How to coping with bad news is news

Coping with daily reports which we read, hear or see on TV is increasingly difficult ,here we outline coping mechanisms which can prove invaluable.


Daily we hear on the news of thousands buried under rubble after an earthquake, countless migrants drowning in the Mediterranean trying to get away from wars to a safer shore, hordes of people in refugee camps with food and water in short supply, children used in the sex trade, police shootings, fires and floods, polar bears drowning from lack of ice flows, and worsening drought in California…and we are assured that these things will only get worse.

Not all the news is really bad, but people are more likely to watch TV or read about some catastrophe somewhere in the world or a robbery in our town than a hopeful story.

coping one family

Dr Amy Farabaugh writes: “Modern news coverage sometimes focuses on violent, shocking, or disturbing content that is intended to attract attention and generate an emotional reaction in the audience.” So the media follows the dictate: “If it bleeds, it leads,” and spins even neutral stories negatively. All of this may attract readers and viewers, but it is not an accurate picture of the state of our world if it only deals with the negatives.

Bad news has so much power because we have a visceral reaction when we hear or see it, we are literally hit in our gut. Many people get really anxious or depressed when exposed to so much suffering and turmoil. Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnate, had a special newspaper printed for him with only good news. Pessimistic people may actually look for depressing or anxiety producing stories to reinforce their views of the world. Even I, though tending to be optimistic, get upset and have a heartache about the suffering, starving, displaced, frightened children in the newspaper photos.

Marian Preble, told the story of two little girls playing in a rose garden, one came running to her mother terribly upset about all the thorns that could prick her fingers, but the other came back all excited about the beautiful roses growing everywhere.

coping one family

Dr. Richard A. Friedman, clinical psychiatry professor at Weill Cornell Medical College, has found a genetic variation in the brain that makes some people able to cope better with bad news, forgetting bad experiences, while others tend to remember every detail of negative events and perceive them all as having equal weight, so that the loss of a good parking spot seems as terrible as the loss of an heirloom.

Certain announcements (“You’re fired,” “I want to break up,” “There’s been an accident”) have a way of slamming into your life like a wrecking ball. When they do, researchers have discovered a healthy way to cope: a simple technique called self-distancing.

coping one family

Rather than immersing oneself in the bad news and sinking into obsessive analysis, “self-distancing essentially gives you a psychological time-out,” says Ethan Kross, PhD, “It involves taking a mental step back from a painful episode. You become a fly on the wall, watching yourself in the experience and reflecting on it from a distance.

Coping mechanisms

Meditation is used by many as an antidote to the constant stimuli battering their brains. Coping with bad news by going for a walk, being in nature, and looking at trees were also frequently mentioned. Being part of a support group where problems can be shared is helpful to some. One idea of particular interest is making a rule that for the next meal the conversation cannot touch on medical, family problems or politics. The topics suggested are books one is reading, worthwhile journal articles, and the positive actions one is taking—in other words, talking about ideas, intellectual pursuits, and all the fun stuff.

The way Dr Amy Farabaugh deals with her own sadness of the coming demise of the polar bears is by remembering how evolution works: species come and species go. The polar bears may become extinct, however, some have begun mating with brown bears, so she is looking forward to a whole new species of speckled or striped bears. You cannot do anything about suffering multitudes, but if you turn to the problems of children in the city, you have some leverage by either funding a program or speaking up on behalf of some organisation that is making a difference.

In one experiment, Kross and his colleagues asked students to think of a difficult episode from their past. Those in one group were told to relive the event as if it were happening again; the others were instructed to visualize moving away from the situation to a vantage point where they could watch themselves in the unfolding drama as if it were a video. The self-distancing group not only felt less distressed but registered notably lower blood pressure. “This distancing,” Kross says, “facilitates the ability to work through the event, leading people to have insights that buffer them against future negative reactions. If you ask them to recall the same experience a week later, they don’t become as upset as people who don’t distance. They also ruminate less.”

So focus on what you can control

Discuss the troublesome news with others to try to get a different perspective;

  • Pay attention to upbeat stories, heroes are everywhere
  • Look for news of new research
  • Look at innovations in technology, medicine, design, art, or architecture; meditate; list five things you were grateful for today
  • Take a walk
  • Talk to a friend
  • Listen to music
  • Smile
  • Whenever bad feelings recur, try distancing
  • Mentally take a step back so you can visualise yourself in the experience—it’s now happening to the person (you) over there.
  • Ask why this person is reacting the way she is. (Don’t focus on what happened, or you’ll become overwhelmed with negative feelings.)
  • As you watch the person go through the event, try to make sense of why they are having these feelings
  • Try distancing again

Credits; Tim Jarvis –

Credits; Dr Natasha Josefowitz – Huffington Post



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