The world is not always a happy place. You can look at the news on any given day and see stories about death, crime and abuse. It easy to let it bog you down, especially when you’re in charge of covering such news.
Journalists are nearly guaranteed to cover traumatic events—events that result in death or near death. More than 80 percent of journalists report covering traumatic events as part of their jobs.
Because trauma exposure is almost guaranteed in our profession, it’s important for journalists to practice self care, before and after this exposure.
Self care can help journalists buffer the negative emotional impact of trauma exposure and can help them deal with their emotions after the exposure.
And self care is just a good practice as individuals. We cannot help others if we don’t first care for ourselves.
What self care consists of really depends on the person. However, here are some methods you may consider for taking care of yourself:
Talk it out
The professional term for this is “debriefing,” but it helps. Talk to a trusted family member, a friend, a significant other, or a coworker. Just putting your concerns, fears and sadness into words helps you feel better.
There is a substantial amount of research showing that writing about your experiences and feelings, specifically journaling, helps you make sense of the happenings. Since writing is something you already know and love as a journalist, it makes sense that writing could be cathartic for you.
It’s normal to feel the emotional response to trauma in your body. Trauma can make you physically ill. Eat well and drink plenty of fluids to help avoid this.
Sleep commonly is affected by exposure to a traumatic event. It’s difficult to turn off or come down with the adrenaline rush of the event, or you may avoid sleep because you’re afraid of nightmares. You may simply be unable to sleep. On the other side of the spectrum, the desire to sleep much more than normal is a symptom of depression that should be considered. Try to maintain a regular sleep pattern as well as you can following a traumatic event. Tiredness can compound emotions and make you feel even more overwhelmed.
We know that exercise releases endorphins that result in positive mood. Stick to your regular exercise routine during traumatic times, even if you have to force it.
What helps you relax? Whether it is lighting a scented candle, taking a bath, playing with your puppy, or watching a good movie, spend more time doing the things that help you relax.
Engage in a hobby
Hobbies are one of the ways we identify other versions of ourselves, what is known as “self concepts.” If your strongest self concept is related to the traumatic experience, it is more difficult for you to compartmentalize. Hobbies like listening to music, dancing, painting, and gaming all add to your self concepts, helping you become a more well-rounded person and buffering you against trauma symptoms.
Practice your faith
People with strong religious beliefs are more resilient to emotional trauma than those without. If you are a person of faith, after trauma exposure is a natural time for you to cling to and actively practice that faith.
Focus on the positive
When the sheer amount of negativity is getting to you, focus radically on the positive aspects of your life and the world around you. Science shows that focusing on the positive actually increases happiness and makes us view the world in a more positive light. Consider making a list (or a daily list?) of things that make you feel happy.
Spending time with family and friends is a good way to cope with or buffer negative emotions.
Know your limits
Know yourself well enough to understand when you’re at your limit. Take a break and step away from trauma coverage and things like television or social media that constantly remind you of the negativity in the world.
Seek professional help if you continue feeling overwhelmed by the traumatic things happening in your life or in the world. Talking to an unbiased, uninvolved professional can help you feel a lot better.
It doesn’t seem that the world will get any more positive, so you must learn to take care of yourself so you can be the best you possible and help others. Self care is not selfish, it’s necessary. If you aren’t already practicing daily self care, consider this post your encouragement to start now.