Phase II: How to Move From Survive To Thrive

Technically, it has been more than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

But it has felt like one long day.

Sure, the dates have changed along with everything else. And, yes, from time to time, we’ve taken naps. But there always has been something off-kilter.

Quarantine, lockdown, food rationing, headlines about death and dying continuously splashed across 400 cable channels, armed guards at supermarkets and cancelled family holidays can have an effect even on the most “glass-full” perspective.

At a recent PRSA NJ Senior Pros “Shoot The Breeze” virtual roundtable that focused on how to thrive in the current climate, the discussion turned to the root cause that has kept PR and communications professionals in survival mode: the lack of structure.

When the outbreak started, we quickly transitioned from our work office to our home office and learned how to “Zoom” six times a day. And lost, in the move, was our ability to separate work from play.

Moderator Jon Goldberg of Reputation Architects says people felt a sense of urgency from the onset of the pandemic, driven by emotion. And that fight-or-flight response will linger until practitioners intentionally change their behavior.

“It doesn’t have to be one long day,” says Goldberg, who recently wrote about how to deal with crisis stress. “Draw some fences around your life so you’re not working continuously. Give yourself permission to stop and focus on your life.”

Goldberg has started creating new daily rituals to add a greater sense of control over his life. He downloaded a meditation app, purchased exercise equipment, turned down more business that wasn’t a good fit than ever before and started a “Seinfeld calendar” to visually reinforce good habits like daily exercise and writing. “The more days in a row you do something, the more motivated you become to keep the streak going,” he adds. “If you miss a day, forgive yourself and move on. I live by the motto ‘never miss twice.’”

Pam Golden, founder of GLA Communications, found herself eating breakfast and lunch in her home office to keep pace with her client workload, which is typically extra intense in Q4.

Today, she is eating her meals at the kitchen table and making time for a walk each day—maybe even two, thanks to the warmer weather. “For me, it was about putting in a better structure for my personal life,” says Golden, who assists with the successful PRSA NJ Senior Pros events. “It’s about building in some personal time and giving myself permission to take a call from a friend,” she says.

Joanna Rosenthal, who is principal at Optim Communications LLC, has started waking up at 6 a.m. instead of 6:45 a.m. to add some time for herself amid the pandemic. The early start allows her to grab a cup of coffee and exercise.

Since she recently moved to New Jersey from the West Coast, Rosenthal has started getting involved with industry groups, such as PRSA NJ, to build new relationships with fellow practitioners and take advantage of professional development opportunities. “These are things that I may have not prioritized in the past,” she says.

Meghan Gross, who is senior vice president at public relations agency Golin, uses a technique that she calls “reverse journaling” to provide structure for the next day. About midway through the pandemic, she noticed that she wasn’t as creative, and her decision-making wasn’t as sharp.

So she tried a tactic that she had previously discussed with Senior Pros Chair Ken Jacobs of Jacobs Consulting & Executive Coaching.

Here’s how it works: At the end of the day, she spends a few minutes thinking about the top 3 to 4 items for tomorrow, and then she briefly writes down how she will manage each event. It’s less about to-dos and more about her approach. “I try to create habits and routines to free up space for creativity in my head,” she says.

Jacobs says PR and communications practitioners have not properly used their No. 1 resource throughout the pandemic—time. “We prioritize our money, cars, stocks and IRAs but not ourselves,” he says. “We need to give ourselves time to think. Rethink you day and your resource of time. Think about quality, not quantity. Take control of your calendar. Put back 15 minutes between meetings. The quality that you bring to each interaction will be greater.”

Jacobs, who holds several credentials as an executive coach, recommends that each practitioner create their own “Thrive Plan” that would break any residual “fight-or-flight” response from quarantine and guide them to the next level in their career. “If I thrive, what would it look like?” he asks. “It’s about being intentional. What if this is the year you really thrive?”

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