20+ digital marketing pros reveal their industry stressors

Foreword by Hannah Butcher

Last week I was writing a list of all my marketing freelance tasks to save myself from the constant chattering of my mind. Getting it out on paper gives me some relief from the stress of thinking about ALL THE THINGS, and having to make a conscious effort to remember them. As I put pen to paper (yes, I’m old school) I suddenly thought:

“Wouldn’t it be great to find out what other people find stressful about working in digital marketing?”

And then I suddenly had another project to add to my list.

I decided that I’d be bold, and approach some of the industry’s thought leaders, speakers, and community champions. I wanted to know the biggest sources of stress from the influencers of SEO, PPC, and other similar acronyms. You know, the ones who seem like they’ve got their shit together.

The replies started coming back to me; I saw common themes:

  • Low self esteem
  • The pressure to always be connected
  • Inequality
  • Fears about income
  • Online trolls
  • Work/life balance
  • Skill gaps
  • Working environments
  • Perfectionism

All such familiar negative thoughts that I often have myself, or have done in the past. And if these stories spoke to me so strongly, I can only assume that you’ll find them fascinating too. As far as unwelcome stressors go, it’s strangely comforting to know that your role models experience some of the same thoughts and emotions.

And right now, stress is often unavoidable. The news is full of sadness, worry and anger, and our usual way of working has been thrown out of the window for an unknown amount of time.

If you’re having a shitty day, just remember that someone out there is thinking of you. It may even be Barry Schwartz.

“What makes me super sad to see is when our colleagues and friends are out of a job or their business is suffering financially because of the economic downturn.  I just wish everyone was able to come through this pandemic without physical, financial or emotional harm – but I know that is a big ask.” 

– Barry Schwartz – https://twitter.com/rustybrick

You may also find comfort in these words from John Mueller, who features again within the main contributions below.

“Life is weird, sometimes the run uphill is followed by another hill, sometimes it’s followed by an easy stretch, sometimes you trip over your own feet, sometimes you get tripped by others, sometimes you jump over a puddle with power, sometimes you stomp into it instead, and sometimes you have to slow down in order to become stronger and faster.

It’s all just weird sometimes, especially nowadays, but, so far at least, it’s always gotten better again.”

– John Mueller – https://twitter.com/JohnMu

From this point in, the words you read will not be mine.

The community has spoken to try and help normalise similar conversations surrounding stress and mental health. Read on, and remember: you are not alone <3.

Aleyda Solis

International SEO Consultant
Founder at Orainti
https://twitter.com/aleyda

What do you find stressful?

In general there are two in my case:

As I’m an SEO consultant I have the responsibility to make results happen with my clients and move forward as expected in the SEO process. So whenever the process is not moving forward as expected, for whatever reason, is stressful for me.

It’s the reason why having a smooth communication, great coordination, proactive monitoring system in place is critical; to be able to stay on top and identify challenges as soon as possible to take action.

Then another stress factor as an SEO comes when having to be always updated, as the search landscape is always changing and is critical to do it so. This was one of my main motivations to retake my #SEOFOMO newsletter in which I send a weekly summary of the latest news, resources, guides in SEO etc., since I thought the same would happen to other SEOs too.

And how do you relax?

In normal times, I make the most out of my remote work setting and travel while working, so I take a bit of time to explore anywhere I am … I love it and is relaxing for me to disconnect too. Then I also play video games with the Nintendo Switch, which I’ve also to help me a lot to disconnect. Finally, during the lockdown I also retook the habit to read fiction -which I hadn’t done in a while-, especially science fiction books.

Alina Ghost

Head of SEO at Amara
Podcast host at SEO with Mrs Ghost
https://twitter.com/MrsAlinaGhost

What do you find stressful?

My pain point is Google changing the ball-park. When a core algorithm update lands I find it stressful because yes, if you’ve done everything that Google sets out in the guidelines then you’re fine… BUT a) a company may take a while to implement something you’ve recommended and haven’t done so in time b) there’s something historical that wasn’t an issue but now is c) the site’s authority was determined by other sites that now aren’t ‘valued’ by the search engine and therefore your value goes down. What’s the most frustrating is when the next algorithm update makes changes again, it changed back to what it was, effectively losing you /that business traffic & money (and sleep) that you should have had in between that time.

And how do you relax?

I relax by walking my dog and being with nature. I also enjoy crafts and DIY projects where I can get hands-on, like knitting and furniture makeovers. These simple things keep me healthy both physically and mentally.

Andi Jarvis

What do you find stressful?

Shitty payments processes from big companies. “We’ve got millions so we’ll make you wait 60 days for your payment”.

And how do you relax?

Walking. It’s a super power. Get out and clear your head, leave the phone at home even you do.

Andrew Cock-Starkey

SEO Consultant at Optimisey
https://twitter.com/Optimisey

What do you find stressful?

Stress is a weird one. Like, I imagine, a lot of people I don’t think of me as a ‘stressed’ person. Quite the opposite in fact. Former bosses have criticised me for being “too laid back” at times, as I like to digest things before I respond. I mean, I do SEO not paediatric open heart surgery. How stressful can it be?

But then I find myself really overreacting to minor things at home or feeling utterly exhausted even though I’ve been sat at my desk all day – and I realise I’m just as stressed as the next person. So what do I find stressful? I guess trying to fit it all in.

Keeping existing clients happy (what if they leave?); finding new clients (but not too many, I’m so busy!); what about the kids (they want my time not my money… but the mortgage wants my money…); and my wife (am I being a good husband? How do I make time for us but also time for her to do her thing?); I should be networking/speaking/blogging more (but where do I find the time for that?); I need to listen to more podcasts/read more/do original research (but which ones and when?).

ALL. THE. THINGS.
It can feel like a LOT.

I saw Annie Brown (https://hellomypa.co.uk/) do a great talk on this. I paraphrase but broadly: ‘Work/life balance’ is a myth or, at best, mislabelled. It’s about a work/life blend. Sometimes it needs a little more of this, other times a bit less of this but more of that.

Finding your own blend and adapting it as you go is hard too. But I’m working on it… when I have time!

Areej AbuAli

SEO Manager at Zoopla
Founder of Women in Tech SEO
https://twitter.com/areej_abuali

What do you find stressful?

The thing that I find most exciting and most stressful at the same time is keeping up with the industry’s fast pace. There’s always something new happening: new guidelines, algorithm updates, tool releases, talks and events, so many things that we constantly have to catch up with. It’s easy to feel left behind and that there’s far too much you don’t know and you need to learn. In an industry with lots of smart people, it’s easy to feel that you’re not good enough and that can feel incredibly stressful and overwhelming. 

And how do you relax?

I talk to people I love and trust about how I feel. When I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I talk it out. It makes a massive difference to hear what you’re feeling come out in words. Music also helps, especially if you’re working on a difficult project, sometimes all you need is the *right* song to get things going!

Arianne Donoghue

Founder at Tempest Marketing
https://twitter.com/ArianneDonoghue

What do you find stressful?

Stressors in the digital industry…Ooof where do I start? I remember hearing in a session at BrightonSEO last year that digital is one of the most stressful industries to be in for a few reasons (up there with law, finance and medicine).

No doubt a reason why many of us love the industry, the fact that there’s always something new to learn can be a huge stressor. It makes it hard to take time off, there’s the worry of missing something that could be impactful to our clients – I always feel like there’s more to be learning. There’s also that feeling that you should be at the forefront of any changes, leading the charge, helping to educate others. Sometimes it can be exhausting.

One of the great things about working in digital is that we can do our jobs from basically anywhere. But it’s also a huge stressor because it can be incredibly hard to switch off. I’ve lost count of the amount of evenings, or weekends when I get sucked into work because I see or think of something and it’s all too easy to pick up my laptop and get started. Taking a proper holiday can be really hard. Truly switching off can be almost impossible – especially now I run my own business.

Being different. This is the biggest one for me, and it manifests in a few different ways. Identifying as female – while things are getting better in terms of the gender balance in our industry, there’s still a way to go and we need to address diversity in it’s many forms. So often I have been the “only” – the only woman on a panel or a webinar, the only woman in a leadership team, and so on.

This then leads to pressure – pressure to be a good standard bearer for other women, pressure to do a better job than others, because if I don’t, I’m used as an example of why women shouldn’t be given those opportunities, and pressure to educate – to call people out on their biases, to explain why certain things aren’t ok, and to be the one to help drive a company or team to where it wants to get to. It’s exhausting.

Being neurodiverse. I’m an autistic introvert, and so many times I have questioned whether I’m in the right career, or whether the return is worth the effort it takes to function in an industry that is, in many ways, fundamentally incompatible with me and how I’m wired. Being autistic means I have different wiring to an “average” person. I move through and experience the world differently and be can be extremely affected by things that other people may not think twice about. Noise or light levels, my personal space, the clothes I’m wearing – all of these things are triggers that can very easily lead to sensory overload for someone like me. An open-plan office is like hell-on-Earth to me, as it represents everything I struggle with crammed into a single location.

Being introverted doesn’t help either, as I recharge in those times when I can be alone. This means that as much as I can sometimes enjoy going to industry events, they are incredibly exhausting. After a conference such as BrightonSEO, I have to stay home, in the dark and quiet for at least a couple of days to let my batteries recharge.

Many, (many!) times I’ve questioned why I’ve chosen this industry, or why I decided to push myself to speak on stage, to go to events, to do things that are naturally in conflict with my default state. Part of it is wanting to fit in, to add value, to not miss out because I’m different. But also wanting to educate and challenge the stereotypes that people may have of those on the spectrum (I’ve lost count of the times that people tell me that I appear “so normal”).

My being neurodiverse also creates stressors in the workplace. I’ve had some really good career experiences and some really bad ones, particularly relating to my times working in agencies – in large because I’m about as subtle as a brick and cannot “play the game”. Often clients and colleagues appreciate my different perspective, my lack of guile and the fact I’m driven by principles and fairness. Other times, companies I’ve worked for claim to value those traits, but when I refuse to lie to clients, or want to challenge the established order, or communicate in my direct style, it leads to conflict.

In my experience, companies like the IDEA of people like us in their businesses (let’s harness the power of the neurodiverse!), but the reality can be different as there need to be adjustments, or thought given in order to make it successful. It’s been a huge driver to me setting up on my own, so I can be more selective about who I work with, and I can refuse to work in ways that I’m not comfortable with. Obviously running a business is a huge stressor on its own, but so far has been worth the effort.

What can we do about it?

I would love for there to be more discussion about the things that make us different, and how that difference augments and improves things. I’ve tried to talk a lot about mental health and the challenges that many of us face in this area, as I know I’m not the only one, but we as an industry seem to be reluctant to talk about the issues that our work can cause. If we did, it’d lead to greater empathy, understanding and maybe a much needed shift in how we work and the traits we value in those around us. People can be afraid to have a dissenting opinion, or go against the norm, as our industry can have a bit of a mob mentality which can make it incredibly stressful for those new to the industry to share their ideas, or try and add value. If I’m often scared to speak up, I can’t imagine how others must feel.

Many of these stressors are things we could and should tackle as an industry, to make it more welcoming and accessible to those who are different, and to those who may not want (or may not be able) to work 50+ hours a week. The idea of “hustle” culture needs to die as it’s toxic and doesn’t lead us anywhere good. Ultimately, while I’m very grateful for the industry and everything it’s given me, it’s also asked for (and in some cases cost me) a lot – and I’m not sure I’d put myself through it all again, given what I know now, unless we change the industry for the better.

Charlie Williams

Founder at Chopped Digital
https://twitter.com/pagesauce

What do you find stressful?

There are several aspects of working in SEO that make the job an incubator for stress (at times). First is the fact that you’re in constant competition – for rankings, for traffic, for conversions. SEO is highly competitive by its nature. And we don’t see the rules that decide the winner.

That leads to the second major stressor. As an agency or consultant, you’re on a countdown to getting fired. The pressure to keep churning work and keep clients happy is massive.

This ties to what I see as the biggest cause of stress – the feeling of being behind everyone else. No matter how much better it is to specialise, there are so many facets to SEO it can overwhelming trying to understand it all. There are mountains of talks, articles and courses to absorb. It’s great that SEO is constantly evolving and people share what they do. But one jump on social media or on an industry email and you’re faced with new skills snd techniques that can make you feel inadequate if you don’t have rock-solid confidence.

And how do you relax?

I like to engage in stuff that takes my mind of work and keep me in the present – family, films and especially cooking. What I love is that in the kitchen you start a job, finish it and see the results, all in one go. That’s very different from many parts of working online. I’ve always loved music – and today podcasts as well – and listening to something, especially when cooking is a great way to get me out of my head.

Hannah Thorpe

Business Director at Found
https://twitter.com/hannahjthorpe

What do you find stressful?

The most stressful thing for me is probably the perception that other people in the industry have; even sat here trying to write about what stresses me out, is stressing me out! I find that there are some individuals in the digital space that can be quick to tell people they’re wrong, whether that’s publicly arguing with them on their opinion or the private groups with screenshots of ‘wrong’ things that people have said.

There’s SO much to know or learn in the digital space, that even as someone who is often considered an ‘expert’ I find that I might not know enough to put all the pieces together on a topic. It sometimes can feel like it’s overwhelming sharing a thought or half-formed idea at risk of someone shooting you down.

And how do you relax?

Notoriously I struggle to relax. I’ve had team members tell me to take days off or tell me that they don’t want to work all the hours I do and ‘turn into me’ so I find switching off and getting over those mental health struggles really hard.

I would say the most relaxing time for me is turning off my phone, my laptop and all technology and just reading a good book – preferably something fiction and a bit of a thriller to take my mind off things completely.

When I can’t do that because I’m too stressed or too anxious to switch off, then I really rely on my friends who understand the space I work in to be there for me. They’re the best at grabbing a drink (or a virtual hangout) to just talk through the issue, what’s going on and then eventually to make me laugh about something completely irrelevant.

James Brockbank

MD at Digitaloft
https://twitter.com/BrockbankJames

What do you find stressful?

To me, the biggest cause of stress is often the expectation to always be available. In an always-connected world, there’s an expectation that we should always be by our phones, on our emails and able to respond to communication within minutes, as well as (now more so than ever) that we should be able to ‘jump on a quick call’ at all times.

Certainly in my role, rapid responses to non-urgent communication can massively disrupt what is almost always a busy day anyway. That said, clients and colleagues all deserve time to respond to queries – it’s a balancing act. 

And how do you relax?

The way I’ve dealt with this (huge shout out to Kirsty Hulse for working through some of these things with me over the past few months) is to block out usually 2 days per week that are solid focus days. I won’t book client calls on these days and make it known which days I am available, as well as to expect a delay in responses on these.

It means I get at least 2 days of solid focus each week without interruption; making the time way more productive and less stressful. It means I’m able to complete tasks I need to get done knowing that there’s no one expecting an urgent reply – it’s all about clear communication and planning the week the way that best works for you.

Personally, I’d prefer to focus on a task start to finish – and by making that known, it helps to manage expectations as to when I am and aren’t available.

Jill Quick

Co-founder at The Coloring In Department
https://twitter.com/jillquick

What do you find stressful?

My most stressful thing in the industry is likely not just for the digital marketing industry, but working as a whole. I have found it really hard to balance the working and mum thing. Feeling guilty for working, or for not being with my kids when I am away for work. Then if I am ‘off work’ I feel guilty for not working and making money.

I have also found that even though I enjoy doing webinars and speaking gigs, the anxiety it brings is hard. I struggle with it, and even went for some help from a professional this year which has helped a lot. It prob doesn’t help that whilst people are very supportive, there are some that take to the keyboard or feedback forms with feedback that is not helpful and damaging to your self-esteem.

And how do you relax?

I have started to do daily gratitude with an app, and I use the phrase ‘I get to’ instead of ‘I have to’ which has helped put things in perspective. I have also been reading Brene Brown and her work around being vulnerable . This has helped me shift the thoughts from people who are not really meaning well, so I can focus on opinions that matter and that are ‘in the area with me’.

I am also trying – emphasis on trying – to do something for me each day where I move. Trying to do yoga *I am shit at it, or do a work out or run; more so I can just have 20 minutes to myself.

I have also started using the Positive Planner, so each day I write out my intentions and then spend some time before I go to sleep to write down my grateful stuff… I then sleep with Headspace white noise so I can shut my brain off and that helps me turn off so I don’t just lie there over thinking and getting that horrible whoosh feeling in my tummy

John Mueller

Webmaster Trends Analyst
https://twitter.com/JohnMu

What do you find stressful?

In general, my source of stress comes from… me. I don’t find it specific to the industry. Usually it’s from work I’ve committed to doing within a certain period of time but which I struggle to get done.

Often it’s something important (for whatever reasons), that others rely on. For example, a presentation or document that’s time-critical. Sometimes, the more important or deadline’y it is, the more I put it off (increasing the stress).

In the past, I noticed that not only was I increasing the stress by reducing the amount of time available, but I’d also increase the stress just by realizing that I was procrastinating – double-extra-stress. Thank you, John, extra stress on top of stress, let me lose more sleep over that; just what I need.

With all the challenges in 2020, I have noticed that I often need much longer to do basic things, that I have a significant mental overhead which slows everything down. For time-critical tasks, that’s even more stress on top.

I still haven’t gotten better at not committing to things. I always tell people it’s fine to say “no,” but I struggle doing that myself. Sometimes I can, sometimes not; or maybe it’s that I just don’t want to say “no” :).

The thing I’ve gotten better at in recent years is understanding and accepting. I know I have these tendencies, I know everything in 2020 is much slower. I no longer lose (as much) sleep over recognizing my procrastination, and I can work out the minimal time I really need to get things done on time. Sometimes I can even get parts done early. It’s the same amount of work, in the same time, just with fewer self-made mental blocks along the way.

The other thing that has helped me, is to recognize non-critical things and either skip them, delegate them, or pick one of several equal options (if the choices appear equal, any one of them can be made into the right one, as long as you make a selection).

For things to skip, I found the “circle of control” mindset useful – I can’t change the weather, so it’s no use getting upset about it – sometimes I have to put on the “IDGAF-cap” and tell myself I can’t solve this problem now, so I shouldn’t spend my energy on it. It gets a bit blurry with things you may be able to influence in subtle ways though (e.g. maybe I could influence the weather by finding ways to work against climate change?).

And how do you relax?

For me, the best way to deal with stress is daily high-intensity cardio exercise. I started running again several years ago and it completely changed the effect of stress for me. “I don’t have any time; I think I’ll go running for an hour” seems counter-intuitive, but I’ve found it works wonders for me.

Maybe that’s something obvious to others? I’m not particularly great at it, or fast. I don’t bother with training plans, but I also push every day and don’t take it easy. Having clear metrics (time for my usual route) makes it easy to see changes over time: there are good days, there are bad days. There’s no use being upset about bad days (and it makes it easier for me to realize that maybe the other part of the day will be a struggle, which may be useless to be upset about too).

It mirrors a lot of the rest of the day, the “life of stress”: there are good days, there are bad ones, there are days I don’t get enough sleep and struggle through, there are days with bad weather, there are days with exceptions like business trips or vacation. When I see that I can’t find the rhythm while running, I find it much easier to accept it when other parts of the day are also a struggle, and I find it easier to tell myself that tomorrow may be different, or maybe next week, or maybe next month (or nowadays, … next year? o_o).

I’m sure the running (or cycling, which I started a while back) also does something fancy chemically in your head; at least for me it clears out my thoughts. It often lets me work out a strategy for something that was otherwise stressful, or come up with weird proverbs like “when the going gets tough, take small steps” which can keep me mentally busy until I get home. At any rate, I’ve found that the time I spend running is more than compensated by more productivity, or less procrastination perhaps, overall.

Apart from the exercise in the morning (I always try to do it early since everything gets harder for me to plan if I defer it to later in the day), I’ve started going on long’ish walks in the afternoon to get some fresh air before the evening meeting marathon. Walking lets me listen to ebooks (I find it hard to concentrate on voice while running; usually I just listen to high-bpm music instead), I’ve been listening to Sasha Sagan’s book on rituals. Combined with walking, it’s quite relaxing, takes me away from the technical world, and has become a ritual of its own (I think I’m on the 4th listen now).

I don’t know how much of this is useful or interesting to others, but it is what it is. Perhaps someone will see that someone else struggles with similar problems, or notice that what works for one person doesn’t work for others :).

Kim Dewe

Head of SEO at Blue Array
https://twitter.com/kimdewe

What do you find stressful?

There are some industry-agnostic things which I could mention – but specific to digital marketing, I’ve always struggled with feeling invalidated if I’m not pursuing something that feels pioneering or innovative.

I’m not attempting to win a Nobel prize but it’s incredibly satisfying to feel as though you’re contributing something new and insightful.

And how do you relax?

Not mutually exclusive, but often to unwind I’ll disconnect from anything that will prompt feelings of work-induced anxiety like business-acumen self-help books and podcasts, and instead I’ll focus on things I can immediately get a grip on. More recently, this has been mindful running, studying and sometimes, just watching a movie or Netflix.

I used to think I needed to be “always-on” but this isn’t true at all – it’s healthy to switch off.

Lily Ray

SEO Director at Path Interactive
https://twitter.com/lilyraynyc

What do you find stressful?

The most stressful part about working as an SEO professional stems from clients wanting SEO to generate results much more quickly than it does. Even though the client might claim to believe that “SEO takes time,” during the initial phases of an engagement, it occasionally leads to distrust if the client doesn’t see immediate results, and begins to question the process.

The best way to handle this stress is to stay the course and try to build trust with the client. Focus first on any immediate opportunities that can move the needle quickly, like technical problems that are relatively easy to fix but can have a big impact. Share case studies with the client to show how similar strategies you have implemented for other clients have led to improvements, and how long that process took to show results.

And how do you relax?

Besides dealing with clients, it’s really important to come to work in a good head space to be able to do good work. Taking time off every day to do something fun or healthy, such as going on a run or spending time with a friend, is really important for mentally “detoxing” and not dwelling on the stress and anxiety stemming from your work.

I especially like to spend an hour or so a day doing some type of exercise, as this helps me feel physically recharged and prepared to take on each day.

Luke Carthy

eCommerce Consultant at Luke Carthy
https://twitter.com/MrLukeCarthy

What do you find stressful?

I think it’s the pressure to keep at the top of your game. You’ve got to be a dev now, and be a great people person, and be a data analyst, etc etc. In reality, being great at just a handle of things is often much better than being good at many.

And how do you relax?

To relax? Music and detaching from the Internet. Just living your live outside of a digital world for a while really helps.

Mark Scully

Founder of Learn Inbound
https://twitter.com/ScullyMark

What do you find stressful?

As much as I love being active in the digital marketing community, I can’t help but feel a degree of impostor syndrome each time I scroll down through my feed. It’s now more common than ever for people to share results they’ve achieved for a client (insert accompanying graph), books they’ve read, podcasts they’re listening to, a course they’ve completed, or a new side project that’s generating some remarkable results.

And if you’re brave enough to put yourself out there, the community can be a tough place to be at times with people just waiting to take a shot at you if they disagree with your opinion. Social media can be an amazing way to build industry knowledge and connections, but it’s not the easiest place to be at times if you’re already struggling with low self-esteem issues.

And how do you relax?

Lately, I’ve been getting back into gaming as I’ve found it to be a great way to detach myself from work-related stress. It keeps my mind active and allows me to catch up with people who I haven’t spoken to in some time.

I still binge-watch an occasional Netflix series, force myself to exercise and get outside, but gaming is something I always find time for most days.

Niki Mosier

Head of SEO at Two Octobers
https://twitter.com/nikers85

What do you find stressful?

I think one of the most stressful things for me is trying to stay on top of everything shared on Twitter and trying to find the time to test out what people share. There just isn’t enough time in the day.

And how do you relax?

To force myself to relax, I love to get away to the mountains to camp and fish and turn off my phone.

Phil Nottingham

Brand and Marketing Strategist at Wistia
https://twitter.com/philnottingham

What do you find stressful?

For me, the most stressful thing about working in the marketing industry is the requirement to understand social media, and spend a lot of time on the various social platforms. There are plenty of studies now which show the negative impact spending a great deal of time or energy on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can have on one’s mental health – including decreasing attention spans, developing dopamine addictions, and lowering self-esteem; but also, often social media just isn’t a very nice place to be, especially in a professional context.

It’s a world where people will leave cruel, anonymous comments in response to anything and everything a business might publish. It’s a world in which silence is viewed as failure, while the primary means of generating noise is to court controversy.

It’s a world where one post that sits against the prevailing winds of opinion that day, however correct or well-intentioned, will result in unrelenting backlash from an unforgiving mob – often causing reputational damage to businesses and individuals losing their jobs. Especially in a fractious period where the news is constant, and constantly grim – needing to expend energy there really takes an emotional toll.

And how do you relax?

To balance things out and find my equilibrium, I set aside time each afternoon for some yoga, running and listening to some great classical music. I have yet to find a feeling of stress which cannot be at least partially assuaged by a bit of Mahler or Rachmaninov. 

Sean Butcher

COO at Blue Array
https://twitter.com/SeanButcher

What do you find stressful?

Achieving a healthy work-life balance is really important to me to avoid high and ongoing stress; if I stay switched on for too long I start to underperform, lose focus and eventually, suffer with a low mood.

Yet, we work in an industry (particularly agency-side) where presenteeism is a real issue. There’s a deep-rooted expectation to work long hours, or at least be seen to be doing so. I’m personally a big advocate for changing these expectations, cutting down on presenteeism and trusting people to produce based on what works for them and their lifestyle.

For me, working excessively does more harm than good, to my mind and to my relationships. I’ve found ways to be more productive with my time, for example, training my mind to focus through meditation, and reducing distractions, such as setting periods of ‘deep work’ time in my day that cannot be interrupted by meetings, Slack or email.

And how do you relax?

For me, like many, I had also found myself mindlessly scrolling through my phone and social media at the slightest hint of stress, boredom or encountering something challenging, so I try to switch off from social media as much as possible. Not bombarding myself with endless news and people’s opinions allows me to reduce stress and keep my mind far more focused on the things that matter.

I believe that you are what you focus on. If you spend a lot of time on social media then your mind will largely be overridden with negative news and hateful opinions. Instead, I’ve tried to spend far more of my time reading books and trying to self-improve. I also try to meditate on a daily basis, which I’ve found not only improves my ability to focus, but also uncovers an extraordinary amount of creative thoughts and ideas which I then try to record after my session to implement within my day.

Shannon McGuirk

Head of PR & Content at Aira
https://twitter.com/ShannonMcGuirk_

What do you find stressful?

The thing I find most stressful on an industry level at the moment has to be social media, specifically Twitter. SEO Twitter has a reputation and some pretty bad habits; we can do better. I’ve found myself logging out at points over recent months and worrying about the impact of tweets and behaviours on my own team’s mental health.

I’ve got no doubt the news agenda also contributes to these feelings during this really tough time. So let’s lift each other up no matter of a persons gender or skin colour, share wins as well as fails, and allow the next generation to come through whilst creating an inclusive community.

And how do you relax?

I’m one of those people that operate at full speed 99% of the time and my mind is always onto the next thing so switching off can be hard sometimes.

Living with a PT means my main outlet is working out. You can only focus on what you’re doing in that moment so it’s good for helping with sleep and those lovely little endorphins go into overdrive!

Stacey MacNaught

Founder at MacNaught Digital
https://twitter.com/staceycav

What do you find stressful?

Digital marketing is competitive by nature, even if you don’t personally know the people you’re competing against. We compete against other websites all day long either for ourselves or on behalf of our clients. It keeps it exciting for sure and is one of the things I love the most. But equally it can be a huge source of stress.

I think there’s also performance pressure in a huge way brought about reading other people’s case studies and examples. Something I’ve been guilty of myself in the past… Practitioners and agencies share big successful case studies and only a handful really talk openly about the stuff that didn’t go as well as they’d like and what they did to fix it (shout out to Aira, who are great at sharing both the wins and the things that didn’t go that well at first). That in itself contributes heavily to the impostor syndrome I know lots of us experience and I find that incredibly stressful at times too.

I think the final thing for me that I find stressful is how much is out of your control in marketing. You can control what you do, your message, who you share your message with. You can control your outputs. But you can’t control what your competitors do and you can’t control the wider news agenda if you’re working on outreach. I like having control of things and I think the sheer volume of things outside of your control in marketing is something I’ve really had to learn to cope with.

And how do you relax?

I am far less frequently stressed by impostor syndrome feelings now than I used to be. And that’s because I talked about the feelings with other people in the industry, many of whom were like “Wow. I get that all the time!!” And when those words come from people you know are awesome at what they do, I started to realise that it’s common and can affect anyone. Even just hearing it referred to as “Impostor Syndrome” by peers in the industry makes it easier to cope with. When I start experiencing those feelings, I just give it a name. “This is just impostor syndrome.” I take a little bit of time out – maybe a walk for an hour or something. And generally I feel miles better.

Focussing on my own targets (and reminding myself out loud several times a week to just focus on my own targets and activity) helps me worry less about the elements of marketing outside of my control too.

Time out. I have no problem working evenings and actually I would much rather work mornings and evenings than working a 9 to 5. I’m crap at writing lengthy documentation in an afternoon and by about 2pm my attention span for analysing data and so forth is utterly rubbish.

But I need a day or two each week where I don’t work at all (not always weekends for me) where my focus is on me and my family. And I need a bit of time each day where I can do something that detracts from work altogether – reading a book or watching something on Netflix, going for a walk or doing a jigsaw puzzle with the kids. Whatever it is, I need that time where work is out of my mind.

Stephen Kenwright

Technical Director at Rise at Seven
https://twitter.com/stekenwright

What are your thoughts on stress?

I will talk about coping mechanisms so what I’m about to say might seem counter-intuitive but I don’t think that stress is necessarily a bad thing.

Like BIG said, mo money mo problems – stress brings opportunity.

As a digital marketer people pay you to take away the stress, deliver projects that they can’t deliver, give them knowledge that they don’t have so it’s only natural that you should feel some of that stress yourself and that’s effectively what you’re getting paid for.

The more stress you can take on from others, the more they’ll pay you and I tend to do the jobs in my business that are the most stressful because I find it easier to most. 

How do you relax?

That doesn’t mean I don’t need ways to cope with stress so there are plenty of things that I find make my life easier. One is routine. 6 o’clock comes round, I stop working I feed my son and give him a bath.

Before Coronavirus I really enjoyed the commute because it gave me an opportunity to switch off in the car; maybe listen to music or podcasts. Thinking about things from the day means that I don’t have to bring them through my door when I arrive. I definitely recommend getting a dog; having someone extremely pleased to see you when you arrive through the door really helps.

Drinking is a terrible coping mechanism of mine; I do find that I have a drink most nights and that does help me to cope with the day. 

To paraphrase Blair Enns, stress comes from things you haven’t done. The best coping mechanism really is being realistic with what you can achieve in a day making sure that you finish things. Leaving jobs unfinished is probably going to be the thing that is going to make you more stressed in an evening.

If you need additional information and/or support surrounding stress, you may find these resources helpful:

Let’s chat about stress

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Mental health blogger & speaker | MSc student mental health nurse
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