Welcome to the second half of a two-part series that shares expert advice on how to deal with all the bad news that fills our social media feeds and news outlets. If you haven’t read it yet, click to check out part I.
Mindfulness over matter
According to former NHS general practitioner Nicola Harker, the human brain is hardwired to read the worst into bad news, which then makes us leap to unhelpful assumptions.
“We’re wired for survival rather than happiness,” says Harker, who is now working as a coach with a focus on mindful self-compassion.
“Notice how your brain goes to worse case scenarios and notice the narrative that is running in your mind. The brain loves to go to ‘all or nothing,’ but the reality is usually somewhere in between. You can find comfort, connection, even joy in difficult times. With a growth mindset, you can come through terrible situations.”
Sleep on it
It’s not uncommon when faced with bad news to head straight into making a rash decision, which could actually turn a bad situation worse. Clinical psychotherapist Tania Taylor suggests taking some time before making any reactive decisions.
“It’s easy to jump into taking action that you’ll later regret,” she explains. “If you can, sleep on it. When we sleep, our memories from the day are processed and moved from our emotional to our narrative mind. We can then think about them and make decisions using the intelligent part of our brain rather than our ‘fight or flight’ limbic system.”
Shake it out
Sylvia Tillman, a provider of Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises, says that our bodily reaction of shaking or trembling in immediate response to trauma or bad news should be encouraged—not stopped.
“We’ve been socialized out of it,” she says. “We perceive tremors as weakness, something embarrassing, or even as illness.” In reality, “shaking after a stressful or traumatic event is good for us as tremors enable a disrupted nervous system to bring body and mind back into balance, finalizing the stress response. It’s an innate and very natural reaction. We should trust our body wisdom.”
Prepare for aftershock
While shaking or tremors are usually an instant response, sometimes our responses to bad news can be a bit delayed.
Clinical hypnotherapist Geraldine Joaquim advises preparing yourself for a late reaction. “It might seem that you take it all in at the moment, but afterward is when maybe the tears or emotion come because it just takes a little while to filter through,” she explains. “Recognize that you don’t always have to keep soldiering on and allow yourself some self-compassion.”
Talk about it
Psychologist and wellbeing consultant Lee Chambers says that reaching out to your network of trusted friends and family or even finding professional help is a positive way to manage bad news.
“It’s easy to internalize things and fall into your own unhealthy coping mechanisms,” he says. “Recognize the value of positive social support when you’ve had bad news—expression the negative emotions that come with it enables us to take ownership of them and begins the process of being more self-compassionate and kind to ourselves.”