It isn’t a secret that your mood affects your day. We have all experienced how waking up with a positive or negative disposition can impact our interactions with co-workers and how you feel about the tasks you’re doing.
Your mental health should be a top priority when it comes to your overall wellness. The benefits of improving your wellbeing and mood can positively influence every aspect of your life. This is something we’ve continuously reinforced at K&P during the pandemic through wellness activities, constantly compiling and updating crucial resources, and ensuring everyone has the support networks they need.
As communications professionals, we handle difficult tasks with tight deadlines for a wide array of clients and personalities. Ensuring we are in a healthy state to manage this potentially high stress environment is important to our success and the quality of work we produce.
Breaking this down, let’s take a look at how attitudes, thoughts and behaviours influence our communications skills and what practitioners should consider when we’re feeling down.
Research on how attitudes affect work is generally sector and role-agnostic. However, we did find interesting pieces on the happiness and productivity of software engineers and the links between emotional intelligence, patient satisfaction, burnout and job satisfaction for doctors. For PR and communications, we can examine how our attitudes affect different tasks in our profession.
The attitudes we have towards writing, for example, influence its quality. The writing attitude of higher education students study found that only 16 per cent of the 346 students surveyed had a positive attitude towards writing and cited several studies that showed that those with positive attitudes performed significantly better than those with negative attitudes about writing. This research also found that having at least a moderate attitude towards writing led to more participation in writing tasks than those with a negative attitude. It was hypothesized that this willingness would lead to improvement.
An interesting note about this study: rural area students had more positive attitudes towards writing than urban area students. Maybe an argument for communications agencies moving out to the countryside instead of staying in cities? Anyone with me?
Our levels of stress also impact the performance of tasks, which is relevant considering how often PR shows up on lists of the most stressful jobs. Reactions to stress are important for personal reasons, but also to stay on top of client work during busy periods with tight deadlines.
The Yerkes-Dodson law models this relationship between stress and task performance. While it was originally developed in 1908, it has been updated over the years with new research and information. The model states that performance increases with stress up to a certain point and decreases when stress becomes excessive. A little bit of stress is okay and beneficial to getting great work done, but too much will be a detriment. Here’s an idea: try giving your in-laws a call when you’re about to start an assignment for a manageable dose of stress – maybe you’ll perform better!
You may have heard of a similar concept called the “flow state,” named in 1975 by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. It describes the times when someone becomes deeply focused and absorbed on something beyond the point of distraction—identifying that they’re “in the zone”. The high challenge level of a task and the high skill level of the person doing it are perfectly matched. This theory states three conditions that have to be met to achieve a flow state:
- You need to be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress.
- E.g., you will not get into the flow state drinking wine in the bathtub, unfortunately, unless you consider finishing your glass a high challenge goal.
- The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback.
- E.g., drinking wine in the bathtub has clear and immediate feedback, but this pertains more to being able to adjust your performance for maintaining the flow state rather than the sensation of feeling intoxicated.
- You must have a good balance between the perceived challenges of the task at hand and your own perceived skills. You must have confidence in one’s ability to complete the task at hand.
- E.g., this is not an endorsement to try and finish an entire bottle of wine in one sitting because you’re confident about it.
With these two theories considered together, it’s evident that our thoughts about the work we do, our own capabilities and any factors that could influence our confidence to successfully complete these tasks interact with one another to generate high or low performance. Developing our thoughts towards any of these will increase how effectively we communicate so we can adjust how we think about the challenge and our skill.
Now that we know how our attitudes and thoughts affect our mental state and our work, the next step is what we can actually do to adjust these through our behaviour.
Kaiser & Partners’ “Staying ahead of a mental health pandemic: improving mental well-being during COVID-19” blog provided a great resource near the beginning of the pandemic. It featured tips from our client, LifeWorks, about finding ways to feel better in the face of the uncertainty of COVID-19. The tips provided there, in addition to its advocacy for accessing professional and online resources for wellness, are still applicable today to help adjust our behaviours and influence our attitudes, thoughts and work:
- Make sure to schedule time for yourself throughout the day that reminds you why you love your home! Play a record, do stretches on your yoga mat or cozy up with your favourite book.
- Schedule a standing virtual lunch date with your friends. Physical distancing doesn’t mean that the weekly lunch you enjoyed with friends should come to an end! Grab your lunch, set up a digital call and vent about the day’s frustrations.
- Join a positive online community. Before we began quarantine, many of us found a strong sense of community by discussing our passions with likeminded individuals – such as at wine tastings for the wine lover, boutique shops for the fashion lover and auto shows for the car lover. Online discussion groups on social media platforms, like Facebook or Reddit, can help to regain that sense of community, all from the comfort of your own home.
- Take a break in a different space. The day’s frustrations can get the better of us, at one time or another. If you feel that you’re reaching your limit, go to a different space like your bedroom or couch, and take a breather. Scroll through Instagram, check out that sale, take that Buzzfeed quiz or just close your eyes. Whatever can take your mind off the causes of your stress will help you get back to the day with a fresh perspective.
So, perhaps that goal-free glass of wine in the bathtub may (occasionally) be just the right solution.