Racing to the end. How PR pros keep sane during the holidays

Marc RansfordThe calendar is winding down and it’s December. So, now life gets busier as shopping has picked up in intensity, and we find ourselves attending holiday parties with coworkers, decorating our homes for Christmas, and going through the closet to find a chic outfit for New
Year’s Eve celebrations.

At the same time, we are seeing the sunlight dwindle, the temperatures plunging, the sidewalks and highways get a bit slicker with snow and freezing rain, and we are reminded that work still needs to be done.

Yes, our clients and partners are still there. News releases, pitches, and those always necessary end-of-the-year reports have to be written, edited, designed, and published–even as we hang the stockings in the front office door (for those of us who have returned to that environment).

Without a doubt, it may be the holiday season, and Santa and his Elves will be closing in but our deadlines aren’t going away, and work still has to get done.

Simply, the stress is coming. But, in my life as a public relations pro for a certain Midwestern university in Muncie, Indiana, we would ask our counselors and subject matter experts how people should handle the often difficult expectations created by this seemingly joyful time of year.

Over the years, I’ve come up with a top 10 list (thanks to a certain famous alumnus from that university for coining that now-famous phrase):

10. Set realistic expectations and accept that no day in the office or holiday gathering is perfect.
9. Express your feelings. Write in a journal or talk to someone you trust.
8. Make a plan and structure your time. The clock still has 24 hours and the week only has seven days. We don’t get more time (remember Einstein’s theories?).
7. Reach out and connect to other people. Volunteer through your community or place of worship.
6. Watch your alcohol consumption at the office holiday parties.
5. Exercise. Yes, start an exercise program before everyone hits the gyms in January. Take a walk, do resistance training, or do yoga. This will help release endorphins in our brains.
4. Stick to your usual eating habits. Plan what you will eat before going to holiday gatherings so you don’t overconsume.
3. Make one list of all the professional accomplishments that you are proud of, and then create a list of your personal ones. Focus on the good. You probably had a better year than you remember — despite working in PR amidst a global pandemic.
2. Then take 2 minutes to make a list of the negative things that happened. Then crumple that list and toss it into the fireplace with the chestnuts. Simply, get over those negative moments. You had a good year. Learn from the past but don’t dwell on it.

And, No. 1. Most importantly, focus on your mental health. Every counselor I worked with talked about the holiday blues and how people with feelings of depression lasting more than two weeks to seek professional attention. Symptoms include a disturbance in sleeping or eating, an inability to concentrate, and feeling hopeless and worthless.

On the last day in the office or after that last zoom call from home in 2021, thank your clients and colleagues with a handshake or an elbow bump, a few kind words, a thoughtful handwritten note, or simply a smile. But most importantly, thank yourself and allow time to enjoy the satisfaction for your important work you do behind the scenes.

Marc Ransford is the founder of MR Public Relations, an independent strategic communications company based in Indianapolis, and is the media relations coordinator for Indianapolis Public Schools.