Welcome to API’s new weekly challenge series, Balancing Well-being. In honor of World Mental Health Day on October 10, Sam Ragland, vice president of Journalism Programs, will share 20 ways to support the well-being of news teams. We aim to help you build better mental health habits over this month.

Why a 20-day, 20-action challenge? Because prioritizing the well-being of ourselves, our journalists, and by relation, our organizations takes deliberate steps toward healthy habits and self-awareness. photo of Sam Ragland

Healthy news organizations don’t happen overnight. It takes policy and infrastructure, which is why on World Mental Health Day, the American Press Institute is hosting a summit with about 60 news leaders and non-news experts in Atlanta to discuss solutions for sustaining journalists’ mental health and well-being.

It also takes time, consistency and critical mass to change your newsroom’s culture. Both leadership and team members must collectively seek change one consistent action and behavior at a time.

Over the next four weeks, you’ll get 5 daily actions to try and implement in your routine — each accompanied by an explicit why or how. Why is this important to my well-being? How is this connected to my mental health? Each activity is permission to explore other ways of working, to experiment with your time and how you live in (and out of) the stress cycle. These challenges need little to no prep. Some will feel natural, even obvious. Some are already part of your work routine and well-being practice. Others will be new. 

I hope some will make it into your regular rotation of radical leadership and self-preservation — for you and the many roles you occupy inside and outside the newsroom. I hope you can model this behavior to your colleagues and direct reports, and acknowledge and celebrate them. Remember: Culture is the accumulation of our day-to-day behaviors when the story isn’t on the line, when the news isn’t breaking. This month, I hope you will contribute to a healthy, people-centered and people-sustaining news culture.

Need a daily reminder to follow the challenge? Add it to your Google Calendar here.


1. ✨ Get grateful: Notice — and share — gratitude

2. 📅 Get space: Set a 5- to 10-minute cushion between meetings 

  • Why? Back-to-back meetings compound stress and increase attention fatigue. The brain’s ability to receive and process information increases when it’s given 10 minutes of rest between “being on.”

3. 📝 Get coached: Seek out career coaching 

  • Why? Perspective is a powerful tool, and it can be difficult, in the midst of chronic stress or burnout, to see a way to exit the loop. Career coaching is an opportunity to brainstorm and problem-solve with a neutral party.

4. 🗣️ Get chatty: Catch up with colleagues at the start of a meeting 

  • Why? Phatic communication is the small talk that has been upended in our post-pandemic, hybrid world, but it’s also been found to increase a group’s trust with one another, motivation, decision-efficiency and ability to communicate effectively and collaborate more creatively.

5. 🍕Get away: Leave your desk/office/home for lunch 


The book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear uses a framework called the Four Laws of Behavior Change, which breaks down the process of building a habit into four steps: cue, craving, response and reward. 

To create a cue, you need to make it obvious — spell out the habit you’re trying to build: “I will [behavior] at [time] in [location].” If the new habit you’re trying to build aligns with a current habit, you can combine them: “After [current habit], I will [new habit].” Lastly, design your environment so the cues for the new habit are visible and obvious.