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Conquer the Chaos: Three Stress-Busting Tips

By Elizabeth Howell

Attention PR junkies, it’s time to stop squeezing that tiny foam replica of planet Earth. There are rational strategies to manage the mania that is public relations.

In an earlier post featured by Platform Magazine, PR = Satisfaction > Stress, Laura Rabushka brought to light that while public relations is a field that ranks high in satisfaction and flexibility, it is also highly stressful. Consequently, the position of public relations officer ranked as the eighth most stressful job of 2010 in a study conducted by

Who took home the prize for most stressful job of 2010? Firefighters. While these heroes put their lives in danger every day, it is arguable that PR representatives get put in some very heated situations of their own.

So, what can you do about it?

Richard Carlson, author of the national bestselling Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff series, provides 100 “simple ways to minimize stress and conflict while bringing out the best in yourself and others” in his book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff at Work.

I was required to read this book for my public relations campaigns class at The University of Alabama. I found Carlson’s wisdom to be extremely applicable to the challenges my group has faced thus far in planning our campaign. My favorite thing about Carlson’s guide to a calmer and more balanced work ethic is that he is up front in letting his readers know that there is no magic button for a peaceful workplace. The change must first come from within. By being proactive and following Carlson’s advice, I have seen results in both my productivity and morale.

Try my top three picks from Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff at Work to conquer the stress in your professional life:

1. Don’t Dramatize the Deadlines

PR professionals are constantly working under deadlines. Timing is key in this profession. Missing a deadline on a press release could keep your organization from being featured by top media sources. There goes your buzz . . . and possibly your job.

Fortunately, this tip teaches us to make the most of deadlines.

Carlson believes that usually the deadline is not the sole factor in the creation of stress.

“It has been my experience that complaining about deadlines, even if the complaints are justified, takes an enormous amount of mental energy, and more important to deadlines, time,” Carlson wrote. “The turmoil you go through commiserating with others or simply within your own head isn’t worth it. The added obsessive thinking about deadlines creates its own anxiety.”

Carlson suggests working toward your goal without the interference of negative mental energy. He advises, “See if you can notice how often you tend to worry, fret or complain about deadlines. Then, try to catch yourself in the act of doing so. When you do, gently remind yourself that your energy would be better spent else where.”

2. Make Peace With Chaos

Public relations is a whirlwind profession. Anything can happen at any time. Professionals have to decide how they will approach chaotic situations, which are bound to occur.

Carlson wrote, “I have learned to accept chaos as an inevitable part of life. I still don’t like it, and I do everything I can to avoid it and keep it to a minimum. Yet, by surrendering to it I have made peace with the fact that chaos is inevitable.”

3. Stop Anticipating Tiredness

Traveling for speaking engagements and promotional events, late hours in the office and the constant connection to the job through technology may leave public relations officers anticipating they will be tired each morning and dreading the slim amount sleep they will be receiving. It’s time to make some changes before stress begins to haunt your dreams.

Carlson advises, “Clearly, everyone needs a certain degree of rest. I’ve read a few articles suggesting that many, if not most of us, don’t get enough sleep. And if you’re tired, the best possible solution would probably be to try to get more sleep. . . . One thing I try never to do is to discuss my lack of sleep with other people. I’ve learned that when I do, I always feel more tired as a result.”

So, the next time you’re stressed and begin to contemplate calling your guru or doing child’s pose on your lunch break, remember “don’t sweat the small stuff at work.”


  1. Post comment

    There seems to be a theme to Carlson’s advice. He seems to be saying that we should accept the inevitable: stress, chaos and lack of sleep. All these things are a part of our field. However, we can learn to react to them in a way that lessens the negative impact. I find myself constantly thinking about how much or how little sleep I got the night before. And I do wake up sometimes expecting to be tired because of what time I went to bed the night before. I definitely plan on implementing the advice he gives in my own life.


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