Avoiding early burnout

A reporter in her early 20s starts losing her hair. Another loses weight and has symptoms of depression. Everyone knows journalism is a tough business, but that doesn’t make it any easier to cope with the stress of feeling overworked and unsatisfied in your chosen profession.

Scott Reinardy of the University of Kansas surveyed young journalists a couple of years ago and found those under 34 were the most exhausted and cynical about their work.

Reinardy moderated the “Beating Burnout” session at the Society of Professional Journalists annual convention. A summary in the SPJ conference newsletter quotes him as saying, “You can’t fix burnout. There are no easy answers. No secret potion or pill to take to feel better.”

How do you recognize burnout? It’s often a combination of things: exhaustion, negativity and decreased self-esteem. Here’s a quick online self-test.

Panelist Aiesha Little–the one whose hair was falling out–said young journalists have very high expectations, “and the more outrageous the expectations are, the bigger the disappointment.”

Renee Petrina–the one who lost weight–said her first job almost destroyed her. After changing jobs, she said, she became more involved in her community, volunteering and spending more time with friends and people in her faith community. Having a life outside the newsroom helped her enjoy her work more.

Reinardy’s suggestions for beating burnout? Take ownership of your work, define what you want within the organization, take vacations for short-term healing and value others with positive feedback of their work.