Somehow, over the course of the last several months, the news in this country has quickly escalated from "Well, this is concerning," to "should I be preparing for nuclear warfare?"
In all seriousness, things in this country have always been bad — to differing degrees for different people — but now, in addition to rampant misogyny, Islamophobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia (I could go on) we are greeted daily with terrifying news about natural disasters, and frightening domestic and foreign conflicts. And, right now, most outlooks are grim.
How are we supposed to live our lives when, most days, the world around us feels like it's imploding? How are we supposed to nurture ourselves, our careers, our relationships when it's hard to focus on anything other than desperately depressing world affairs?
Well, when I sat down to think about who might be able to offer some wisdom on this topic, I quickly realized I should check in with the very folks who most actively deal with depressing news: journalists.
Below are 5 writers and journalists on their secrets for staying centered when the news and state of the world are, well, crazy. After all, if they have found ways to focus on the good — while constantly engaging with the bad — I think anyone can.
1. Danielle Corcione | Reports on business, health, and politics through a social justice lens
"I remember journalist Melissa Gira Grant tweeting about how reporters, who especially report on trauma, should be actively seeking out mental health care. I see a therapist regularly for my own mental health issues, but having a place to talk about my work and center myself for a moment in a private space with a professional is helpful.
And as much as we want to serve our audiences and tell other people's stories, we really need to figure out our own first, especially if you're dealing with anxiety, depression, trauma, and other mental health issues. So don't feel guilty about centering your feelings to reconcile them and work through them."
2. Alaina Leary | Reports on politics, LGBTQ+, and disability issues
"I've had to follow the health care debate closely since January. As a disabled person, it's been hard for me; this is a public issue that has a personal impact on my own life and the lives of many of my friends and family members with disabilities.
I have to practice self-care regularly when I'm doing this work, and take time to specifically look out for myself. I find talking to other people in journalism or similar industries (a lot of my friends work in public policy and disability rights, for example) about how we're feeling and doing check-ins can be useful.
I also remind myself it is okay for me to spend time NOT working on these issues. I need to separate from politics as much as possible, which is hard when the personal is political. I need to actively seek out positive, uplifting news."
3. Yessenia Funes | Reports on environment and race
"In general, I surround myself with people I really care about, people who bring me joy. For me, those are the children in my life. When I'm with my nephew and niece, it's like the world's problems don't even exist. I can pretend there's no Trump and that the world is all butterflies and flowers because that's how they make me feel. It helps me get through the motions.
As for professionally, I try to disconnect myself as much as possible. I don't think about myself much — unless I'm trying to think about a story idea. Once I begin to look at the news as a member of society and not as a journalist, it starts to hit. When I keep my distance, I'm able to deal with the news better."
4. Sarah Harvard | Reports on religion, race, and politics
"I like losing myself in a different dimension or reality. A lot of my coverage is on race, religion and where it intersects with politics. This means most of my reporting is on a new hate crime, bill, or protest that somehow is tied to death or violence. So, every day, I go home and lose myself to hours of comedic television shows or movies — sometimes romantic comedies — to help me believe that there's a happy ending somewhere.
On weeks that are especially trying, I wake up in the morning and head to the movie theater and lose myself in a movie that takes me to a different reality. Lately, that's been hard with a lot of new films centered on slavery, terrorism, and war, but when a film that celebrates life, or just living, as well as laughter, I make sure to take the opportunity to find some goodness in that."
5. Kari Paul | Reports on finance, tech, travel, and culture
"When I was writing daily news, I covered a lot of really heavy topics. One week, I had the morning shift so I would wake up at 5 am and immediately dive into a police shooting and have to vet social media videos and write about them.
I covered Philando Castile and other current events involving police shootings really closely for a few weeks. It was making me really, really upset; I was having trouble sleeping and couldn't eat. [At the time], my therapist made me talk out my feelings and unpack them. I was resistant to it at first because I felt that — as a journalist and as someone who isn't a person of color — I didn't have the right to be so emotionally impacted.
But I had to accept that my feelings were real. It's OK to be impacted by the news, even if it is happening across the world and you're seeing it through a computer screen. You should take the same measures you [would] take for trauma experienced in real life to take care of yourself, talk it out, and process it."