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Health Tip: How to Cope With Bad News

“About 100 people were reported to have died in the building that collapsed.”  “An unknown man reportedly shot sporadically at innocent people at the cinema, while 20 people were feared dead, 88 persons sustained various degree of injuries. ” “An earthquake of a high magnitude has occurred, claiming many lives and properties. ” Floods in Texas, Mudslides in Sierra Leone, Cholera outbreaks in Yemen made headlines in August.

Bad news is inevitable. Television screens and social media make bad news and negative, shocking images available on a daily basis.  It could be in the dimension of a natural disaster, terrorist attacks, plane crashes, wars, domestic violence, human right violation, crimes and so on. This could be personal (loss of job, properties and disclosure of a medical condition) or related to loved ones. The avalanche of bad news may have a huge impact on your mental and physical health.

How do you react to bad news or gory scenes on TV? Do you feel numb or distressed? If so, you are not alone. These are very common reactions to unpleasant news. People may be shocked, dazed, anxious, tensed, confused or sad. If they are in the form of images, it may keep coming to back in the form of flashbacks or as nightmares thereby disturbing our sleep.

These experiences could be short-lived or persists for a longer time, depending on who is involved, an individual’s vulnerability and coping skills and availability a social support network. In some cases, sudden exposure to bad news in persons with pre-existing medical conditions may lead to untimely death.

According to 2013 study on the effect of continuous media coverage of Boston Marathon bombing on a group of respondents in New York City led by E. Alison Holman, respondents viewing the news coverage for six hours or more were nine times more likely to report acute stress levels than those with minimal media time. The Researchers said repeated exposure to traumatic imagery through media could potentially activate fear circuitry in the brain and cause flashbacks-two precursors to developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How can you cope with bad news?

You may try to limit exposure to bad news or distressing images. Responsible news agencies often warn viewers before showing graphic images. That may be the time to switch off the TV. Does your device automatically download images and videos? Can you consider using the manual mode  which gives better control over what you store on your mobile devices?

If you become exposed to news that can potentially affect you, try the following suggestions:

  • Feel free to express your emotion. Ventilate your concerns and don’t hide your feelings. It is normal for people to cry and feel sad.
  • Try to distract yourself by going out to watch movies, play games and hang out with friends.
  • Have a good night sleep, though this might be difficult taking a bath and listening to a cool music.
  • Ensure regular exercises such as taking a walk.
  • Learn some relaxation techniques.
  • Get involved with a support group.
  • Avoid unhealthy coping methods such as excessive drinking and use of other psychoactive substance use as they provide only a temporal relief
  • Explore social support network of friends, family and relatives.
  • Seek for professional intervention.

Do you have any specific strategies that you have found really helpful? Please leave your suggestions below.

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