I don't want to go to work
I don't want to see people, listen to people, hear people
I don't want to write and can't write.

If a journalist has such thoughts constantly,
it means that (s)he is burnt out

I don't want to go to work
I don't want to see people,
listen to people, hear people
I don't want to write and can't write.

If a journalist has such
thoughts constantly,
it means that (s)he is burnt out .


How to live and work with professional burnout?
Burnout is not necessarily an issue of a big load of work, it's a compassion fatigue and meaninglessness of what you are doing. People who burn out are usually specialists that closely deal with other people, their tragedies, illnesses, and problems.

Those professionals are not only journalists, but medical and social workers and those who are involved in volunteer and charity activities.
HOW JOURNALISTS BURN OUT EMOTIONALLY
Until August 1st, Anna Yarovaya worked as an editor and video producer for 7*7. Anna was a laureate of a "Redkollegia" contest and earned the "Profession: Journalist" award for her investigation called "Rewriting Sandarmokh". Sandarmokh is a memorial cemetery in Karelia where mass killings of political prisoners took place in 1937-1938. Yarovaya also covered the case of the historian Yury Dmitriev. He collected information about the victims of terror who are buried in the Sandarmokh cemetery, and became a victim of political repressions as well.
I was taken aback by Yury Dmitriev's story. Somehow, I took it too personally, this story about reprisal over a person who didn't harm anyone. Only due to the fact that he crossed someone's way, he was pulled out of his everyday life, thrown in the mud, had his family broken, and his daughter psychologically traumatized. I came to understand that this can happen to anyone.
Anna Yarovaya, "Fourth Sector"
Now Anna lives in Finland with her husband and children, and before quitting she worked remotely. She decided to quit when she realized that life was passing by while she spent all her time at the computer.
Anna Yarovaya
Journalist
Of course, I feel partial burnout. The work began to annoy me. I can edit someone else's text, I can communicate with people, but I cannot write. Words do not shape up into a text, there is some kind of block. And it's also annoying.

There is also a feeling of powerlessness.
A person comes to you to get help, but you understand that even if you tell his or her story, nothing will change. It will not stop putting innocent people to jail, it will not stop tortures over prisoners.
Anna Yarovaya
Journalist
Of course, I feel partial burnout. The work began to annoy me. I can edit someone else's text, I can communicate with people, but I cannot write. Words do not shape up into a text, there is some kind of block. And it's also annoying.

There is also a feeling of powerlessness.
A person comes to you to get help, but you understand that even if you tell his or her story, nothing will change. It will not stop putting innocent people to jail, it will not stop tortures over prisoners.
The feeling of disgust towards work and the feeling of powerlessness are clear symptoms of professional burnout, as well as unwillingness to communicate with people.

Alla Broslavskaya, an editor from the newspaper and website "ProSeverouralsk.ru" (Severoruralsk is a city in Yekaterinburg region), started feeling this unwillingness a year ago. She specializes in stories about people, their problems, troubles, and illnesses. Last March Alla quit her job. She came back half a year later. But at the moment of quitting, she was sure that she was leaving the profession for good.
The last straw was a story with a young guy who was killed in an apartment building. When he was being killed, no one interfered. He was all bruised, there were many traumas, but I understood that the investigation would turn it into an accident, like he fell down. No one would investigate this murder. After the publication of the story online, I received a call from his mom who said "Do you realize what you've done? Why did you write about his traumas? How am I supposed to live now? You killed me!".

I wanted to tell her that if she wouldn't be able to live, it's not because of the news I delivered but because of the fact that her son was killed. She actually craved for the same thing as I did, for her son's murder to be investigated. We met and talked, she was a wonderful woman. Then I attended the funeral, donated 500 rubles, and realized that I was going to quit journalism.

I like people, I respect them. I communicate a lot with those who are considered "antisocial", and I treat everybody as human beings: I don't judge, I don't teach them how to live. I'm always interested in people, who they are, why they are what they are. It attracts people towards me, makes them open up.

When the story with that guy happened, I realized that I no longer want to listen to and to hear people, I don't want to see them, I don't want to know about their problems, I don't want to write those stories. I couldn't stand this flow anymore. Yes, I burnt out.
Anna Broslavskaya
Journalist
FROM STRESS TO BURNOUT
In May 2019, the World Health Organization included the professional burnout syndrome into the International Classification of Diseases. However, in their list it's not classified as a "medical condition", but as a "factor influencing health status". It is specified that the syndrome results "from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed". The process of burnout usually begins with intense and prolonged stress that causes a feeling of tension, irritability and fatigue.

It eventually leads to psychological withdrawal from work as a person becomes apathetic, cynical and rigid. Stress turns into burnout in several stages. Olga Kravtsova, the author of the project called "Psychology of Stress for Journalists", says that stress takes three phases:
Mobilization (alarm): resources and defenses are activated. The person feels burst of energy and is ready to work 24/7.
Resistance: the person starts feeling tired but there is still some inertia to resist it.
Exhaustion: the resources are not endless, so the person begins experiencing troubles with memory, concentration, work motivation. The strength is running out.
Emotional burnout.
Some researchers consider burnout as a manifestation of the third phase of distress, the exhaustion.
Irina Kosterina
Program Coordinator,
Heinrich Böll Foundation in Russia
Writing about the latest Louis Vuitton collection and about people dying in hospices is not the same thing. Many topics, stories and people that journalists have to deal with, are grievous and toxic, causing the feeling of guilt over the inability to help. The stories may spin in your head for days and months, leading to constant anxiety, insomnia and depression.
Irina Kosterina
Program Coordinator,
Heinrich Böll Foundation in Russia
Writing about the latest Louis Vuitton collection and about people dying in hospices is not the same thing. Many topics, stories and people that journalists have to deal with, are grievous and toxic, causing the feeling of guilt over the inability to help. The stories may spin in your head for days and months, leading to constant anxiety, insomnia and depression.
BURNOUT SYMPTOMS
Researchers described various of symptoms for emotional burnout but rarely are they manifested all together, since it's an individual process.

Among the first signs of burnout are a general feeling of tiredness, unwillingness to work, vague anxiety, intense boredom, loss of enthusiasm, suppression, pessimism about the future, thoughts about changing jobs, negligence towards clients, and decrease in work efficiency. Another important sign of burnout is the avoidance of activities or people not related to work, including family.

WHO has defined three dimensions of the emotional burnout:

— feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
— increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job;
— reduced professional efficacy.

Olga Kravtsova explains in more details:
Work motivation disappears
The person doesn't want to come to work. Waking up in the morning feels like a torture. Sleep is disturbed by a thought of going back to work next morning, it feels disgusting. Work activities are annoying. The tasks are being completed just for the sake of getting rid of them.
One feels senselessness
and helplessness
There is a constant feeling that the work has no meaning. It's aggravated by a feeling of helplessness. Why bother if it has no meaning, nothing will change anyway? Why should I tear my heart and soul if the situation remains the same for those whom I write about?
The person becomes a workaholic
Paradoxically, on the one hand, the person spends more and more time at work, but with almost zero results. Work turns into a routine that consumes a lot of energy. Even simple tasks get longer time to be done. The person gets stuck and can't complete much.
New people and activities become annoying
Journalists (not all but many) love their work for the opportunity to meet new people, to be in the center of important activities. Their emotionally intense work and sophisticated tasks keep them busy, and "in good shape". But sometimes, there are too many (especially negative) people and activities, and one feels that there is not enough energy for everything. So the professional goes into an "energy saving mode".
One feels tired
It feels impossible to get rid of this fatigue, it's always there. Neither sleep, nor weekends or vacation seem to help. More and more often comes the feeling of leaving everything and going somewhere to a remote place where no one would see or hear you.
A person becomes cynical
Cynicism is a common defense mechanism: a person cannot show empathy, cannot support others, so (s)he feels negligence towards people and their troubles. People's stories no longer evoke any emotions.
Many journalists burn out because of the constant necessity to communicate with other people. When they come to our retreats, they ask to simply be left alone and talked to less. We have a rule: everyone takes care of his or her own comfort, doesn't have to participate in anything if (s)he doesn't want to, respects the boundaries of other people and does not impose his/her company or talks.
Irina Kosterina
Program Coordinator,
Heinrich Böll Foundation in Russia
WHY DO PEOPLE BURN OUT?
Professional burnout syndrome has no difference for federal, regional or local journalist. Anybody can burn out, even if they deny it. Often at media meetings journalists "brag" about who works harder, has more difficult tasks, or is more efficient. In the eyes of others, we all want to look better and stronger even if the work brings no joy any longer.

Professional burnout is affected not only by the volume of internal resources or work related themes and stories. There are other factors as well.
External factors include low material compensation and the lack of quick results of the work, unpleasant atmosphere in the team, poor management, a large number of tasks, constant stress, deadlines, nonstructured work processes and communications. As a result, the person puts a lot of effort into work with zero effect.

Internal factors include personality traits, perfectionism, workaholism, proneness to depression, lack of self-regulation skills.

Many people – even if they love their job and their team – get tired from constant routine and tasks. It leads to apathy and low productivity. Sometimes one has to change either job or scope of work.
Irina Kosterina
Program Coordinator,
Heinrich Böll Foundation in Russia
HOW TO HELP YOURSELF?
The first thing you need to do is to accept your imperfection. You don't have to be ideal, and your professionalism is not discounted by a failure. If something doesn't work out it doesn't mean that nothing does. Try to get rid of your inner perfectionist attitude and stop scolding yourself for mistakes.
Olga Kravtsova
Project Author
Psychology of Stress for Journalists
Your attitude towards yourself can be seen from one exercise, where you make a kind of "memo for a rainy day": list all your talents, achievements and good qualities, recording all the best.

Many people, when they start writing, caught themselves thinking: yes, I'm good at this, but I'm bad at that, they try to "balance" their good qualities with bad ones. They only write this memo for themselves, no one will ever see it, and still, in the process of writing they are afraid of bragging too much, so they start to self-deprecate.
Olga Kravtsova
Project Author
Psychology of Stress for Journalists
Your attitude towards yourself can be seen from one exercise, where you make a kind of "memo for a rainy day": list all your talents, achievements and good qualities, recording all the best.

Many people, when they start writing, caught themselves thinking: yes, I'm good at this, but I'm bad at that, they try to "balance" their good qualities with bad ones. They only write this memo for themselves, no one will ever see it, and still, in the process of writing they are afraid of bragging too much, so they start to self-deprecate.
If you scold yourself, ask yourself a question, could you tell all those things to a child? Hardly so. For a child, we would probably find words of encouragement and support. So why do we blame ourselves with such severe cruelty to the extent we want to escape from our own skin?

We all want to be good professionals, but this desire sometimes reaches perfectionism: in our profession, we must be able to do everything. It's important not to feel flawed because you failed to solve all the problems instantly and effectively. Try to talk to yourself as if you'd talk to a person dear to you — don't scold, but support. We often accumulate our failures and mistakes, so that they are spinning in our head. Try to accumulate good stuff: here I succeeded, here it worked out fine, here we helped this person, here we got thanked for our work, and here we initiated important changes.
It's important to recognize burnout in the early stage when fatigue is still not too strong, and there is enough attention to take preventive measures: go on vacation, make a pause, follow a healthier daily routine, balance work and rest, check if other life areas are in balance, do you have something besides work, is there enough time to meet friends, spend time with the family and loved ones, to do your hobby?

It's important to monitor your physical and psychological condition. If you fail to do it regularly, as a result you may end up in a really bad phase. Sometime people come to us completely exhausted, sometimes aggressive, when everything annoys them to the extent of attacking people. Sometimes they come in a state of apathy and confusion regarding what to do with their lives.
Irina Kosterina
Program Coordinator,
Heinrich Böll Foundation in Russia
For the last three years, Heinrich Böll Foundation in Russia has been conducting retreats for activists and public figures: for all those who can be called helpers. Sometimes journalists come to those retreats as well.

The retreat provides an opportunity and place for a person to do something with his/her life. For someone it's a pause, for someone it's a chance to recharge, to find a new direction and accumulate strength for a change. The effect is not infinite, of course, for some people it lasts a month, but they still feel something that helps stay in the profession.

In the most extreme cases, a person quits his/her job after the retreat, and doesn't go anywhere else. But it happens not because the trainers pushed him/her towards such decision, but because the person
felt a need to pause and to listen to their inner needs.
We try to prolong the retreat's effect through subsequent individual consultations, work in mini-groups and different techniques. Some people follow all recommendations and prolong the effect, some just come back to usual routine and habits. Everybody makes their own choice why they attended the retreat and what they want to take from it.
Irina Kosterina
Program Coordinator,
Heinrich Böll Foundation in Russia
HOW TO DEAL WITH BURNOUT?
Keep a diary
Vent your emotions, both negative and positive, put it on paper. It's a trite but effective advice. Keeping a diary is difficult if you're not used to it. If you don't have such a habit, write at least when you feel bad. It will unload your brain.
Delegate
Forget the saying "if you want things to be done well, do it yourself". Don't do everything yourself, delegate. Maybe others will solve the task in a way you don't expect, but it doesn't mean it's a bad way, just different.
Change your attitude
Yes, it's also a trite advice. But who will feel better if you keep thinking about the situation that you can't change? It definitely won't help you but might put you in a bigger stress. Ask yourself, what will change if you do something not the way you initially wanted?
Find what brings you joy
What helps you recover? Yoga, karaoke, drawing, walking outdoors, playing with your dog? Take time to do something that makes you feel positive emotions. If you like doing nothing, do nothing. Even looking at funny pictures online helps someone rest and regain their energy.
Look down on the problem
If you jump down the hole where your characters are, you won't be able to help them. While staying "above" the situation, you have a chance to lend them a helping hand. To disengage from a terrible situation doesn't mean to distance yourself from a person.
You are not perfect, and it's good
There are things you cannot do. There is nothing wrong with that. And it doesn't mean you're useless. Yes, you can't get the moon from the sky, but you can pick an apple from a tree. Focus on the things you definitely can do.
Get your colleagues involved
Arrange breaks. Chat with your colleagues on some topics not related to work, tell a joke to laugh together, or recall funny moments from your office life. Do a little exercise together, throw a ball to each other. Drink coffee listening to the sounds of nature. Exchange compliments with each other, they're always nice both to say and to hear.
Go on vacation
The world will not collapse if you take a vacation, even if someone thinks it's not a good moment. If it is a wrong time for a vacation, at least make it taboo to do working tasks during non-working hours. No, you don't have to be available to anybody at any time. Don't read mail and messages after work. Do yoga instead. Or draw something. :)
Visit a psychotherapist
You will have an objective look to your situation from another angle. It's also a way to vent your emotions, fears and concerns. When they don't spin in their head but are being talked over, things begin to seem less terrible.
Positive feedback helps prevent burnout. It's when a journalist receives recognition of his/her achievements: from the story characters, readers, colleagues, and bosses.
At a workplace it often happens like this: if you've done your work properly, no one will comment, since it's taken for granted that an employee is fulfilling his/her duties. But when you do a mistake of fail at something, you will be criticized for that. It turns out, that even an excellent team member rarely gets praised, and his/her work is estimated when something goes wrong. Yet positive feedback is crucial, it makes the work meaningful.
Olga Kravtsova
PdD in Psychology
Alla Broslavskaya always looks at the audience' reaction to her story: the number of views, the number of comments, etc. She says that it's important for her to understand whether people are interested in her stories that are so dear to her.
Alla Broslavskaya
Editor for newspaper and website "ProSeverouralsk.ru"
I never delete negative comments from the site. Yes, a negative reaction kills your self-confidence and your incentive to write. Each rude comment hurts your soul.

Over time, I've developed immunity to such comments. I understand that it means that my work affected the readers, evoked emotions, made them think about something important.
Alla Broslavskaya
Editor for newspaper and website "ProSeverouralsk.ru"
I never delete negative comments from the site. Yes, a negative reaction kills your self-confidence and your incentive to write. Each rude comment hurts your soul.

Over time, I've developed immunity to such comments. I understand that it means that my work affected the readers, evoked emotions, made them think about something important.
Praise is important. Your boss has to encourage you. It's important for your self-awareness, for your self-esteem. I can see when my publication "blows" the audience up, but if my editor-in-chief confirms that and says "Alla, it's a cool text", it gives me strength, inspires me and becomes my incentive.
Words are very important to me. One word can make my day or ruin my mood. But it's true, it's not accustomed to praise. When you discuss a material with your colleagues and say: look, what an excellent text, what a hard work has been done, we need to praise the authors, usually you hear in response: well, we paid them a good fee for that.
Anna Yarovaya
Journalist
HOW TO WORK WHEN YOU'RE BURNT OUT?
Crises and burnout can happen to practically any creative person, even to the most energetic one. The world becomes dull, story characters are boring, public speeches are predictable, events are wellknown, — says multimedia producer Oksana Silantieva. She has several recommendations how to recover from such crisis.
Stop
Any crisis of creativity is rooted in the brain. Therefore, the solution should be based on understanding how the brain works. Most of the time we get so immersed into texts that we can hardly perceive visual information, sounds and tactile sensations. Arrange a "sensory reload". In media, we mostly work with our eyes. So it's necessary to turn this channel of perception off temporarily.

Get everybody out of your room, ensure silence, turn off the light, put on a blindfold, sit in an armchair and concentrate only on what you can touch with your fingers. Feel the roughness of the paper on your desk, the ribbing of the pen you usually write with, find a crack in the glass, examine your computer mouse with your fingers. You can turn on some relaxing music, listen to it with your eyes closed, focusing on the melody.

Dance like nobody watches you. Go for a walk just to wander around. Make yourself to go for a walk, right now.
Change the environment
Do you usually work non-stop with the news flow in your office? Take one week a month to do field reports, send photos, short notes, observations, quotes from conversations that you overhear riding a tram or standing in line. Arrange a "week of observing ordinary people", switch your attention from press releases and announcements to conversations, talks and gossips. Act like a reporter: walk around the city taking pictures on your smart phone to illustrate "typical life scenes".

A famous saying "changing activity is the best rest" works well if you start collecting information in a different way. Have you worked with documents a lot? Start doing inclusive observation. Have you done a lot of interviewing? Try to make photo reports from the scene. Have you rewritten press releases?

Think about what bothers you the most in the life of your city, and write a column about it, add some subjectivity to your professional life. Don't consider it as a radical change in your journalistic profile. It's only a short rest, to pull yourself out of routine.
Copy someone else's project
Look at the projects created by others. For instance, from the sdelano.media collection.

Think about what project you could implement in your city and region. Borrow a format: a map of local kindergartens that are currently being used for other purposes, a photo slider "What this street looked like at the beginning of the XX century and what it looks like now", instructions "I checked it myself", an online utilities calculator, etc — and fill with your characters, your experience, your data. Get inspired by the ideas from your peers.
Organize team training
A common disadvantage of many training programs and seminars is the fact that we often send only one person there. We do that because it's expensive, because someone has to replace him/her at work and work on news feed or edit the newspaper. As a result, the person that goes to a conference or a seminar, gets inspired, but the rest of the team doesn't. The person comes back and gets swamped in the same routine.

It's better if it's a practical training, not lectures. The brains that got stuck need some commotion. Don't forget to invite your sales managers, programmers, designers, photographers, cameramen, and editors to such training, they are also a part of your team and they contribute to the final product. However often we forget about them when we plan a training program.

The more diverse specialists take part in joint projects, the more interesting the result is.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: HOW TO RETURN TO WORK AT WHICH YOU BURNT OUT?
I haven't worked for half a year. And it was an excellent time period in my life. Although it didn't go the way I thought it would. I imagined I would spend more time on gardening and on myself. Nothing like this happened. If I got used to spend six hours gardening, I would still spend six hours gardening. Then I would leave without caring what was happening there.

Also during that time, I realized that I live with a person who will never tell me what to do or scold me for doing nothing, who would always offer support. My dismissal didn't cause any material difficulties for my family. I'm very lucky with my husband.

My spouse supported my decision to quit. All the stories that I had worked with I would drag home and dump on him. He also couldn't stand to take other's troubles and problems any longer.

It took six months for me to realize: I can't live without people, I'm meant to work with people's suffering. In most cases, I can't help a person, and no one and nothing can help him/her. But I can listen to him/her and say: you feel bad, but I'm here with you. People often come to journalists just to talk things over. And I want to give them such opportunity.

It didn't become easier to work. It's still hard, to be with a person who goes through grieve and suffering. But it's given to me, it's mine, and that's what I want to do.
Anna Broslavskaya
Journalist
IF NOT A JOURNALIST THEN WHAT?
An American journalist Luis Gomez interviewed 160 journalists who left the profession. The main reasons for changing jobs were: low pay, stress, layoffs, or simply loss of interest.

Luis Gomez described the research results in three parts of his blog on Medium.

The most common profession that former journalists chose was public relations. Among other jobs, not connected with journalism, were food service, teaching, social work, library science, medicine, technology, security, agriculture.
Think about why you're leaving, and what it is you want to do instead. Don't leave just to leave — you might end up in another unsatisfying or stressful job.
Gail Waterhouse
Public Policy Professional
What's your mood that you go to work with?
Have questions?
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Olga Berdetskaya
Project Author, Editor
Sdelano.Media
Translated by
Olga Kravtsova
Made on
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