We were very fortunate that with the help of NABJ president Dorothy Tucker we were able to have a therapy session with conflict resolution professional Toni Hawkins. It was an emotional and cathartic Zoom session. We have attached some tips that Toni created to help members cope with the current circumstances.
Some of the feelings TCBJ expressed: Mentally and physically tired Stunned Angry Been “on” the whole time Empty Bottled Up because I can’t express myself like I want to Nothing left Numb Hard trying to be impartial
Things to keep in mind:
1. Remember my soldier analogy? You are running the same race as the other journalists with lots of extra ‘stuff’ in your rucksacks. As Ray so eloquently put it, you have “been black longer than you’ve been journalists.” Your burdens are real. Your weariness is real and legitimate. Your feelings, emotions, anger, disappointment, feelings of hopelessness and numbness are warranted. Carrying the added responsibilities and stressors of being a black person in America can make you much stronger because you have to be to compete in the race. It can also be exhausting, despite how strong and capable and prepared you are. It is okay. Tell yourself it is okay. I mean it, do it. Say it to yourself, now.
2. From some of my research, one of the best resources for journalists coping with your highly stressful lives is having fellow journalists in your circle to talk with. You guys seem to already be doing that and it is wonderful.
Things to Do:
1. Buddy-up, seek support from colleagues. Pair or group your members up and provide them each with the other’s contact information. Check in on one another, regularly. Vent with one another. Share what you’ve seen and how it made you feel. The strengthening of these relationships will assist the organization in meeting your members’ emotional, professional and physical needs.
2. Write about your feelings and experiences, for you, not for work. It is a way of purging, getting the stuff out so you can either set it aside or at least gain perspective over it. It also helps you compartmentalize it. Writing can help you process your emotions. Write about how the story/circumstances are personally affecting you. I suggest you create an archive of sort and compile these writings. Think about the TCBJ chapter in 2050 having your writings as resources and how valuable being able to read your accounts of and feelings about being a journalist during this time would be.
3. Move. Do something. Find a way to do something that you find relaxing, physically taxing enough to get your mind off the current events, or mentally engaging enough that you can be distracted from them, at least for a time. It is not trivial and it is not selfish. It is vital for your well-being. Exercise produces endorphins that improve mood. It also makes you tired and can aid in sleeping regularly. If you don’t have a ‘thing,’ try something new. On planes, they tell us that in the event of loss of cabin pressure, put our own masks on first, then help those around us. It is not selfish, it is logical. If you aren’t breathing, how can you help anybody else? Help yo’ self!
4. Consider forming a relationship with the Minnesota Chapter of Association of Black Psychologist. (MnABPsi.org)
5. The Mind Field (themindfield.world) has therapists with backgrounds in journalism.
6. Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma has some research on the matter. (dartcenter.org)
7. Explore your employers’ mental health offerings. It’s cheaper to offer mental health services than to pay your extended sick leaves.
8. Marsha recommended the devotional Soul Care in African American Practice by Barbara L. Peacock. I plan to get it. Thank you, Marsha! Remember, you are not only your own best advocates, but you have taken on the responsibility of being the witnesses on behalf of society, or as journalist Lynsey Addario says, “conduit for their stories.” Self-care is not a luxury. It is vital.
Please reach out if I can be of assistance to you guys. I have prayed for you. Thank you, again for the opportunity to share with you! Toni Hawkins Hawkinsmediation@gmail.com firstname.lastname@example.org