Fight the stress of covering the coronavirus

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9 ways journalists can push back against the stress of an always-on story

by Al Tompkins and Sidney Tompkins, Poynter

I have been hearing from journalists who are stressed out by this nonstop COVID-19 coverage.

Journalists tell me they spend all day talking with experts who are warning that the worst is yet to come and with people who are worrying about how to keep themselves and their families healthy. They report cancellation after cancellation while watching their retirement savings dwindle in the Wall Street storm.

My wife, licensed psychotherapist Sidney Tompkins, and I have been doing a lot of training for newsrooms and media organizations about traumatic stress and trauma. I asked Sidney what she would tell you this morning.

We produced a video for you to share with your newsroom or to link to on journalism-related social media sites. I also produced a text version, below.

You are nicer to your coffeemaker than you are to yourself. At least you turn the coffeemaker off when you are not using it. This virus story is following you all the time, in your work life and your personal life. You have to consciously unplug from news coverage for a scheduled part of the day.

You probably are not sleeping enough. The last thing you do before you go to sleep is check your phone. You might also check it in the middle of the night and you probably check it as soon as you wake up. Do not allow coverage of the virus to be the last thing you think about before you go to sleep. Ramp down your day. Slow down.

You are looking at disturbing information all day. The repetition underlies traumatic stress. All day long you read about people who are sick, dying and worried. You see disturbing data and forecasts. If this occurred just once, you might be able to dismiss it as something that happened and has ended. But the repetitive nature of this kind of ongoing coverage will take a toll.

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