Conversations for the Good – Coping With Bad News

Conversations for the Good – Coping With Bad News

[Music] welcome back to conversations for the good hello dr jane good morning anna how are you i’m doing good it’s good to see you it’s good to be together yes it is once again here we go right yes well we’ve had an extremely uh difficult stretch of crisis and conflict this last year and a half you know we’ve had the pandemic all the politics you know the wildfires in the west uh civil unrest and now the new variant of covid is central to the current news feeds bad news and more bad news how do we cope when the bad news keeps coming at us well you know anna that’s the tough part you know we can’t predict when the bad news will hit it really blindsides us you know it’s that unexpected phone call text message you know urgent message that puts us into the emotional tale spin you know and even when we’re anticipating bad news the reality of being actually in the experience can knock us off our bearings you know it feels like the whole world is falling apart very often and we may find ourselves stalled out or maybe unmotivated overwhelmed or sometimes we feel this kind of like we’re paralyzed in panic yeah it’s it’s so easy for me to fear the worst and then my mind gets stuck in you know some kind of negative thinking and puts my stomach in turmoil and it happens so quickly and i think it happens that way to a lot of us well i think you’re right that’s the classic reaction to bad news you know we we experience a surge of emotions in response to the news you know along with the physical reactions you know because there’s this unexpected stressful event that that blind-sizes it’s really kind of an ambush and this intense reaction is often referred to as psychological shock so it can be any event on it could be that breakup of a relationship or the accident maybe a car accident or a fall a child being injured or sometimes when an individual hears a serious diagnosis you know or even the severe turbulence on an airplane can trigger this psychological shock are witnessing something scary or being a victim of an assault even being sued i mean these are all things that sometimes just it’s like they come at us and very often they’re unexpected stopped by the police or there are some people who have what we call white coat syndrome so they go into psychological shock in a doctor’s or dentist’s office you know and for people who’ve had previous trauma that can be you know a trigger for psychological shock or an actual um actual trauma you know the individual is experiencing at the time so it can be anything any huge disappointment also falls within this category well there’s so many possibilities and people deal with these ambushes on a daily basis you know and and we all react in so many ways and different and at different intensities um it just seems to be that you know all of us handle it so differently well i you’re right you know and the degree of our reaction often depends on how close we are to the event you know so it has to do with our history and our backstory you know because we’re interpreting it and if it triggers a past trauma you know it has a more intense chance of or or we actually have a more intense reaction to it yeah that’s um that absolutely i you know i can i can see that happening so if i had a similar tragedy it could open up that memory for me that’s that’s exactly right you know so whether we’re the recipient of the bad news or we’re hearing it secondhand or it triggers something you know from our past we’re likely to have a similar reaction you know a surge of adrenaline that causes this jitteriness kind of sick feelings nausea sometimes diarrhea we go into kind of foggy thinking you know because we’re in that stress response so our thinking brain is offline so we can’t really think straight sometimes people have out of body kind of dissociative experiences tightness in check into the chest feeling disconnected or disengaged sometimes intense anger or the even sometimes the urge to run so all of these symptoms are part of that survival response we’ve talked about many times the fight flight freeze response you know when our body is gearing up for action or is disengaging either way is a protective measure you know and our thinking as i mentioned is offline so there’s also a very very predictable psychological response that’s triggered because the emotional brain that’s that limbic system in the in the in the middle brain is fired up with surprise and fear and disappointment upon hearing the bad news and so there’s this internal message that something is terribly wrong something terrible is happening and a small region of the brain called the lateral habinula really kind of it gets fired up and sends signals to the rest of the midbrain and it halts the production of a neurotransmitter called dopamine and dopamine is the brain’s pleasure chemical so even with all that’s happening the other piece that’s happening in the midbrain is no more feeling good done no more feeling good well dr jane that is worse news okay well yes it is and yet it’s an absolutely normal response to being hit with bad news you know we start feeling rejected and upset disconnected and we’re trying to process the bad news as cortisol is released into the bloodstream causing an increase of heart rate and muscle tension so we have these feelings of being really engulfed in our emotions just overwhelmed defeated um kind of this global bummed out feeling often follows you know in the science it’s just starting to figure out and understand the why and how that this happens to work and work repeatedly you know in our system you know and and they’re thinking that maybe it’s an evolutionary response that in some ways maximizes our survival because think about it you know when we feel deeply defeated and disappointed because of something we’re less likely to do it again and we have that that thought of i’m not going to make that mistake again yeah well how long can we expect that negative feeling to stay well you know a lot of that varies you know it sometimes it doesn’t go away for a long time and for some people it just doesn’t go away you know the brain has a way of stockpiling disappointment sad situations hurt feelings scary reactions and they’re all tagged to previous memories remember we talked about the hippocampus and how current circumstances call up these past situations with a similar emotional content so when this pandora’s box of the hippocampus opens up we feel flooded with emotions of the present activity what i’m going through right now and also the past free activity as well so this could be followed by emotional social physical withdrawal or avoidance of any kind of emotions i just want to back out and not engage at all or bouts of mentally or verbally attacking ourselves you know or attacking others so just when you think that life couldn’t get any worse it goes further off the rails is that what you’re saying dr j yes so let’s talk yeah so let’s talk about what we can do to stay on the rails well coping can be enormously difficult you know the the fact is that we need to process the bad news and yet our thinking brain is offline and at the same time it’s so important that we gain control of what we can control and so this begins with self-regulation you know i need to quiet and calm my reactivity so that i can access that thinking brain and move forward and and hopefully frame things in a proper perspective so as always anna you know when we’re moving out of reactivity and if we want to move out of reactivity we have to breathe we have to go to the breath the breath is the quieting and regulating starting point and so here we are at the breath we’re turning our attention to the breath we’re not looking to to necessarily change it very often i will say you know go to your breath notice what’s happening be with it just as it is however i have to say in heightened reactivity there are sometimes because we’re in this kind of emotional spinning you know we may may need something that is a little more purposeful or directive in how we begin this regulation so sometimes i suggest that people slow down their breath that they actually take the breath in very very slowly and that they hold it for a few seconds and then release the breath and in releasing it to release it slowly through pursed lips like you’re blowing out a candle so it’s like being able to very slowly out and then taking another slow breath in nice and slow holding it for several seconds and then again releasing the breath through pursed lips very slowly and this deliberately slowing down the breath very often can recalibrate the entire system or sometimes i suggest that on the exhale we think to ourselves we say to ourselves silently on the exhale i can do this i’m going to be okay i can do this so we’re actually putting that slowing down the breath and actually and along with that giving ourselves that message that everything is going to be okay that i’m going to be able to handle this not that i necessarily know how in this moment but i’m going to do it you know the other thing is as we’re slowing the the physiology down and the thinking brain comes back online i need to put the situation in perspective you know knowing what i have control over what i don’t have control over knowing what my strengths are and my resources and and where i can access support and sometimes it’s even having a moment to count my blessings you know even in the worst of times sometimes it’s saying you know but we have each other okay so looking for those pieces that will will boost me just a little bit and then other you know another thing is considering this is this a learning situation you know is there something that a lesson that i’m learning with this or for many of us bad news is sometimes a wake-up call you know or it’s a time to change or reassess our priorities so it’s being responsible and turning toward what’s happening and and acting purposefully you know no rash behavior and you know it’s it’s taking action or deciding not as this is not the time to take action and either way it’s about being purposeful it’s also looking for support you know seeking our mentors and advisors seeking advice and reassurance sometimes a different perspective the key is pick a person we can trust and a person who is not going to help me justify negative or inappropriate behavior so that’s that’s a key and then there’s also the self-care that we need to consider you know getting enough sleep eating and these are times when sleep is hard and eating is hard this is a time to avoid alcohol and drugs we need nourishing activities nothing that will deplete us and also really opting for that self-compassion being kind to ourselves it might be a time that i have to forgive myself or something or maybe i find that maybe i need to be open to forgiving someone else or maybe forgiving someone else is really too soon you know and this also may be a time that we seek professional help you know really looking for someone other than my my family or friends to give me support and advice you know one thing i want to say though is let’s avoid unverified information on the internet because sometimes that can feed our angst and anxiety you know the key is on we need to move on with life people make mistakes things happen you know we really have to strive to be the best version of ourselves and operate with honor and integrity during a very difficult time yes dr jane these are all very straightforward tips good tips as you know for sure this addresses those unforeseen hits of bad news what about the ongoing bad news of the daily news feeds you know we’ve had an incredible time and sometimes is felt downright toxic well anna you’re absolutely right i mean yes tonightly news you know gun violence terrorism you know the panics uh pandemic’s death toll you know missing children it’s a never-ending cycle of horror stories i mean and that’s what sells which which is kind of crazy when you think about it but it’s really no wonder that anxiety is on the rise you know and and clearly you know there’s some moderate anxiety that’s okay because it raises our awareness and it really can promote um proactive problem solving you know that moves us closer to keeping ourselves and and our loved ones safe but the anxiety we’re talking about that’s generated by this particular phenomena of constant horror stories you know is really over the top and we’re such a highly connected culture and and our anxiety is exacerbated by this um constant consumption actually it’s it’s an over consumption of the internet and social media and 24-hour news cycles you know it’s on and on and on and it sets up the illusion that the world events are right outside the door and that’s what heightens the anxiety you know so right outside the door are all those horrendous crimes and tragedies yes it’s overwhelming well in our minds absorb all the all the threatening messages you know and we’re triggered into various levels of fear anger sadness cynicism you know and it affects everyone we encounter not just ourselves it’s our family our friends our co-workers you know even that that that stranger you know who’s providing a service you know whether it’s the the clerk at the store or the the repair man who comes into the house you know it sets the tone of our daily life and how we’re reacting to ourselves and to everyone else you know and sometimes we just want to you know walk away or numb it out or or run you know and there’s an increase in the media consumption and and over consumption through this whole covet crisis and all the civil unrest that we had last last summer so and the negative impact and the well i should say that the negative impact of both the mental and emotional health has been well documented you know it’s been it’s part of studies now and we’re looking at you know through the studies the long-term effects in fact the cdc and the world health organization both suggested that backing off of constant consumption of news would help sleep and appetite disturbances anxiety and other mental health uh conditions well this really makes good sense and you know we’re already in crisis and then compounding our stress with a constant stream of how awful the situation was you know it just doesn’t it doesn’t help no no it doesn’t you know and this is the daily hourly minute by minute reporting has fostered um almost an addictive response to the news cycle i mean people have have told me that it’s like they can’t help themselves they have to keep tuned in they have to you know hit that hit that news or they have to run in and and check out the tv or some people keep the news on all day long you know so much sensationalism you know we’re all taken in by our fears you know and that kind of constant exposure has an impact on the brain i mean we’re experiencing our survival mechanism being activated and maintained you know keeping us in that fight flight freeze response and the sympathetic nervous system is activated and so there’s this ongoing release of hormones adrenaline in particular and cortisol in particular you know and as the stress is prolonged we experience physical symptoms you know mild moderate or severe but nonetheless physical symptoms fatigue anxiety depression sleep disturbances you know and this ongoing consumption continues to sensitize us and intensifies our vulnerability to any future stress or anxiety or worry yeah well can we let’s talk about strategies to counter this downward spiral into more of intense reactivity well first of all on it it has to start with limiting our exposure to the news you know scheduling specific times maybe when we we go in and watch it or read it for that update but i also suggest we don’t do it too close to bedtime because of the surge of adrenaline and cortisol okay and also it’s about watching and listening to reliable news you know we can also check out how we feel before we go into the um exposing ourselves to it you know and also check out afterwards because if i’m already triggered or i’m already you know revved up i might want to abstain from the news tonight you know rather than continuing to to exacerbate that condition you know i can get a summary of the news from family or friends or for some people they’ve opted not to watch the news but they subscribe to things like the news newsletters or podcasts where there’s a limited time of exposure and also content so it’s really about knowing what we need for ourselves and and being informed and yet creating boundaries from the news you know especially disastrous news or at least limiting our exposure to it you know limiting our exposure to also other kinds of stressful news you know the postings on social media or during the covid crisis and certainly during the political campaign the personal ramps were over the top you know on social media so it’s about maintaining some boundaries with that but also doing healthy positive things for ourselves maybe after the news that could be taking a walk or a workout or talking to a friend as long as we’re not talking about the news to the friend you know any kind of healthy distraction can recalibrate us and bring us back to balance you know the other thing is avoid caffeine you know we’re already hyped so backing off that is probably going to help everybody and and it’s also about accepting the uncertainties of life you know it’s all part of life and that’s why we also want to because we want to be able to be with the uncertainty to avoid any kind of numbing activities you know the drugs or alcohol because we want to know what what is in our control and what’s not in our control you know and lastly it’s about practicing loving kindness you know both in how we treat ourselves you know how we treat others sending loving kindness meditations out into the world and the bottom line is living in in gratitude as best we can there’s a lot to be thankful for oh absolutely dr jane there is you know this is a tough one and it’s it’s not going away obviously it’s a relief to know that by being somewhat strategic we can reduce some of the stress from being bombarded by negative news i really really appreciate this conversation dr jane thank you so much [Music] thank you anna until our next conversation [Music] you
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Conversations for the Good - Coping With Bad News

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