The Mental Health Protection Practices of War Correspondent Trey Yingst
Courtesy of Trey YingstTrey Yingst possesses a serene quality that is nearly disconcerting. As a war correspondent, Yingst is presently stationed in an extremely perilous area of the globe at this moment—Israel and the Gaza Strip. Yet even as he discusses narrowly escaping death in an airstrike sixty minutes prior, he remains composed. Matter-of-fact. Enlightened.
"Dread is something that, if you're not cautious, can place you in a highly precarious circumstance," Yingst expressed on the Men's Health Instagram Live program, Friday Sessions, as bursts of airstrikes within Gaza cast an orange glow behind him. "You need to possess the appropriate amount of apprehension."
For the last ten years, Yingst has journeyed to locations most individuals are fleeing, reporting on the realities of conflict, violence, and human strife. The seasoned journalist has provided coverage from war zones in Ukraine, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Currently serving as a foreign correspondent for Fox News, he is stationed in Israel to report on the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
More From Men's Health Yingst recently joined Friday Sessions from the Israel-Gaza border to delve into how he manages his mental well-being in the most extreme of circumstances. Merely ninety minutes prior to his conversation with Friday Sessions host Dr. Gregory Scott Brown, Yingst recounted how he and his team were seeking cover amidst rocket fire, with one rocket striking approximately 100 feet away.
"It was a miraculous occurrence that no one incurred injuries or lost their lives," he recounted. He himself was not exempt.
Yingst characterizes his reporting on the escalating conflict in Israel as "one of the most demanding assignments [he's] ever undertaken." The life-threatening episodes, the sleepless nights, the perpetual stench of death.
Yet even when Yingst is recovering from bomb-blasting airstrikes, he strives to uphold fundamental lucidity of mind.
If I permit my mind to spiral out of control, I'm placing myself and my crew in further peril," he stated, referencing circular respiration techniques as his preferred coping method in tense situations.
However, the substantial responsibility of caring for Yingst's mental well-being comes into play when he distances himself from assignments, preparing himself for instances such as these where trauma is omnipresent and time for processing is limited.
The Appropriate Time to Attend to Your Mind is Always"I always inform individuals that I ready my physique and my intellect during periods of tranquility," he affirmed. Yingst mentioned that before his current reporting in Israel and Gaza, he was engaging in physical exercise and taking daily cold showers to maintain a peak level of physical and mental stamina.
"You acquire control over your intellect and your respiration during a cold immersion," he expressed. "Anybody who has experienced cold exposure understands that when you enter, your body instinctively rebels against it. You experience panic. A portion of it entails mastering your breath and your thoughts, reminding yourself that it is merely temporary. If you are able to slow down your respiration, you are in command. Those principles are relevant to the field."
Being a war correspondent is far from a standard 9-to-5 job. Yingst is on duty 24/7, frequently going without sleep while residing in the world's most perilous regions. Just as war necessitates mental resilience, so does the process of returning to any semblance of normalcy after enduring such grueling circumstances.
"War has a manner of altering your mental state in a way that is challenging to articulate. However, it is an experience that anyone who has been to war will testify to," Yingst conveyed during the Instagram Live session. "You must reintegrate into society. You must remind yourself that you can visit the grocery store and inquire about people's days and the weather... You must essentially recondition your mind to regain a state of normalcy."
Yingst shared that he has learned to be patient and compassionate toward himself during this process of "reintegration" and "reconditioning." However, this self-compassion extends beyond the trauma of war—Yingst believes it is a universal practice.
"You don't have to be a war correspondent to feel down about something," he remarked. "But identify which [coping techniques] resonate with you and begin implementing them. And remind yourself that you won't instantly feel better. Yet, you must recognize that there is a path and an ultimate objective. If you bear all of that in mind, there are brighter days awaiting."Related Story
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However, frequently, Yingst encounters individuals during their most challenging moments—amidst a war that has claimed the lives of their loved ones, demolished their residences, and upended their lives.
In those instances of intense emotional upheaval, he acknowledges that positivity is frequently not beneficial. Those potential "more positive times" do not provide solace. Sympathy, on the other hand, can be.
You attempt to embrace individuals and assure them that everything is acceptable. However, everything is not acceptable. It is not acceptable," he expressed. "Individuals are losing their cherished ones, correct? We recently visited a small community in southern Israel and encountered a mother whose son is being held captive by Hamas within Gaza—and her situation is not acceptable. It's not acceptable. Hence, you cannot inform them that everything will be fine. Before departing, I simply embraced her and stated, 'I empathize with you. We will share your account.'"
He added, "Moreover, I have been communicating via text with individuals I am acquainted with in Gaza who are not affiliated with Hamas—simply Palestinian civilians or journalists who have endured the loss of friends this week. You cannot inform them that everything is okay, because war is repugnant. It is horrifying. It is terrible. I detest war, and those who suffer the most in war are not the military. It is not the militants or the Hamas members—it is the civilians."
Nevertheless, even as the distressing orange bursts of airstrikes illuminate Gaza behind Yingst, he still maintains optimism regarding the condition of humanity, utilizing his reporting as a method to "illuminate dark places."
"The most significant insight I have gained from covering conflicts and calamities, including natural disasters worldwide, is that humans are essentially benevolent," he affirmed.
Watch the entire conversation below:
View complete post on InstagramKatie Dupere
Katie Dupere is an editor and writer in New York City specializing in identity, internet culture, social good, lifestyle, and beauty subjects.
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