Well-being for journalists of colour

RISE Apr 25, 2021

By Leo Bui

A stressful job

Journalism is a stressful job, there is no doubt about it. Our job is to collect all the information and deliver it to our audience in the simplest way. Work can be overwhelming until we realize that our health needs attention.

The additional stress for racialized journalists

For journalists of color, the stress they experience on a daily basis can come from both inside and outside the newsroom. Several journalists have spoken out and shared the negative experiences they had in their workplace.

Carole Sandy, a Toronto-based therapist, says racialized journalists should not ignore negative signs or experiences. She suggests the consequences of doing this can have an impact in many ways, including how you work to how you interact with others. “It can be overwhelming to the system until we need to be intentional to take care of ourselves, especially as journalists. They really need to be intentional and pay attention to the things that maybe they hadn’t in the past,” she said.

Sharing negative experiences is a way of taking care of yourself. And really, it is important to be mindful of your health and well-being so that you can continue with your work. But sometimes it is not easy, and it can be a journey to learn how to better take care of yourself.

So, where do we begin?

Sandy advises that the first thing everyone should do when faced with a negative situation is to identify their feelings and thoughts in that moment. “We all have feelings, and we have thoughts around matters, and that we have to remember we want to check in with ourselves first,” she said. If we understand our attitude and point of view, it will be easier for us to share with others.

Once the problem has been identified; Sandy encourages everyone to boldly share it.

"You can have a conversation in a way that is respectful, in a way that you can just let them know. This may not be your experience, but this has been my experience. And I may not be asking you for your approval around this, I am just letting you know this has impacted me,” she said.

Sometimes at work people may not be receptive of what you share. “Your colleague doesn't have to accept that. You may want to have that conversation with those, who you think would be able to handle it,” Sandy said.

So, when it comes to sharing, test your comfort level. Besides sharing with colleagues, another alternative Sandy suggests is to find people outside of your work who might be in the same situation as you. “The other piece is recognizing that if there is [somebody outside your work] that you can speak to, if you are seeing similar things happening [to them], you may want to check and have a conversation with them,” she said.

It will be of great help if you find a community that you can comfortably chat and share with. It can help you realize that what is happening to you is a real problem.

“I suggest we start having these conversations slowly in a way that feels comfortable so that we can find similar like-minded people, who want to support us. And then we move forward with figuring out what might be the best steps who we should speak to. Communities are very helpful way to do that,” said Sandy.

What else can we do to take better care of ourselves?

In journalism, the work can be very demanding. A journalist might be so preoccupied with work and forget about taking care of their own health. It is important to set appropriate boundaries to protect mental health and well-being.

“Pay attention to things that drain us, you know, even as journalists, what are the things, who are the people that might drain us. Pay attention to those things that tap into our energy,” said Sandy.

Covering a difficult story can also put a strain on journalists. Sandy thinks preparation is the key here. “Prior to [going in to] a challenging new story, I encourage people to have a conversation or checking in with someone,” she said.

Another activity for well-being that Sandy recommends is journaling.

“I encourage people to journal. It’s a great way to kind of get all your thoughts out. They don’t have to do another journal in terms of another sort of practice. They can even just kind of talk into their phone, kind of speak around what was happening today, what they felt. But always finding ways to release some of the frustrations that they’re feeling in the day,” said Sandy.

This is a safe space to listen, share and begin the journey of healing

Carole Sandy is leading a workshop on Self Care for this year’s Rise conference on May 1 at 2:10pm ET for BIPOC journalists.

What you share does not need to be detailed. Oftentimes these are difficult conversations. “We have challenging stories, we have our challenging life experiences, and they collide,” Sandy said. So, the idea is for people to share as much as they feel comfortable and in a way that feels most authentic to them.

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