How We’re Getting By: A Survival Guide for Journalists

Working in the news industry can feel pretty traumatic these days. Here's how we're coping.

[Photo: A young woman looking out a window when working on laptop.]
Even the thickest-skinned among us are searching for respite and retreat from the headlines. Shutterstock

At Rewire.News, we’re no strangers to a news cycle that doesn’t build much faith in humanity. We cover abortion (among other things)! But the past few weeks have felt like too much—days upon days of Kavanaugh developments and watching people (mostly women) expose the rawest parts of themselves to convince U.S. senators to believe survivors. It’s not a stretch to say it was traumatic for all involved and for all those bearing witness. Even the thickest-skinned among us are searching for respite and retreat from the headlines.

As journalists, we are committed to not looking away from the news, at least not during the workday, no matter what it might bring. But once we do, what comes next? How do we take care of ourselves for the long haul? We asked Rewire.News staff what they are doing to stay afloat amid the deluge. Here’s what they said.

Binge Watching and Reupping Family Time

In the wake of the Kavanaugh vortex—because every bit of non-Kavanaugh news got sucked into oblivion over the last month—I’ve thrown myself into binge watching a bunch of new shows. The Man in the High Castle is a super (supposedly futuristic) documentary about life in America under fascism, and it’s drawn particular interest from me.

Besides that, I’ve tried to have more contact with my kids back in New England, and I’ve leaned on my friends to help me escape it all. –Katelyn Burns, federal policy reporter

Trying All the ‘Pastabilities’

At around this time last year, I was just returning from spending three weeks in Italy, where I ate the most divine pasta and drank wine until life was blurry.

It’s a year later, everything is pretty terrible, and I’m missing Italy. To cope, I’ve been learning how to make a variety of pasta dishes. But perhaps more importantly, I’ve been learning how to eat them. By the plateful. I tried my hand at a black ink spaghetti with shrimp in a tomato cream sauce. It was *chef’s kiss.* Basically, I’ve been cooking a lot of fish in cooking wine and dumping it on various kinds of pasta. (I’m also learning to buy actual wine along with cooking wine because when cooking wine is the only booze in the house, one tends to make bad decisions). –Imani Gandy, senior legal analyst

Creating ‘Cosmetic Resistance’

Two words: eye shadow. I have naturally flawless skin (just joking) and typically don’t wear more makeup than a bold lipstick or a vanilla-scented gloss. But I find solace in experimenting with bold eye shadow. Jewel tones make me particularly happy, even if I’m sitting in my home office looking a bit peacock-ish as I wear shimmery shades of emerald green and aubergine. YouTube makeup tutorials, as you know, are a rabbit hole of Alice in Wonderland proportions, and I’m here for the distraction and the simple act of creating beauty through powder and a kohl pen. This administration will not have me out in these streets looking haggard.

Other than that, I love on my pets (who are blissfully unaware that democracy is in danger as long as the kibble keeps coming, but are aware that I’m stressed) and I take pleasure in reading all manner of magazines. I’ve been tossing the New Yorker (so serious!) these days in favor of magazines that have quizzes or online quizzes that ask me what Disney hero I’m most compatible with or what Hogwarts house is my natural home (Slytherin, if you want to know—and we’re not evil, just … strategic). –Cynthia Greenlee, senior editor

Connecting With Positive People

I am making a conscious effort to connect with strangers more and screens less. I do this by going to bookshops, walking in the park, attending local fundraisers, volunteering, and generally going out of my way to say hello to strangers. More often than not, I have found solidarity and that gives me hope for the future.

Here’s an example: I was flying out of Chicago on the day the news of Kavanaugh’s confirmation. I was upset, but no one else seemed to be watching.

Then I made eye contact with an older white lady who was clearly distressed. We ended up sitting together, talking and crying about the all the hopelessness surrounding us. I told her I am done with civility. She said we cannot afford to think like that and shared her story about her son who was assaulted by a teacher as a child and who is now a psychologist helping other people with their trauma. We exchanged information.

The next day, I received this lovely text: “Hope you woke up this morning with a little bit lighter heart. Believe in the strength of the human spirit. Remember that humanity has seen far worse. Refresh yourself each day with connecting with positive people. They are here and with you.” It made all the difference to how I started my day.

I used to paint and write poetry, but those pastimes dwindled over time as I began writing professionally. I recently moved and was unpacking a box when I found a large spiral drawing pad. A young roommate who enjoyed watching me paint or sketch bought it for me as a thank you gift when she finished college and got her first job. It is inscribed: “Didi (sister), wherever I will be, I will be wishing you to be the happiest person in the world.” It brought a tear. I started sketching in it last week, and it felt great.

I realized I have to carve out time to do the things that bring me joy. Drawing and writing can be lovely distractions and meditative. Tonight I will write a poem in my notebook. Simple pleasures. –Audi Guha, Northeast regional reporter

Celebrating Love with Cakecraft

After weeks of feeling the weight of the Kavanaugh hearings, I have consciously and unconsciously done various things to care for myself. The main thing that truly helped me get through was a pre-planned trip to Canada for a wedding. This wedding between two of my dear friends resulted in dozens of people from our international community convening in Nova Scotia, Canada. To say leaving the country was liberating is not fully putting words to how it actually felt. It was as if I broke through a shell of anger and sadness I had slowly built around me for the last few weeks.

The other freeing component of this weekend was that my husband and I made the wedding cakes for the celebration—something I often do for friends and have written about. Spending the final days of the Senate hearings in a cottage on the Atlantic coast, mixing batches of cake batter, and focusing my creative energy on something entirely different was the best therapy I could have received. The importance of the Kavanaugh appointment did not escape me. But the only way for me to not crumble this month was to create something beautiful and celebrate love and community with people who know my truths and keep me propped up every day to do this work. In the midst of survival, we still deserve to, and sometimes need to, eat delicious cake and dance until dawn. –Laura Huss, editorial and research associate


It’s no coincidence that many of the journalists I know are also distance runners—when it feels like the news is inescapable, sometimes physically fleeing the scene is your only option. Even though sometimes I ruin the effect by listening to NPR instead of my workout playlists, hitting the gym or doing laps outside is pretty much the only channel I have lately for all this rage and sadness that doesn’t involve some kind of alcohol.

Exercise reminds me that I can keep moving forward (literally) even when everything else seems to be going in reverse. My current goal is to deadlift the recorded weight of certain elected officials in case I ever have to pick them up and physically move them (or hurl them!) from their seats of power.

Plus, there’s no better exercise impetus than keeping yourself alive in the face of people who want you dead. Spite is a great motivator. –Kat Jercich, vice president and managing editor

Spinning to Freedom

When I’m feeling all the feelings, spinning classes like the ones offered by local gyms, SoulCycle, or Peloton have brought me back to life in more ways than one. The instructors will generally shout encouraging things that serve as a reminder of human resilience. One of my favorite Peloton instructors, Ally Love, will say things like “How can you give anyone anything if you have nothing?”—meaning no energy or bandwidth—and “They may give up on you; I won’t.” I’ve cried while pedaling my way though some feelings during more than one class.

But what I really appreciate about spinning is that unlike other exercise classes I’ve taken, the instructors have a way of getting me out of my head and helping me to center my body and what it needs on any given day. When the world feels chaotic, focusing on breathing can be a radical act. –Regina Mahone, vice president and managing editor

Watching Women’s Soccer and Running Away

To help process all of the trauma from the Kavanaugh hearings, I’ve turned to two tried-and-true methods for regaining some balance and even finding some joy.

The first is celebrating women’s soccer. It’s World Cup qualifying time for the United States Women’s National Team, which means there are games to watch and media to consume! These players, this team, give me life when I’m feeling depleted and discouraged. They are just a joy to watch. They support and celebrate each other and their fans. And they dominate the world’s play despite a lack of institutional support both domestically and abroad. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I pop over to Megan Rapinoe or Emily Sonnett‘s Instagram accounts and instantly get a lift.

I also run away to the mountains whenever I can. Literally. I’m lucky to live in an area with easy access to hundreds of miles of mountain trails where I can run and hike for hours, sometimes without seeing another person the entire time.

Running and hiking remind me of my own strength and my own power, which has been an important anchor during this news cycle. I’ve cried on those trails. I’ve sung along to Margo Price and Dolly Parton and danced like nobody was watching on those trails (though really if Google Earth caught any of it, we’d all get a good laugh). In those moments where the noise of the news cycle is just too much I’ve found some stillness out there. –Jessica Mason Pieklo, vice president, law and the courts

Killing It in the Gym—and on My Playstation

Exercise and gaming have helped me channel my anger and keep myself centered. This past year, I decided to mix things up and started taking HIIT (high-intensity interval training) classes. The workouts are so intense that some days I feel like my heart is going to beat out of my chest, but it has really helped to improve my mood, sleep, and overall fitness.

When working out isn’t enough and I need more of an escape, I end the day with my Playstation. My latest obsession is Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. There is something very cathartic for me about playing a female mercenary in the midst of an ancient Greek war. –Brie Shea, legal research associate

Reading Women Authors

As a single mom, it’s hard for me to find time to care for myself. I mostly spend my free time taking care of others. But I am trying to read every night before bed for half an hour—or until I fall asleep over the pages. More than a year ago, I made the commitment to only read books by women, and I’ve never looked back, nor have I missed overrepresented voices.

Fiction is my self-care—especially helpful for these times when it’s good to disappear into another world for a brief while. Some of those worlds can offer us hope or blueprints for change, like one of my favorite novels: Parable of the Sower, by a heroine of mine: Octavia E. Butler. Especially if your time is limited, like mine is, I recommend The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin. The book looks like a doorstop, but you can dip in and out of the short novellas in the time you have. Buying women’s books whenever I can afford to is something that brings me small comfort, especially when I can support the work of women like Caitriona Lally, a novelist who works as a cleaner.  Ali Stine, associate editor

Taking the Time to Contemplate

I seek quiet moments. I also try to have a coloring book or jigsaw puzzle near me at most times. These have proven to help my mind be occupied on something other than my constant anxiety. –Lilly Then Yarull, communications assistant 

Committing to Routine as Spiritual Practice

The thing about being a woman journalist who has experienced multiple forms of gender-based violence is that you don’t really know how the news cycle will affect you until it does. At least that’s been my experience. I knew the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process would be brutal. I also knew in my bones he’d be confirmed. I just didn’t know how hard it would all hit me. I was in Los Angeles during Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony and in Nashville when Kavanaugh was confirmed. Carne asada fries and Nashville’s famous hot chicken helped.

I think of my daily routines as spiritual practice, and sometimes it’s all that keeps me going. No matter what is happening in the world, I am committed to taking good care of myself because I am all I have. I cannot do the work I do without being well. This means I sleep at least seven hours each night, stay hydrated, take my vitamins, and eat food that makes me feel good.

This also means I move my body every day, taking long walks at the park or going to the YMCA. Each evening, I light candles and cook dinner. At night, I snuggle up in bed with my partner and my cat, and I feel grateful for all that I’ve got. The coming weeks and years will show just how much we can be stripped of, but I will not let anyone take my health, happiness, and well-being. –Tina Vasquez, senior reporter, immigration