Working in PR, life moves pretty fast. Much like my friends and colleagues who work in PR, my life also revolves around deadlines, email and mental checklists.
From the moment I wake up to just before I go to sleep, projects, ideas, deadlines and all the things are swirling around in my mind. And when I do give myself five minutes to pause, I often wonder “Where the heck did the last month go?” or “How is it already Thanksgiving?!” It’s crazy how fast life moves.
I first learned the importance of slowing down when I was in college.
It was a couple of weeks before finals my sophomore year of college. I was taking 18 credits (per usual), involved in three student organizations, volunteering, working 40 hours per week between two part-time jobs and aiming to get straight A’s on top of that. I remember it was a Thursday night at about 8 p.m. or so and I just broke down. I was in my car, had just pulled into my dorm’s parking lot from running errands and just started sobbing and breathing quickly. I couldn’t catch my breath. So I called my mom and cried hysterically because I couldn’t figure out how I was going to get it all done (you know, multiple papers and exams). It was at that time when I realized I just had too much on my plate and I needed to learn how to set priorities.
Since then, I made sure to be intentional about what I say “yes” to and how I spend my time. I’ve also had to let go of comparison, realize that I can’t do it all (or at least do it all well) and learn how to forgive myself (that’s still a work in progress). Oh, and not feel guilty for zoning out and watching TV after a busy day or taking a few hours to read a good book on the weekend.
I have a fairly high tolerance for stress, but there were moments in my life where I internalized it and struggled with it behind closed doors. It was about three months into my first agency job when I walked into my boss’ office to tell him that I just had too much on my plate and of course, being an emotional blob, I couldn’t hold back the tears. That’s when I learned the valuable lesson about speaking up, ASKING FOR HELP, and telling people I’m stressed BEFORE it snowballed into something bigger.
But see, I used to view “feeling stressed” as a weakness. I equated stress with failure. But man, was I wrong.
I soon learned the difference between “good stress” and “bad stress.” The majority of stress in our lives is often “good stress” like having prioritize deadlines, shopping for a new car, saving for the future, etc. While these aren’t always fun things in the moment, they are ultimately all good things.
Since learning to embrace the good stress in my life – I like to call stress “excitement” – it’s completely changed how I work and approach stressful situations. It’s helped me know that there will always be work to be done. It’s also helped me let go of being perfect and to just get the work done.
I’ve also learned the importance of creating time for myself and to work on my own personal growth. That means reading more books and writing for myself.
I’ve also been more intentional about how I use social media, which has even allowed me to strengthen my online presence. Instead of scrolling mindlessly throughout the day, I give myself my 30 minutes in the morning, a couple social media breaks throughout the day and then 30 minutes in the evening to get caught up on my personal accounts. That means I’m not scrolling while I’m waiting in line for my coffee or waiting for the bus. I’m present in the moment and allowing myself it sit with my thoughts or reflect on what I’m grateful for.
All of this said, I’ve been working on slowing down in a fast-paced career. I know that I will always be busy, but I have stopped using “busy” as an excuse. Thriving in this fast-paced world is all about time management and making priorities. I have picked a career where work is a BIG part of my life. It’s not something I can completely shut off when I leave the office. That’s why it’s important to embrace it while also creating time to slow down.
It’s been one of my goals to grow this conversation about slowing down in a fast-paced career, especially with those who work in PR and marketing. I’m always surprised by the number of people I’ve talked to who work in PR and marketing and hear about their stories of burn out. I want to find a way to change the conversation. I believe it is possible to work hard and thrive in a PR career without putting yourself in the hospital because of it. However, it’s going to take slowing down. We owe it to ourselves to slow down so we can thrive in all aspects of our lives.