3 Stress Management Tips for Journalists
Stress Awareness Month, held every April since 1992, brings healthcare professionals together to help educate people on the causes and effects of stress, and how to cope with these feelings in healthy ways.
Journalism is a notoriously stressful profession, and the demands of the job can make it that much more difficult to proactively manage stress levels.
Below are common sources of stress, signs that your body is overwhelmed, and healthy ways to address and diffuse stressful situations.
Sources of Stress
While money, work, and the political climate have consistently topped the list of stressors for Americans in recent years, the global COVID-19 pandemic profoundly compounded these factors and continues to affect our day-to-day lives.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), common sources of work stress include:
- Low pay
- Excessive workloads
- Conflicting priorities or demands
- Lack of control over job-related decisions
- Few opportunities for growth
Sound familiar? Journalists are not strangers to pay cuts or short-staffing. And they are being asked to write increasingly complex stories amid the challenging backdrop of a pandemic.
Those fortunate enough to be able to work from home may have had a stressful and time-consuming commute eliminated. But what home offices offer in convenience, they may lack in privacy.
Work-from-home environments can be dimly lit, overwhelmed with clutter and reminders of unfinished projects, or makeshift spaces that don’t offer a boundary between “work” and “home.” Further blurring the line between work and play is the potential presence of children, spouses, or other family members, resulting in reshuffling a typical workday to accommodate the reality of these living situations.
Recognizing Signs of Stress
Temporary or acute stress can be positive. It releases adrenaline and other hormones that lead to the “fight or flight” response and heighten our performance. But when stress persists, it may contribute to long-term health issues.
The emotional toll of stress can result in sadness, anxiety, irritability or anger, mood swings, other changes in behavior, and insomnia. Physically, stress can present itself in muscle tension, headaches, and a lack of energy.
Everyone experiences and handles stress differently. To better understand your own stress triggers and how you respond, try to identify specific events or situations that create stressful feelings. Note what signals your body sends you to communicate that it’s stressed.
Journal any unhealthy habits (e.g., overeating) that you may be using as a coping mechanism. This will help you identify where changes can be made.
Being in tune with your body will help enable you to manage stress instead of letting it become debilitating.
Coping with Stress
- Practice self-care. Yoga and other forms of exercise help boost your endorphins and contribute to your overall well-being. Relaxing activities like meditation or taking a bath can help keep you calm, grounded, and balanced. Be sure to make time for things that bring you joy — whether that’s reading, playing video games, or cooking. Most importantly, eat well and get a good night’s rest!
- Establish boundaries. If you work from home, try to define your working space with a physical boundary, like a door, divider, or piece of furniture. Set limits, remind yourself to say “no,” and disconnect from social media and even the news when you can.
- Focus on what you can control. Stress and anxiety can quickly become overwhelming and make us feel helpless, but you can combat those feelings with action. Add things to your working environment that make you happy, whether that’s a plant, picture frame, or collectible toy. If your stress is job-specific, try talking to your supervisor; they can offer guidance, employee resources, or help come up with a plan to address your particular stressors. At the end of each day, reflect on 3 things you are grateful for to stay in a positive headspace.
Utilize Your Network for Help
Leaning on friends and family for support is difficult when many people are isolating and common gathering places are closed or require distance. But a strong social network can do wonders for your stress levels. Don’t hesitate to discuss your problems with your partner or another trusted family member or friend to help alleviate tension.
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Erienne Muldoon is a senior customer content specialist for Virtual Press Office, PR Newswire’s trade show marketing solutions division. When she’s not advising clients on storytelling best practices, you can find her tweeting about Cleveland, PR, and video games @ECMuldoon.