It’s ok, to not be ok. This is something as journalists we know, right? It’s something we hear over and over again, but what does it really mean? Is this something we’re actually putting into practice? I know, you’re probably thinking, ok Leslie, you’re a yogi, we get it. You’re all smiles on social media, but it’s not possible for all of us. You’re right! Behind the social media “highlight reel”, you may not know, the last few months, I’ve been a struggling to be ok with not being ok. It’s been rough. I want to be transparent and vulnerable with you because mental health in journalism for so long has been something people don’t talk about.
Since the start of 2021, I’ve been mentally struggling with processing news we’re reporting and how it’s intricately linked to who I am as a person and how I identify. I’ve been struggling with the collective trauma in our daily news reports. I’ve been mentally struggling with wounds that resurfaced from childhood traumatic experiences. I’ve been mentally struggling with grief for my birth father who’s been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Mentally, I’ve been struggling with so much. I’ve shown up for everyone but myself. I was on the edge of burnout.
Sound familiar? I encourage you to read on and see some of the ways I’ve been able to use yoga tools help myself.
According to the World Health Organization, “Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
My burnout is not at the hands of my workplace conditions, for me, it’s the content of what we’re covering on a daily basis. As a journalist of color, who is also a daughter of immigrants, it’s impossible to ignore what’s happening in news around me. It’s impossible to not feel. I’ve been going and going for so long, compartmentalizing the feelings, the chronic stress building, that mentally I was not doing ok.
Burnout and chronic stress symptoms can look different for everyone, but these are some of the things I’ve experienced physically and emotionally:
- Irritable or apathetic
- Lack of motivation
- Anxiety and worrying
I recognized them as signs of ongoing chronic stress. My teacher, yogi and psychotherapist Ashley Turner, defines chronic stress as an intrinsic response based on past experiences where your brain builds up a defense mechanism (see bullets above) to the stressor. Some examples of chronic (long-term) stress include:
- Unhealthy childhood home
- Growing up in or around violence
- Systemic Racial/Ethnic Oppression
- Economic disadvantages
- Reporting on constant traumatic events
My ability to recognize something is off is a learned experience from my yoga practice. Yoga is not about the poses or how far you can stretch. Yoga is about bearing witness to what the body and mind are experiencing. It’s the practice of simply recognizing any subtle messages your body sends and being curious about the deeper meaning.
So, we come back to the original question: what does it really mean to not be ok? For me, it starts by recognizing that my “bad day” isn’t really just a “bad day.” I ask myself, what’s underneath it? If I’m angry, what’s the anger towards and why? Similar to when I’m in a physical yoga practice, Asana, and I need to back off from a hard pose, I take those lessons from my yoga practice off the mat. In life, can I back off when things get too overwhelming? Can I truly be ok with not being ok?
If you’re finding yourself in the same place I’ve been, here are a few things that helped me. I’ll share with you what my therapist always asks me, what are you doing for yourself right now?
These are some things I immediately do when I face burnout and constant chronic stress:
- Get off social media: Set a timer for 5 minutes, stop doom scrolling, I promise, if we’re needed after hours, managers will let us know
- Take time for mindfulness and movement: I like walks outside, meditation, cooking, lifting weights and of course YOGA
- Talks with my therapist and loved ones
- Feel the feelings, invite space for the anger or irritability and cry (yes with LOTSSSS of sobbing 🤷🏽♀️)
- Stop suppressing emotions and going on like everything is fine
- Focus on things I can control in the moment
- Recognizing my “bad day” is more than an “off day”
- Taking time for myself: take time off!!!!
Healing is not easy and it can be painful, but when we run from that discomfort, are we running from the joy of healing? It’s a journey, for me, it’s been months of this healing chapter. It’s a chapter in a long journey of healing that roots back generations. I share this as a reminder, you’re not alone. Our industry is tough. It’s important for us to take care of ourselves. Journalists are resilient, but we’re also human.
Om Shanti, Shanti Shanti.
The News Yogi | Yoga for Journalists Blog: I’m excited to bring you a new resource for sharing yoga tools to help normalize mental health conversations in journalism. This will be a candid and safe space to allow for reflection, community and healing. We’ll be diving deep into topics that don’t always get discussed, looking at it through the yogic lense and more importantly we’ll be focusing on being humans.
This resource will be an online safe space where mental health equity in journalists of color and consciousness will help elevate perspectives and voices who are needed in the journalism industry now more than ever.
Leslie, The News Yogi