Online platforms do not just reflect the social ills that plague our communities—they also have a tendency to amplify homophobic, racist, transphobic, sexist, xenophobic, and sexually-threatening language and ideas. Journalists and writers of all stripes often carry the collective burden of conveying inconvenient truths that are ripe for this kind of online attack—which is why taking care of oneself both emotionally and physically is so important.
An attack on one’s ideas is very different from an attack on one’s identity or physical safety, and when the latter have occurred, it can take an exhausting, emotional toll on an individual. Which is exactly why taking care of oneself before, during, and after an episode of online harassment is so crucial. Self-care is a critical component of producing one’s work and nurturing one’s ideas. So if you’re going to continue to write and publish online—and we hope you do—consider pursuing one or several of the options below.
- Follow this advice from psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett.
- Donate to or volunteer for a charity that stands against the hate you’re facing online. If you can afford to give even a little of your time or money to an organization that stands in direct opposition to the hateful viewpoints espoused by your online harasser, this can be a powerful and cathartic way to process your abuse. It might also cause an abuser to cease and desist if they know you’re donating to a cause they detest!
- Keep a journal. Journaling about your online experience can be a helpful means of processing your trauma and can also give you important distance from the experience.
- Read and write. For writers and journalists, this tends to be a no-brainer: Reading and writing—especially material that diverges from your day-to-day genres—can help relieve stress.
- Splurge on some body work. Massages and acupuncture can greatly help reduce physical stresses related to your emotional ones.
- Maintain your religious or spiritual practice, if you have one. Not everyone follows a religious or spiritual practice, and that’s fine. But if you do, this can be a good way to center yourself or to seek solace in a community of like-minded people.
- Head into nature. As John Muir wrote, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”
- Listen to music. Music is a proven mood enhancer and can help listeners connect more closely to the world around them.
- Turn off your phone—especially your notifications—at night. Silence your phone, tuck it under your pillow, and then set a kitchen timer and engage in another activity for a fixed period of time. At night, consider turning off your notifications altogether so you can sleep undisturbed.
- Sip a warm beverage. Herbal tea, hot chocolate, hot toddies . . .
- Spend time with a pet, a child you love, or both. Spending time with people and animals whose lives are significantly less complicated is a nice reprieve from the complications of your own life.
- Get some sun. Daylight exposure is tied to a good night’s sleep.
- Make your bed. Decluttering a room or taking a step as simple as making your bed can be a surprisingly simple anxiety reliever.
- Practice breathing exercises. Deep breathing can slow the heartbeat and stabilize blood pressure. Go here to find a list of deep-breathing exercises.
- Meditate. Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, with good reason: It can produce a deep state of relaxation and help relieve deep stress and anxiety. If you’re unfamiliar with the practice and want a place to start, try the free guided-meditation resources below: