Coping with bad events…
Dr Jozelle Miller
February 20, 2024
Coping with bad events…

In recent times, it appears that bad news has become something to expect almost daily. From natural or man- made disasters, gruesome crimes, health scares, financial challenges; many persons may be living with bated breaths, just anticipating news of the next bad thing. Receiving bad news can be incredibly jarring and turn your world upside-down. Not only do you need to manage all the consequences of the news, but you also need to handle the effects that bad news can have on your physical and mental health. You may feel tired, stressed out, or unable to cope. Understand that everyone responds to stress and trauma in different ways, and you can find ways to take care of yourself as you deal with your bad news.
Tips: Take care of your physical health:
1. Breathe. In the immediate aftermath of receiving bad news, you may find it difficult to breathe. You may feel tightness in your chest, a pit in your stomach, or feel like you can’t catch your breath. Focus on your breathing and breathe deeply.
When people are stressed out, they often hyperventilate. Spend some time focusing on breathing into your belly (rather than your chest), inhaling through your nose, to reset your breathing.

2. Drink water. Hyperventilating and breathing through your mouth (as you may do when you are stressed out) can lead to a dry mouth and thirst. You may be crying a lot, depending on the nature of the bad news, which can dehydrate you. You may also be too distracted to feel your body’s normal cues. Keep this in mind and remember to stay hydrated. You may want to carry a bottle of water around with you to help you to remember to drink.

3. Get a good night’s sleep. As the saying goes, “Everything looks better in the morning.” You may be better able to process the news and figure out your next steps following some sleep.
Sleep aids in regulation of emotions. Think of an overtired toddler, throwing a tantrum over a broken cracker. That child will be back to a normal, cheerful kid after nap time. You may find that sleep helps you think more clearly and logically about your bad news. You can also try taking a power nap to reset yourself. Getting sleep when you are stressed can be difficult. Learn some bedtime relaxation techniques like turning off electronic devices, listening to calming music or a guided meditation, or taking a bath.

4. Exercise. Release all the stress, tension, and anxiety you are carrying from the bad news by exercising. Exercise produces endorphins, which help you feel better, as well as helps you feel more energized and alert.
Try taking a walk. Even moderate physical activity can help improve your mood and lower your stress level. Take some time out for yourself to play your favourite sport or go to the gym.

5. Prepare for fatigue. Bad news can be exhausting. Your brain is working overtime as it tries to process your news or problem-solve. You may also be forced to take on extra responsibilities as a result of this bad news.
For example, if you received the news that your father was in a serious car accident, you may not only be emotionally drained, you may also be busy visiting him at the hospital, obtaining the police report, contacting his insurance company, and supporting your mother.
Go easy on yourself and give yourself permission to let non-essential things slide during this time. For example, let the dirty dishes pile up in the sink, or reschedule a work meeting if you can.

6. Avoid numbing behaviours. You may be tempted to manage your pain by drinking, using drugs, or binge eating. Keep in mind that these behaviours only temporarily dull your feelings and do nothing to help you work through your bad news. These behaviours only create a cycle of feeling the pain and numbing the pain. They do not help you process the pain.
If you feel compelled to drink to excess, use drugs, or binge, talk to a friend to help distract yourself, or consider attending a support group meeting, such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Tip 2: Taking Care of Your Emotional Health

7. Improve your ability to deal with disappointment. Bad news can also take the form of something less serious, such as a disappointment. For example, you might feel disappointed when you hear the news that you got a lower grade than you expected in a class, or that someone you like is not interested in you. Try to develop your ability to handle disappointment, such as by identifying something positive in the situation or putting the situation into perspective.

8. Know that you may be in shock. It is extremely common to not feel much of anything when you first hear the news. You may feel numb, like you are going through the motions. While other people around you may be crying upon hearing the bad news, for example, you may be sitting there in stony silence. Understand that this is normal and does not usually last very long.
That feeling of numbness is the brain’s self-protection mechanism to not let too much trauma flow in at once. Slowly you will begin to process the feelings associated with the bad news.

9. Feel the emotions that come to the surface. Don’t bottle them up. You are processing this news and your brain needs to work through it. You work through it by letting your feelings flow through and out of you without judgment. Fear, sadness, anger… whatever you feel is appropriate and normal.
It is okay to cry if you hear someone else’s bad news (for example, if your friend tells you he is seriously ill), but do not make the person in crisis comfort you. You could say, “Don’t worry about me; I’m just so sad to hear this bad news.”
Your brain will probably be replaying the news over and over again. It’s your mind’s way of getting used to the new information. It’s tiring and annoying but normal.

10. Distract yourself. Processing bad news can be exhausting. Take a break from it if possible and do something you find enjoyable. The problem may be at the back of your mind, but busying yourself for a while will give you a sense of normality. You may even find yourself feeling a bit better.

11. Reach out to your support network. Find people you trust who can be a shoulder to cry on as you process your bad news. Look for friends, family, clergy, or others who can listen supportively without offering advice or judgment.
Make sure you are talking to people who can support you in the bad news, not the people who are currently experiencing the bad news. If you found out that your mother has cancer, for example, you may be devastated and need support of your own. However, you need to seek support from someone other than your mother, who is dealing with the biggest crisis.

12. Look for professional support. You may find it beneficial to seek out more structured, professional help for a number of reasons. Perhaps you just moved to a new city and have no one local to talk to. Or maybe you are tired of relying on your friends to be ready to talk to you. Talking to a counsellor or joining a support group will help you feel like you are not alone, and give you strategies to help you cope.
Find a support group whose members deal with the problem you are facing. You can contact local hospitals, community service agencies, or look online for local groups near you. Seek counselling if you are struggling to cope with your bad news, and/or do not have a support network available.
Adapted from WIKI HOW….