Taking a Break from Death and Violence

Earlier this year, I quit my reporting job to recover from illness, finish a few personal projects and pursue travelling. Yes, travelling. I have always believed that my passion for travel along with writing is what led me to become a reporter. I enjoy both travelling for leisure as well as work immensely. Everyone talks about the responsibilities of journalists, but no one ever mentions the rest that a journalist needs. Journalists encounter the worst of things, people and events as part of their daily work. We talk about and witness death on a frequent basis. We write about the most heinous, revolting aspects of our society. Naturally, it induces immense anxiety. With high-pressure deadlines, the profession is inherently demanding. Reporting on crime, violence and bloodshed makes it worse. Add to that the declining state of present-day journalism in India. I recently had a conversation about it with a friend, and we came to the conclusion that living in present-day India is the primary source of most of our stress. Anyway, after intense contemplation, I decided to go ahead with the break. Of course, taking a break is easier said than done. The break which was supposed to nourish me came with its own set of anxieties and challenges. But over the next few months, I ended up visiting 8 states — beginning with Meghalaya, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, and Rajasthan and ending in Karnataka and Goa. Each trip had multiple moments which made me grateful just to be alive and be able to witness it. One of my highlights includes seeing a big smile appear on my father’s face when a group of strangers complimented him on his spirit because he was trekking (in Meghalaya.) My father and I completed about 6–7 treks — treks to lakes, rivers, bridges and caves together. He felt like he had accomplished something huge, and so did I. I then visited Bihar for a report I was working on. For the first time, I witnessed my home state from the eyes of a reporter and understood the many issues surrounding the state. Other highlights from my trips included sunsets, walks on the beach, mountains, rain, rivers and seafood with people who are close to my heart. I got a lot of reading done. I slept. I slept a lot. And I am so, so glad I did. Taking a break for rejuvenating one’s mental health can seem to be a weakness or as completely unnecessary. But the truth is that it takes strength to acknowledge that we all need mental health breaks. There is no shame in taking breaks.

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Ismat Ara

Ismat Ara is a journalist based in New Delhi, India. She shares insights from her coverage amid rising hostility towards minorities and declining press freedom.