How to deal with bad news

How to deal with bad news

Learning how to deal with bad news will help your mental health.

It can indeed be tremendously upsetting and flip your world upside down to receive unpleasant news. You need to deal with the effects that terrible news can have on your physical and mental health.

How to deal with bad news

You might experience fatigue, tension, or an inability to cope. Recognize that every person reacts differently to stress and trauma. You will have to discover strategies to look after yourself as you deal with awful news. Hence, the need to know how to deal with bad news.

How to deal with bad news

Everyone experiences disappointment and unpleasant news in life. How do you interpret it, deal with it, and resume your life unharmed when you do receive it? You might experience a variety of unpleasant news in your lifetime, either sequentially or concurrently. For instance, you might go through a job loss, a breakdown in a relationship, a miscarriage, a doctor’s startling prognosis, the loss of a loved one, or any other turbulence that life throws at you.

Whatever the terrible news is, it can be disheartening and upsetting and can flip your world upside down. Any type of unpleasant news can have an immediate impact on your body and trigger your flight-or-fight reaction. Your heart can start racing, and you might find that your mind starts to go to multiple worst-case scenarios in a matter of seconds.

Additionally, you might need to deal with all the implications that come along with the terrible news, including finding new employment, making payments on bills, scheduling doctor’s visits, telling friends and family, and managing how the news impacts you both physically and mentally. Everyone reacts to stress and trauma in different ways, but you can take action to face the obstacle in front of you, deal with the terrible news, develop coping skills, and lessen the damage.

How to deal with bad news: Preserving Your Physical Health

1. Breathe

You could find it difficult to breathe right after getting upsetting news. You can get a pit in your stomach, tightness in your chest, or difficulty breathing. Pay attention to your breathing and inhale deeply.

  • People frequently experience hyperventilation when under stress. To reset your breathing, spend some time concentrating on breathing from your nose into your abdomen (rather than your chest).

2. Accept your unpleasant emotion

A seemingly never-ending cycle of unfavorable emotions can start after hearing alarming news. And it can be quite tempting to try to avoid admitting the bad emotions when faced with them in order to keep yourself safe.

Kindly welcome it: When you’re feeling off, take a few deep breaths to center yourself and turn inside to the emotion you’re feeling. Give it a name and give it space to just be. If you’re feeling sad, say, “Hello, sadness,” and let it be until it’s ready to go. This is because emotions are temporary by nature.

Smoothen It Out: This does not preclude emotions from causing harm while they are present, though. Get into your body—a body scan can be quite helpful—and try to pinpoint the area of your body where the emotion is felt the strongest. Once you’ve done that, put your palm over the affected area and gently push down, allowing the calming effects of oxytocin to be released via the healing power of touch.

Carefully explore it: You will be less controlled by your brain’s fear centers and more able to connect to your more experienced prefrontal cortex once you have exercised this unguided self-compassion. You might then ask yourself what the emotion is attempting to tell you at that point. Does it make you think of anything you cherish? Or is it exaggerating a possible result in light of terrible past experiences?

Act Courageously: When we have self-acceptance, including our feelings, we are not only able to make decisions about what to do next, but we also possess a certain boldness that stems from standing up for our principles. It is simpler to take that crucial initial step the more specific you are about what you’ll do.

3. Sleep soundly that night. 

The adage “Everything looks better in the morning” is true. After a few hours of sleep, you might be better able to comprehend the news and determine your next course of action.

  • The management of emotions is aided by sleep. Consider an overtired child acting out due to a cracked cracker. After a nap, that child will resume being the happy, typical child. Sleeping might make it easier for you to process your terrible news sensibly and clearly.
  • Another option for resetting oneself is to take a power sleep.
  • When under stress, sleeping can be challenging. Learn some sleep hygiene practices like putting electronics away, relaxing music or guided meditation, or taking a bath.

4. Exercise

Exercise will help you get rid of all the stress, tension, and anxiety you are feeling as a result of the unpleasant news. This act releases endorphins, which make you feel better and give you more energy and awareness.

  • Try going for a stroll. Even light exercise has the potential to lift your spirits and reduce stress.
  • Spend some alone time exercising or playing your favorite sport.

5. Avert numbing actions

You could feel inclined to use alcohol, drugs, or binge eating to numb your suffering. Remember that these actions do nothing to aid you in processing your terrible news and merely serve to momentarily dull your emotions. These actions simply serve to perpetuate the cycle of pain sensation and pain numbing. They don’t aid in your pain processing.

  • Talk to a buddy to help you divert yourself if you feel driven to overindulge in alcohol or drugs or binge, or think about going to an AA meeting.

How to deal with bad news: Putting an emphasis on emotional health

1. Become more adept at handling disappointment

Bad news might also come in the form of a less grave occurrence, like a disappointment. You might experience disappointment, for instance, if you learn that someone you admire is not interested in you or that you received a lower grade than you anticipated in a class. Try to improve your capacity for handling disappointment by, for instance, finding the bright side of things or putting things in perspective.

  • Say to yourself, “I may only have received a C in Chemistry, but at least I passed and I got far higher grades in my other subjects,” as an example. I just don’t get chemistry.
  • You might also convince yourself, “I deserve to be with someone who can respect me, even though it is sad that she isn’t interested in dating me. It is preferable to know the truth now than to be in a monogamous relationship.

Be aware that you might be shocked. It’s very typical to not feel anything at all when you first hear the news. You can have a numbness or a feeling of motion sickness. For instance, you might be sitting there in stone silence while everyone around you are sobbing after receiving the dreadful news. Recognize that this is typical and typically does not last long.

  • The brain uses that sensation of numbness as a self-defense strategy to prevent the inflow of too much trauma at once. You’ll gradually start to work through the emotions brought on by the awful news.

Feel whatever feelings rise to the surface. Don’t keep them sealed up. Your mind needs to process this information as you process it. You overcome it by allowing your emotions to pass through and out of you without passing judgment. Whatever you’re feeling—fear, despair, anger—is acceptable and normal.

  • If someone you care about breaks bad news, it’s acceptable to cry (for instance, if your friend tells you he has a serious illness), but you shouldn’t try to soothe them. “Don’t worry about me, I’m just so upset to hear this horrible news,” you could respond.

2. Get distracted

Bad news processing can be taxing. If you can, take a break from it and engage in something fun. Even if the issue could be in the back of your mind, distracting yourself will help you feel more normal. You might even see some improvement in your mood.

  • You might choose to go shopping, read a book, solve a puzzle, or see a comedy with your pals.

3. Contact your network of supporters. 

Find trustworthy individuals that you can lean on for support as you process your awful news. Find someone who can listen to you with compassion and without giving you advice or judgment, such as friends, family, clergy, or others.

  • Make sure you are speaking with those who can help you cope with the unpleasant news rather than those who are now experiencing it. For instance, if you learned that your mother has cancer, you might be upset and need assistance. However, since your mother is facing the largest crisis, you need to look for support from someone else.

4. Look out for professional support

For various reasons, you might find it helpful to look for more organized, professional assistance. Maybe you recently relocated to a new city and have no one to chat to there. Or perhaps you are fed up with waiting for your buddies to be available to talk to you. You will feel less alone and receive coping mechanisms if you speak with a counselor or join a support group.

  • Look for a support group whose members have experience with the issue you are having. You might browse online for nearby local groups or get in touch with neighborhood hospitals and social care organizations.

5. Learn from your mistakes

Perhaps you could have prepared for your test or remained loyal to your spouse in order to avoid receiving your awful news. Consider what you might do differently the next time when you review. You may prevent history from being repeated by reflecting on the lessons you’ve gained from this experience, which will also help you have a good outlook. If you can reframe your bad news as a lesson to be learned in life, it will be simpler to be optimistic.

  • Do not be reluctant to retry. One of the effects of bad news or poor choices is frequently a fear of taking risks in the future. Keep in mind that you can gain knowledge from the experience by thinking about what occurred. You’ll be more knowledgeable about what to do the following time.

6. Be adaptable

Reassessing their objectives and creating a new plan helps resilient people recover from terrible news. They do not view negative news as an obstacle but rather as a detour or a completely different destination.
Imagine, for instance, if a crippling wrist injury forced you to give up your goal of starting your own massage therapy business. You’re heartbroken, but while you mull over your options, you recall that your favorite aspect of massage treatment was promoting relaxation in others. You make the decision to create a yoga studio since you are experienced in operating your own business.

7. Engage your spirituality

As you learn to deal with your unpleasant news, you might find comfort in your faith. A common human issue is suffering, which is discussed in a wide variety of religious teachings and writings. Putting more of an emphasis on your spiritual life will make you feel more at ease and better able to handle stress.

  • Pray. It has been discovered that connecting to a higher power and talking about your problems can help people feel less anxious.
  • Meditate. Not only has meditation been shown to reduce stress, but it can also help you develop a spiritual connection and a sense of “oneness,” or of being interconnected with the divine.

How to deal with bad news: FAQs & answers

How can I alter my response to a circumstance?

Try outputting the facts of the case from the perspective of a third party. You can examine the situation in the present moment from a more pragmatic standpoint as opposed to a simple emotional one by using an outsider’s perspective.

I learned that a person who is very close to me is ill. How do I handle the fact that I don’t know what will occur?

Spend time with the person you love. What can you do to support your loved one in their current situation? Ask them. Ask the person’s family if there is anything you can do to help in any way. If you believe you require further support, ask a family member, a friend, or a grief or bereavement counselor for advice.

How do I overcome adversity?

While practically everyone will encounter these obstacles at some point in their lives, some people are more adept at handling hardship than others. Some people give up on the first obstacle, while others have the fortitude to maintain composure in stressful situations.

The good news is that developing resilience and getting through adversity can be learned, and it requires focusing on your attitudes, actions, and behaviors.


It is crucial to practice self-kindness and take care of your physical and emotional health while you are dealing with negative news of any kind. In the wake of trauma, it’s simple to put your health on the back burner. Even though it may be difficult, it’s crucial to maintain composure when receiving bad news and to breathe.


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