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Stress Management Methods for Whistleblowers

Posted  December 4, 2023

Whistleblowers are courageous people of strong moral conviction who often must contend with the very real psychological and physical ramifications of taking a stand for what is ethically right. Here, we explore coping techniques for whistleblowers and offer insights that can benefit everyone in managing stress.

Physical Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity is a vital means of releasing pent-up tension, alleviating anxiety, and combating depression. Exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural solution to feeling better.   Exercise can be a group activity or an individual pursuit.  Explore various activities, sports, classes and discover what works best for you.   You may find that exerting yourself rigorously is helpful.  You may prefer to slow your body down and turn inward through yoga, stretching and mindfulness practices like meditation.   For many people, it is a combination of both.  Importantly, it is easy to find exercise options that are free or low cost.   And if you can get outdoors for your exercise, sunlight is known to release serotonin and increase Vitamin D levels while reducing stress and depression (but wear sunscreen).   Give exercise a try!  The physical health benefits are directly linked to improvements in mental health.

Nutrition: Adopting mindful and healthy eating habits is instrumental in stress reduction. Eating healthy, nutritious food for stress-reduction can be done affordably and can be fun and even tasty.  Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants.   Whole grains, nuts, avocados and a glass of warm milk are other healthy and relaxing options.  Things to avoid include: food items high in sugar, simple carbs, soda, excessive alcohol, and caffeine.

Volunteerism & Hobbies:   Opportunities for engagement in one’s community are abundant and provide a means of self-help through aiding others. Your local hospital, nursing homes, social services organizations and religious organizations are good options for volunteer opportunities.  A simple internet search can match you with your community’s best resources for volunteerism.  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a good list of sites, and VolunteerMatch is an example of a clearing house that has opportunities across the country.    Alternatively, a hobby might be more your speed – whether it is music, nature, arts/crafts, or sport.  There are group and individual activities for everyone that can provide not only a diversion from the stress of whistleblowing but sheer joy and fulfilment.

Allyship:   Sherron Watkins, Enron, whistleblower says, “Never go it alone.” Whistleblowing often entails a solitary journey due to the imperative of maintaining strict confidentiality. Not every whistleblower has the fortune of a co-whistleblower, but each can seek out supportive individuals who provide solace during moments of anxiety or sadness. You never know where you will find an ally.  In fact, you may even meet someone new, while exploring some of our other stress-reducing tips.

Pets:   There is a reason a person’s best friend is often their pet. The bond between individuals and their pets is often profound. Pet adoption can be a gift to oneself as well as to a pet in need.  Pets are believed to reduce stress, decrease loneliness, and even lengthen people’s life expectancy.   Interacting with pets has been shown to decrease levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol and lower blood pressure.  And if you don’t want to have one in your house, play with a friend’s pet or take a few minutes to watch cute animal videos.   Give it a try, and we challenge you not to smile – which consequently also reduces anxiety.

Mental Health Resources:   It is crucial to seek professional assistance if you are struggling to cope with the burdens of blowing the whistle.  You are not alone.  There are resources in your community, as well as anonymous hotlines.  Whistleblowers like Jacqueline Garrick, a former Army Captain and social worker, who knows first-hand the potential trauma from whistleblowing retaliation, created a peer support organization, Whistleblowers Of America, for whistleblowers.  The National Whistleblower Center also has a list of helpful resources.

Screen Time and Sleep:  Last but not least, prioritize rest.  These are challenging times, but doomscrolling will exacerbate stress.  Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen shared with the world the challenges caused by social media despite known health concerns.  Place those devices that keep our brains buzzing to the side.   Read, listen to music, meditate, or do absolutely nothing.  Whatever helps you unwind; it is indisputable that sleep helps reduce stress, anxiety and depression.

Whistleblowers exemplify remarkable courage in their pursuit of justice, but the corresponding challenges of managing stress are shared by many. By adopting these coping techniques and seeking support, we can all work towards enhancing our mental well-being during difficult times.


This post is for informational or educational purposes only and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultation with healthcare professionals.

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