By Ala’a Ibrahim
UNITY 2017 Reporting Fellow
Journalists of color around the country gathered in New Orleans for the National Association of Journalists convention early this August. The energy in the building was incredible. In the end, I left New Orleans with extremely valuable information and connections.
I attended various workshops and panels at NABJ, but one in particular will stick with me forever: a panel on maintaining your mental health while working in this demanding industry.
There was around 15 people in the audience, seated in a room set up for about 50.
Seeing this many empty seats made me realize just how little mental health is discussed in the media industry. Among the hustle and bustle of everyday work schedules, some of us often forget to take care of ourselves. The doctors at the NABJ panel noted that long hours, irregular work schedules, and lack of sleep can take a serious toll on one’s health.
I love the media business. I really, really do. But I decided then that I would not let my love for the business kill me.
At one point, one of the speakers asked the audience how many of them got at least 7 hours of sleep a day. Two people raised their hands. This did not surprise me, but it should have.
Many journalists and producers, including those at NABJ, work very hard. Sometimes a little too hard. Although I’m fairly young and new to the industry, I’ve already experienced some of the mental and physical trade-offs that come with valuing work over my health. At times, I would find myself constantly exhausted, anxious, and stressed.
At NABJ, I realized the importance of taking time off and consistently checking in with yourself when it comes to your mental and physical health. My time at the convention truly changed my perspective on how I have my priorities ordered.
We aren’t machines. So don’t try to operate like one.
Ibrahim, who is studying multimedia journalism and business at the University of Texas at Austin, is UNITY’s 2017 Reporting Fellow.