We asked our readers for their best self-care tips.
Journalism is a job like few others. But for every extraordinary experience a reporter might have, there are also stressors inherent to the job. Long hours, tight deadlines, the pressure to get it right — these are all anxiety producing pressures. And that doesn’t even include the constant stress of the news cycle and the greater likelihood that a reporter may be exposed to traumatic imagery and events.
As a new batch of journalism students get ready to tip-toe into this world, we asked our readers how they take care of themselves, so that the next generation can learn early how to set boundaries and make sure they are managing the stress of their jobs, right when they get started.
One big theme was the importance of exercise and eating well.
Lots and lots of exercise. I spend so much time at a desk, I need to feel present in my body again after. Plus it’s great for helping to figure out thorny work problems. Also, call friends, sleep, schedule in time away. Ydont work yourself into burnout
— Andrea Bellemare (@andreabellemare) August 28, 2018
Go for a run/to the gym. Read fiction. Splurge on fancy candles and flowers to create a calm, happy atmosphere at home. Eat well and bring a lunch to work. Limit screen time at home, but know it’s OK to just watch guilty pleasure TV when your brain is fried.
— Aleksandra Sagan (@AleksSagan) August 28, 2018
Regular physical activity (mine’s walking, good exercise + sometimes helps w writer’s block), prioritizing spending time with friends, reading (even if just on the metro on the way to work) & getting enough sleep!
— Kelsey Rolfe (@kelseyarolfe) August 28, 2018
This is me too. The physical benefits are cool but I work out because it keeps me sane + gym goals remind me there’s life outside of work
— Kate McKenna (@katemckenna8) August 28, 2018
Exercise, 100%. I hate going to the gym, so I bike, take my dog for a ski or a walk, or get out of town. There is a direct correlation for me between the amount of exercise I’m getting and my ability to even. https://t.co/XC1cqhDMkT
— Jimmy Thomson (@jwsthomson) August 28, 2018
Remember to eat, and eat well! I spent so much $$$ on crap takeout at Ryerson. Pack healthy snacks, do batch cooking on Sunday to feed yourself for the week (chilli, veg and chicken soup, roasted veg salads). Eating well definitely makes me feel better.https://t.co/VS6pEscAfq
— Karon Liu (@karonliu) August 28, 2018
gym classes. allowing yourself to stop and do something else. turn off your email push notifications.
— raina douris (@RahRahRaina) August 28, 2018
Aquafit – because I can’t worry about money or deadlines or or getting enough work or being edited when I’m trying to make sure I don’t drown or kick someone in the face. 🙂
— ruthseeley (@ruthseeley) August 28, 2018
Many people have mentioned eating well and I wholeheartedly agree. Something that helped me to eat & snack regularly was meal-planning ahead of my weekend grocery shop & sticking it on my fridge (I still do this). Also: TV/movies. Reading fiction. Nails. Hangs/Skypes with friends
— Beatrice Britneff (@bbritneff) August 28, 2018
Taking care of your mental health is as important as taking care of your physical health.
Oh, also: anxiety is really normal—anxiety about talking to people, anxiety about getting the story right, anxiety about pissing people off. If you feel that way, it’s OK, lots of people do. Don’t try to repress it, learn how to work w it. Seek counselling help through the uni.
— andrea bennett (@akkabah) August 28, 2018
Yes! It’s also normal for the things people tell you to make you anxious. If you’ve spent three hours listening to someone lay out their trauma, it’s normal to be affected by that, and not unprofessional to take a step back to recoup.
— Megan Jones (@MegjonesA) August 28, 2018
-Keeping a daily planner
-Talking to and spending time with friends
-Taking a night off after an intense interview
-Going for walks
-Developing a completely non-media-related hobby (drag!)
-Logging out of this beautiful trash website https://t.co/h3W9ak7cuV
— Megan Jones (@MegjonesA) August 28, 2018
Learn to dissociate you the reporter from you the person. It’s surprisingly hard to do but you’ll end being miserable at life and work if you don’t start setting boundaries.https://t.co/BD2oDXpLRs
— christopher curtis (@titocurtis) August 28, 2018
The absolute most important thing I did for my mental health during j school was talk to my classmates. My life got 100 times better when I realized that literally everyone was struggling with the workload, expectations, fear of failure with me.
— Jericho Knopp (@jerichoknopp) August 28, 2018
Regular therapy and doctor’s visits. I know this isn’t something that everyone has access to (which is bullshit), but if you are able to consistently see a counselor or other professional, it can make a huge difference in your overall well-being.
— Emily Klatt (@emilyklattsk) August 28, 2018
Download a meditation app and use it. Stopping your brain from playing the endless loop of bad news and horrible images for even that long does a world of good.
— Seonaid Eggett (@SeonaidEggett) August 28, 2018
— Ioanna Roumeliotis (@IoannaCBC) August 29, 2018
I think the most important thing for self care as a reporter is to forgive yourself for being tired, for making a mistake and for having an off day. I’m still working on it but that can be the worst part for new graduates like me trying to Segway from school to real life.
— Anna Desmarais (@anna_desmarais) August 29, 2018
Understanding and setting limits on your time can be helpful.
Pick a few subjects you’ll ignore. Trying to keep up with all the news on everything (especially if you’re GA) is impossible. So allow other people to care about, say, zoning law, and when you see an article about that, skip it.
— Murad Hemmadi (@muradhem) August 28, 2018
I would say sleep, walking, reading, bad TV. Essentially scheduling your downtime and guarding it ferociously. Getting off social media for extended periods works for me but is not practical for everyone.
— Elizabeth Renzetti (@lizrenzetti) August 28, 2018
Don’t take your work home whenever possible. Know when to disconnect.
— Roberto Rocha (@robroc) August 28, 2018
actually though: cultivate a healthy feeling of separation between your job and your actual human self. It’s easy, in a space this competitive, to feel like you’re being judged on your every piece of output.
— nat manzocco (@nataliamanzocco) August 29, 2018
Mentors can provide invaluable assistance and perspective.
I’m a part of a great support network of Indigenous journalists. We are few and far between in this country, so it’s important to sustain a community of friends and mentors.
Otherwise, my self-care includes jiu-jitsu, heavy metal, my family, and going back to the Rez regularly. https://t.co/D1veIrT4Ku
— Waubgeshig Rice (@waub) August 29, 2018
In addition to planning, I recommend minority students find a mentor, affinity group and/or Slack channel specifically for journalists of color. Knowing you’re not alone can be a key part of taking care of your mental health in this industry. https://t.co/NG2lNW1dbD
— Karen K. Ho 嘉 韻 (@karenkho) August 28, 2018
Screen free time is really important to many journalists.
Outdoors time is so important. Cycling to work, walking between appointments, taking the long way home. Just being in a place with fresh air, no screens, natural light. It’s so important for my balance.
— wolfewylie (@wolfewylie) August 28, 2018
Dedicated “no phone” (or iPad or computer or whatever your vice) time. After 8 or 9 or 10 or 11 hours on all the screens, I’m fried. I like to keep my bedroom a no-screen zone. ?
— Meghan Collie (@MeghanCollie) August 28, 2018
It’s been said often, but the best I’ve felt in journalism was when I allowed myself to get away from my desk. Even a walk around the block, an hour at the gym, helps immensely.
Also, try leaving your phone at home or at your desk when you go for these walks.
— Shelby Blackley (@shelbyblackley) August 28, 2018
Once a day, get up from your desk and walk around the block. Air + sun + making your circulatory system circulate can help many, many things.
— Megan GriffithGreene (@griffithgreene) August 28, 2018
A lot of journalists are also making time for their hobbies — everything from video games to roller derby.
Make sure you get as much sleep as possible. Find an easy hobby such as reading or video games or music and make sure you dedicate some time to that (at least 30 minutes a day). Eat something even if it’s not the healthiest. Your body needs fuel.
— Alexander Quon (@AlexanderQuon) August 28, 2018
I’m part of my local theatre group. It can get tiring when we get close to production time but I feel very satisfied knowing I’ve helped create something that isn’t journalism related. I’m generally an actor but I’ve taken on production roles too, both sides are great.
— Brittany Wentzell (@BrittWentzell) August 28, 2018
Explore locally! In my early years in Toronto I’d pick different neighbourhoods to go to for lunch and walk there or walk back, maybe with a podcast to listen to along the way. It kept me focused and gave me some goals to look forward to on my days off.
— Evan Annett (@kingdomofevan) August 28, 2018
— Manori (@manori_r) August 28, 2018
Pick up a hobby or activity. I dance 2 nights a week. It takes my mind off of things for a couple hours & it keeps me active. Don’t be afraid to turn off your phone & turn on some mindless tv. While it’s tempting to be on your phone 24/7 you also need to be able to turn it off
— Brittany Hobson (@bhobs22) August 28, 2018
Learn to cook. Especially the foods that make you feel good. Want a pizza? Make it all (dough and all) from scratch. Grind your own meat for the perfect burger. Salad dressing, taco shells, soups… It doesn’t matter what you eat as long as you make it yourself.
— Roz Weston (@rozweston) August 28, 2018
getting my nails done, or taking the time to do it myself when I’m low on $$ – trivial I know – but when you’re so busy it’s nice to take that time and be unable to do anything else cause your nails are wet.
— Haley Lewis (@haleylewis_) August 28, 2018
Get a completely unrelated pursuit. I reccomend roller derby. And delete Twitter from your phone when you’re on vacation.
— Paige Parsons (@paigeeparsons) August 28, 2018
Hobbies. Yes. They can be weird or totally boring (I play sports video games, woooo, exciting) so long as you have something that, when you are doing it, you’re never thinking of work.
— JordanHeath-Rawlings (@TheGameSheet) August 29, 2018
I recently took up cross-stitch to have an activity where I can’t use my phone. I’m also an amateur drummer. I keep a sudoku book on my desk to help me refocus. I’ve got pets (who mostly sleep all day, but still). Exercise and stretching helps restlessness. So does going outside. https://t.co/UlSKb8liEn
— Tracey Lindeman (@traceylindeman) August 29, 2018
I play in a basketball league throughout the winter. That and sometimes figuring out ways to sit down and actually watch tv.
— Lenard Monkman (@LenardMonkman1) August 29, 2018
There is also no shame in indulging in low-brow entertainment after a day of dealing with serious news.
Allowing myself to consume crappy, low-effort TV at the end of long days! So much social capital is placed on staying in the know in this industry, it can feel like a waste of time to watch ~low brow~ shows (my go tos are Friends, Big Brother) but this R&R is important!
— Audrey Carleton (@audreycarleton1) August 28, 2018
I watch some junk TV and read fluffy books – you don’t have to be serious all the time because your brain needs a break. I also sing in a choir because it’s good for my soul. Work-life balance is possible.
— Adriana Christianson (@AdrianaC_JME) August 29, 2018
If you can, get a pet.
it’s not always practical for students to have pets but my dog Rufus has saved me after covering tough stories. A dog also forces you to walk & care for a living breathing entity other than yourself. If you can’t get your own pet, find a friend with one or volunteer at a shelter
— Sarah Boesveld (@sarahboesveld) August 28, 2018
Don’t believe anything you read on the internet and don’t share anything you’re unsure about.
Also carry pencils to write with in the winter and get a pet.
— Jane Lytvynenko ??♀️??♀️??♀️??♀️ (@JaneLytv) August 28, 2018
— James Turner (@heyjturner) August 28, 2018
Find a cat. Have your entire day revolve around the wants and needs of said cat. You no longer live for yourself – you live for the cat. The cat has become the all, the alpha and the omega. Really keeps you centered. (This is like, only 1/4 facetious). https://t.co/s4CsafmpR4
— Adam Kovac (@AKovacCTV) August 29, 2018
Having friends outside of journalism helps a lot.
OMG and hangout with people OUTSIDE of journalism. It helps clear your mind from the stress of needing to be “in-the-know” all the time.
I also like lavender for sleeping but that’s anxiety related.
— Shelby Blackley (@shelbyblackley) August 28, 2018
– have journalist friends to commiserate with
– have non journalist friends to remind you the world doesn’t revolve around your industry
– don’t feel bad about considering jobs outside of journalism (comms/PR/whatever). priorities, interests and situations change, and that’s ok https://t.co/9rYDIgT83m
— Josh Kolm (@JoshKolm) August 28, 2018
have friends outside of the business. Nothing will give you a better perspective on the world, than that. It will help you both professionally and personally.
— Piya Chattopadhyay (@piya) August 28, 2018
Have friends outside the industry and a good circle of mentors inside the industry, who can give you perspective on even the toughest of situations and who will force you to take the breaks you convince yourself you don’t need.
— Tara Deschamps (@tara_deschamps) August 28, 2018
Find some non-journalist friends. Spend as much time with them as you can. It’ll do wonders for your anxiety and make you a way better journalist. https://t.co/V6IYbwZ2W1
— Tamara Khandaker (@anima_tk) August 28, 2018
i can’t stress enough how important it is to me to have friends, and a life, that exists completely 100% separately to your media self. i think i find it keeps my perspective on things more grounded
— kieran (@k_delamont) August 28, 2018
There are, of course, more extreme approaches.
Find a weekly non-journalism routine. Ban yourself working from home. Stop yourself from answering emails after 9. Adopt a black bear. Move to the woods. You’re king of the forest now. Learn how to balance the needs of the woodland creatures with their destructive desires. https://t.co/10C188thhO
— Justin Ling (@Justin_Ling) August 29, 2018
— nat manzocco (@nataliamanzocco) August 29, 2018
But, at the end of the day, journalists do meaningful work and get to have incredibly rich and unique experiences. That’s something to celebrate.
@HG_Watson Journalists are necessary for freedom and democracy. Advice: remember and hold on to that.
— Alex Simonelis (@alexsimonelis) August 28, 2018
Maintain and work on your relationships with people (partner, family, friends, etc.) — it’s easy to get distracted by everything and forget what truly matters. Also, always remember the reason why you’re doing this — keep it close — esp. when the going gets rough. https://t.co/6H3oNXIrzQ
— Arvin Joaquin (@ArvinJoaquin) August 29, 2018
Be excited! It’s tough, the pay isn’t great, and some people hate you. But there truly is no greater job in the world. https://t.co/w7hAhtf0Ez
— Jana G. Pruden (@jana_pruden) August 30, 2018