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.
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, in order to reset your breathing.
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.
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 naptime. 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.
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 favorite sport or go to the gym.
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 your 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.
You may be tempted to manage your pain by drinking, using drugs, or binge eating. Keep in mind that these behaviors only temporarily dull your feelings and do nothing to help you work through your bad news. These behaviors 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.