Mental wellbeing and resilience

I remember watching Felix Baumgartner’s skydrive to Earth from space in 2013 and admiring a number of different things about him – his bravery, that he didn’t know exactly what was up ahead and navigated through the challenge fearlessly, and ultimately his relief when it was all over. In many ways, there are parallels between his own experience and our own over the last 15 months – we didn’t know exactly what has been waiting for us up ahead as we’ve all navigated through the pandemic together, yet we’ve all done it with bravery, and we’re all beginning to breathe a little bit more deeply knowing that we might soon emerge from its most difficult impacts.

But while a skydive to Earth probably doesn’t feature on the to-do list for most of us, our own experience over the last 15 months has been equally difficult in the scale of the challenge, and we’ve all added many new and diverse items to our toolkit to help us navigate through it.

I was struck at 2021’s PRFest how often the subject of mental health came up in our conversations. Our industry has shown incredible flexibility in adapting to the changes and challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. But as many of have faced new and evolving concerns, we’d need Felix Baumgartner’s nerves of steel to be immune from its impact on our wellbeing.

Changing working patterns, balancing working lives with our home lives, and the move from face-to-face to virtual contact with our colleagues have all been factors which have influenced our wellbeing.

We often reflect on the skills that we’ve picked up in lockdown. For me, one of the most vital skills Covid-19 has spotlighted is how to manage our mental health. As PR professionals, we naturally navigate towards positive news stories, and it may not come instinctively to us to talk about how we’re feeling when things aren’t going so well. But the pandemic has shown us that our wellbeing isn’t just a nice to have, it’s a must have, and it will be vital that we sustain the skills we have picked up for managing our mental health in the years ahead.

What I’ve also learned is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to managing our mental health. I use exercise and meditation for balance, but I also enjoy heading outside with my camera to take photographs – the focus and drive it gives me, as well as the sense of satisfaction in seeing a successful photograph, all support me at times when I might be feeling peaks of anxiety or stress. But I also know just how important it has been for me to talk to my partner and my family when things haven’t been going so well, and their support has been vital in helping me to navigate through the choppy waters of the pandemic.

Whether you are agency staff, in-house, or freelance, I’d encourage everyone to remember what and who helped you over the last 15 months and remember the importance of the soft skills we have picked up through the pandemic. One of the lasting and sustainable legacies from this difficult time we have all been through together can be how it has taught us to manage our wellbeing. And as we begin to emerge from the challenging experience and into the years ahead, we can do so knowing that we will able to face challenges lying ahead with much more developed levels of resilience.  

Guest post by Dan Jones, PRFest steering group member and Communications and Public Affairs Officer, MDDUS