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It’s safe to say that 2021 wasn’t quite the break we all wanted after 2020, and there’s a somber feel already going into 2022. Many of us are exhausted, burnt out and lost trying to identify what the future looks like. If that resonates with you, know that you’re not alone.
Unfortunately, many of us are forced to reckon with these feelings while still operating at full (even increased) modes. As marketers, we know all too well the importance of being plugged into trends and relevant conversations. But when the news cycle and timelines get to be too much, it’s a challenge to balance the ability to do well as a marketer and the ability to maintain your mental well-being.
You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your mental health at the expense of your work. But so often we’re told that the only true way to protect your sanity from the incessant negativity of social media and news is by “simply” unplugging. Cue laughter, right?
It’s possible to protect your mental health without unplugging and subjecting yourself to even more stress by wondering what you’re missing. Here’s how you can protect your mental health in 2022 while still maintaining your job as a marketer.
Audit your mental energy
Before knowing what you need to change, it’s important to take stock of what’s actually causing you stress and burnout. Ask yourself: What drains my mental energy? What causes me stress just thinking about it? What factors led to my lowest moments in 2021?
If it’s hard to think of these stressors in one session, make a note on your phone and add to it throughout the week. You might identify a source of stress and anxiety for you in real time—write it down. The goal is to notice and break down what’s leading you to these feelings.
Set realistic expectations for 2022
Once you’ve identified some of the sources of your stress, it’s time to make a plan of action. This, again, shouldn’t be a huge added task, just something to take action on the audit you’ve already done.
An important part of this plan of action is to set realistic expectations for how you could change the scenario to cause less stress. We’re not going to change things drastically overnight, but we can take steps to reduce the amount of negativity that enters our mental space.
The goal is to find ways to make your situation work for you in a way that’s sustainable, not perfect.
For example, let’s say you get stressed out every time you get a new email notification from work. You obviously don’t have the option to just ignore the email, but you do have a few options to change how it makes you feel.
You can turn the sound off of your notifications so you’re not jumping when you hear the ding of the email coming in. Or, you can keep them on but screen them. If someone important is messaging you with something urgent (say, the CEO with a press release that’s going out today), you can stop what you’re doing and check it. But if it’s something that’s not urgent, see if you can wait until a certain time to check the email on your terms.
In this example, we’ve made a clear course of action: if important or urgent, view. If not important or urgent, wait until you’re ready. We’ve also made this realistic: You’re not going to ignore emails entirely or turn off notifications, because that’s stressful in its own way.
The goal is to find ways to make your situation work for you in a way that’s sustainable, not perfect. Because at the end of the day, we’re looking for less stress—not more.
Outsource and automate
On the theme of less stress, it’s important to know your limits and when to offload something challenging. It’s OK to ask for help. It’s actually often less stressful to ask for help.
Find a therapist and schedule regular appointments. Delegate things at work when you can—if someone’s quicker, better and more interested in one of your tasks than you are, see if they’ll take it on.
Automate tasks when possible. Schedule out those reports. Turn that exhausting Zoom meeting into an email update. Remove that task you’ve been putting off for months that doesn’t really need to get done and, honestly, never will. Configure your technology and customize your notifications and apps in a way that works for you.
You don’t need to be a superhero. You don’t need to carry all this weight just because you feel the obligation to. By letting others help and investing in tools to offload your energy, you’ll be able to show up better for everyone around you.
Be kind to yourself
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, you’re not going to get it perfect. The problem with going into a new year with resolutions and goals is that people assume they need to change 100% or they’ve failed. That’s absolutely not true.
If you spend one week dealing with the areas that cause you stress, then notice you’re still stressed, don’t count yourself out. You can reset anytime you decide. You don’t have to overhaul your life overnight.
Remember: The goal is less stress—not more.
The ironic part about setting boundaries and routines to help your mental health is that it can stress you out even more. Suddenly you’re not just dealing with your day to day work, you’re also trying to find time to meditate and journal and reflect on your feelings. It can all feel exhausting.
So, before you go exhausting yourself trying to fix your exhaustion, stop and realize you’re not going to get it perfect. You’re probably going to hit a few more roadblocks before you get to a place where you feel content.
But that’s OK. That’s normal. You’re not trying to prove anything to anyone. You’ll know when you’ve made progress that feels right.
By taking these steps, you’ll be more able to craft a mental space that feels right to you in 2022. You certainly deserve it.