To Navigate the Year Ahead, Accept the Bad with the Good

by Brendan Middleton, PRSA-NJ Board Member
As featured in PRSA Strategies & Tactics

During the tumultuous two years since the onset of the pandemic, we’ve all wanted to turn off our devices and take a breather from the news at times.

In today’s era of “doom-scrolling,” we skim headlines and brace ourselves for alerts of new coronavirus variants, rising case numbers and the latest partisan political bickering. It’s no wonder that many experts advise — in the interest of preserving our mental health — that we take periodic breaks from news and social media.

However, stepping away from the news isn’t easy for those of us in the communications profession. We can’t forgo our responsibilities to clients and employers who count on us to keep our thumbs on the planet’s pulse. Just as a trauma surgeon wouldn’t abandon a patient on the operating table, we have an obligation to stay tethered to the challenging realities of the world around us, like it or not.

But there are ways to stay abreast of the news without letting it overwhelm us.

Being stressed won’t fix the problem.

I’ll never forget a lesson I learned a decade ago, the day after Hurricane Sandy battered the Eastern Seaboard. Driving to the office, I navigated around fallen trees and downed power lines on the streets. I worked in corporate PR at the time, so my first priority was to help our leadership team communicate with our employees and customer base.

But when I reached the office, I learned that our internet services were down, with no hope of being restored any time soon. While you can practically run an entire business from a smartphone these days, the iPhones and tablets of that era weren’t quite as sophisticated — and we were also dealing with widespread cellular outages. For the time being, we didn’t have a way to update our website or send out mass email alerts. Even making outgoing phone calls would be difficult.

Amid this storm, however, our CEO was surprisingly calm. Sitting back in his chair, he grinned and told me: “It is what it is.” The expression was clichéd, but he was right. “Getting stressed out won’t fix the situation any faster; it will only make us more upset,” he said, looking unflustered. “We need to accept things as they are and do our best to deal with it.”

I have since embraced that philosophy as one of my mantras. Psychology students may be familiar with the concept of radical acceptance, which says that we should avoid denial and accept the reality of each circumstance as it arises, even when we don’t like or agree with it.

We all want our own version of a better world and a brighter tomorrow. Life can be painful and unfair, and we should make our best effort to improve our situations whenever we can. But there will always be things we cannot change.

Great peace and serenity can be found in accepting that bad stuff happens sometimes. We can choose to let it conquer us, or we can choose to march forward — to find success and happiness, anyway. That’s the choice I’ll keep making.

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