle that “Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters. But natural disasters occur over a short period, even if recovery is long. Pandemics are different — the disaster itself stretches out indefinitely.”
Highly energetic, resilient problem-solvers usually thrive when the going gets tough. But this time is different. At some point the gas tank runs on empty, and there’s a leak in it, too. So, how are we all to cope during a pandemic?
There are a number of suggestions offered by Haelle and the experts she cites:
- Accept that life is different right now
- Accept less from yourself
- Recognize the different aspects of grief
- Experiment with “both-and” thinking
- Look for activities, new and old, that continue to fulfill you
- Focus on maintaining and strengthening important relationships
- Begin slowly building your resilience bank account
Beyond searching for – and trying to adopt –self-care suggestions, I’m finding silver linings through the “found time” resulting from some (thank goodness, not all) clients asking to reduce or delay their PR program and the overall economic slowdown in our country. The pause is affording me the time to tackle business processes and procedures that have been on the back burner for years.
Silver linings and helpful coping skills during COVID-19
These tips aren’t germane to PR and marketing and can be applied to your work, too:
Learn new technology and tech tips to make your business processes more efficient. I’m connecting with clients and collaborative partners via Zoom (who isn’t?), improving my Google Sheet and Smartsheet skills, and onboarding other “shareware.” I’m also learning Canva to create social media graphics. I’ve monitored such webinars as creating podcasts and leveraging the ever-growing intersection of owned and earned media.
Up your business development game, so you’re armed and ready to strike when the business climate improves. (The same advice works for anyone, whether furloughed, job hunting or simply looking to increase their own personal brand.) I’ve recently subscribed to a software platform that enables me to affordably create top-quality proposals, capabilities brochures and other docs – all with analytic capabilities so I can see what content “sticks” with prospects. I’ve also updated my website, launched an Instagram feed, contributed an opinion piece to the local daily, increased the frequency of my LinkedIn posts, and wrote thought leadership pieces.
Help others by sharing valuable information and joining community outreach efforts. As a PR professional, I receive breaking news alerts by government officials and community leaders throughout the business day and have been sharing that news across all of my social channels. I’ve also helped connect clients and colleagues to opportunities and services, from free safety gear to food banks to testing sites. Anyone with a Facebook account can share public affairs news, help assemble masks and other volunteer opportunities. Helping others in need is a proven strategy for lifting your spirits.
One day, we’ll have even more insights into the silver linings of this tragic chapter in world history. One day. One day at a time.
Jennifer Bisbee, APR, helms Bisbee and Company, a PR/marketing communications agency, and is PRCG’s Orlando and Tampa affiliate. She is fascinated by the intersection of digital media, communications, well-being and interpersonal relationships and is producing a documentary with these themes.