Managing the news and your mental health

Last night I went to a talk by one of my editors and a mindfulness expert about how to stay positive and manage stress in a time when the news is largely depressing and overwhelming. The recent change in presidency has heralded attacks on the media and endless news alerts on phones — most of which are stressful. Add onto that working for the Columbia Missourian, a part-time job that actually pays, classes and the fact that I would like actually like to spend some time with my friends, and I’m worn thin. The past few weeks have been stressful.

At the event last night, Dr. Lynn Rossy spoke about about how people can usually consume the news that is being generated by President Trump in bite-sized pieces. Journalists don’t have that luxury. To do our jobs, we have to be constantly looking at the news and Twitter, monitoring the pulse of news first-thing in the morning and last-thing at night. Journalists are also covering some traumatic and depressing events. In order to not let that overwhelm us and not let the stress that is inherent to our job harmful to ourselves, Dr. Lynn Rossy recommended a few tips. One was that when we feel ourselves being overwhelmed by stress to stop, take a breath, observe our body, thoughts and feelings then proceed with our work.

While that may sound like a stereotypical mindfulness message when I write it here, it definitely was not. This talk could have been the somewhat cheesy “take a deep breath” sort of speech, but it went so far beyond that. Yes, we took deep breaths. No, it wasn’t cheesy — it actually worked. The talk was geared toward and relevant to the stress of journalists who are also students and how in specific instances that we face we can manage our stress.

This talk made me aware that the tensing of my body every time a news alert goes off on my phone is a natural reaction. It taught me to view my stress not as something harmful, but as a launching-off point to get stuff done and become motivated. And yes, it taught me to breathe. When I got home afterward, I set a boundary between my personal life and my work (which was also mentioned as important in the talk), put aside my computer and went to bed earlier than I had all semester. This morning, I felt great. So thank you to my editor and Dr. Lynn Rossy, who recognized the unusually high levels of stress in the Columbia Missourian newsroom and did something about it. I know it helped me and gave me tools to use this semester and throughout my career.

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