6 Mindful Ways For Processing Bad News

photo of newspaper and coffee

The news is tough to handle right now. Between natural disasters, pandemics, and personal struggles, it often feels like the bad news is always upstaging the good.

Unfortunately, simply shutting off the news isn’t an easy solution. The effects of exposure to stressful information can linger long after you’ve stopped scrolling, and they typically manifest as anxiety and depression. According to Health Magazine, women are twice as likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder, meaning they’re most likely to be hit hardest when bad news rolls around. But even when it feels like the world is going up in flames, mindfulness is key to keeping that feeling from becoming overwhelming.

“The main purpose of mindfulness-based practices is to help us focus on the here and now,” says Rocio Rodriguez, MA, who is a student at Pepperdine University in Malibu and a Marriage and Family Therapist trainee. “The advantages of mindfulness-based practices have proven to be an effective mechanism in decreasing the negative impact of stressful events on our lives.”

Staying present and mindful, Rodriguez says, de-escalates the chaos that occurs in our minds when we’re receiving bad news. It also enables us to accept our emotions without penalizing ourselves for experiencing those feelings, which is a vital step for overcoming the shock and anxiety. Better yet, mindfulness is something we can incorporate into our daily lives to build resilience for particularly rough days.

woman with hand on chin thinking

The next time you’re faced with bad news, try staying present with these six mindfulness practices:

  1. Accept the negative emotions

Though this might seem counterintuitive, learning to accept the negative emotions associated with bad news is actually key to getting over them.

“Acknowledge your feelings/thoughts and find a way to understand them,” says Elizabeth Hancock, a clinical social worker based in Maine. “Depending on the news, you may not be able to get over it, but by expressing your hurt (by exercise, therapy, art, etc.), you can respond constructively.”

Attempting to avoid negative emotions, like sadness or anger, can actually lead to more stress. Acknowledging and accepting the emotions instead, without trying to change them, makes coping easier in the long run.

  1. Repeat exposure to the news

Separate studies conducted by the University of Arizona and Tel Aviv University have pointed to evidence that repeated exposure to bad news can actually help people recover from it faster. Reflecting on the situation repeatedly, rather than trying to avoid it, could speed up emotional recovery.

  1. Meditate on it

We’ve talked about meditation many times before because we believe it’s well worth the hype. Meditation is one of the oldest mindfulness tricks in the book It helps people relieve tension by focusing on their mind and body in the present — without ruminating on what’s going on around them.

  1. Take a hike

Being in nature is one of the most fundamental methods for easing anxiety and increasing mindfulness. Immersing yourself in the natural world reduces anger, stress, and fear. It also gives you a chance to draw your attention towards the Earth’s beauty — a welcome respite in a world that can sometimes show its ugly side.

  1. Keep things in perspective

While accepting any negative emotions without judgment is key, keeping track of what’s good in your life is equally important. If you haven’t already, starting a gratitude journal can really help with that!

  1. Turn off your phone

This might sound obvious, but it’s worth repeating: taking time offline to recalibrate is crucial for keeping anxiety at bay. Constantly doomscrolling through social media never makes us feel better! Instead, try making a cup of tea, watching your favorite feel-good TV show, or reading a book. It’ll take your attention off of the news and recenter your mind.

 A close up of a man writing with 2 people in therapy in the background

Of course, if the bad news anxiety starts to become too much, it’s best to seek professional help and reach out to friends and family for support. Rodriguez notes the importance of having a support system when times get tough:

“Maybe we can’t control a situation, but we can control how we feel about it and what we do to protect ourselves from falling apart,” she said. “It’s essential to have awareness, coping techniques, a support system, and knowing that we are not alone and asking for help can make all the difference.”

Cecilia Seiter
Cecilia is a freelance writer and contributor to Slow North. She writes largely about sustainability, especially as it applies to beauty, wellness, and the future of technology. She is a graduate of the journalism department at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and is based in Los Angeles, CA.