Flight attendants tell passengers during preflight safety briefings to make sure that their own oxygen mask is on first before helping others. It’s advice that applies to journalists covering the coronavirus outbreak. If reporters want to report, they have to stay healthy. Below are pieces of advice from journalists who are covering the story on how to self-care in the midst of a pandemic.
Natalia Contreras, Indianapolis Star: “I work from home most of the week. After about a year or so, I’ve learned how important it is to take breaks and go outside to get some sun. Go for a walk or set a few minutes aside to exercise, do yoga or whatever works for you. Especially for those who live in places where the winter blues are very real — staying active and taking breaks is important to beat depression.”
Tony Lin, Quartz video journalist: Find something to make you happy at home, such as music or cooking. Practice social distancing. Don’t let fear get the best of you. It’s OK to put down your phone.Taking a break from the news cycle is not selfish, Lin says. “It’s a necessity to keep us alive, to allow us to keep reporting on this issue. Otherwise, we are going to get desensitized.”
Mary Ann Cavazos Beckett, Editor in Chief, Corpus Christi Caller-Times: “The best thing we’ve found so far is to stick to a routine. That includes breaks. We know the work we do is critical to our community but no one should put themselves in harm’s way or think they can constantly be ‘on.’ If one person needs to tap out for a while, someone else can jump in. We’re still a newsroom after all. We have to keep in mind that, while it may all feel like breaking news, this is a marathon of coverage — not a sprint.”
Christina M. Tapper, Deputy Editor, ZORA, a Medium publication: “A lot of us lead on autopilot. We focus on ideas, execution, process, and results. We are programmed to prioritize production over everything, especially during times of crisis. But let’s not forget about the people. Start with them first. Schedule phone or video check-ins with staff, individually or collectively, to ask about their well-being. Conversation starters like “how are you feeling?” and “how can I support you?” are underrated when the world feels heavy. These questions offer a moment for people to feel their feelings; to exhale a bit—and gives them a chance to open up and share their needs. Listen. It’s one of our primary skills as journalists. Use it in your newsroom (which is now, perhaps, virtual), with the intention to acknowledge and validate staff concerns.Make sure you extend that same care to yourself. Block out time on your calendar for self-check-ins and do something for you. Get moving and go for a walk or run, if you can. Get lost in your favorite album or playlist. Get quiet and journal. And get clear on the leader your team needs right now.
Our own suggestions: Take a break from coronavirus coverage with a virtual museum tour. Travel and Leisure offers a list — from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris to Brazil’s Museu de Arte de São Paulo — you can explore from your couch to help you recharge when working remotely.
Entertain yourself with new offers on social media. Consider it a tinier tiny desk concert: Musicians who have had to cancel shows — or who are holed up themselves — are doing their part to #flattenthecurve by shifting performances to social media. Check out fan favorites like John Legend (who performed this afternoon on Instagram) as part of the new #TogetherAtHome series of online concerts. NPR has started a list of artists’ pop-up performances, and local publishers like austin360.com are rounding up local and regional artists you may be interested in. Venues may be shuttered, but the music keeps playing.