Bad news happens. Whether it’s coming down from the Supreme Court, from your doctor’s office, or by a text from your kid’s guidance counselor, we all have to deal with bad news. Hopefully, though, not too often.

My personal strategy depends on the degree of badness.  If it’s not life-shattering, I’ll probably choose to immediately vent, like the time I was forced to replace my broken vacuum cleaner. (Apologies to those who politely listened to my rant.)  If the news is really devastating, I’ll take some time to adjust before I’m ready to talk about it.  (When I’m ready to talk about it, I will.)  

How do you handle bad news?  Do you immediately go to the worst-case scenario, or do you ponder the “what ifs” for a while? Are your fingers flying over to the web-md site? Or to social media?  Does your tendency towards anxiety shift into high gear?  

There are dozens of coping strategies for handling bad news.  I’m going to elaborate on a few that make sense to me.  (Note that they make sense, not that I am necessarily good at them.)

Strategy #1:  Focus on your breath.  Deep breathing when you first receive the news will help to settle your racing heartbeat and control your emotions.

Strategy #2:  Shift into self-control.  Take some time to gather information while figuring out what’s within your control and what isn’t.  And please don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

Strategy #3:  Lean on someone.  Even if you think you have no one who will support you, think again.  It’s okay to ask for help or simply request a sympathetic ear.

Strategy #4:  Put the bad news into proper context.  (I often hear my mom’s voice in my ear saying “Nancy, I hope a broken water heater is the worst thing that ever happens to you.”)  Will it matter in a week?  Or a month?  Or a year?

Strategy #5:  Find the positive.  Maybe your bad news is really a wake-up call to change your career path, or to forgive someone, or to get treatment by a professional.  Understand that this may take some time, so please be patient with yourself.

After my husband died, I spent hours on end in one particular chair watching mindless television.  Once I started feeling better, I decided not to sit in that chair because it brought me back to the most difficult time in my life.  Yet once in a while, I find myself back in that chair, wondering what made me sit in it again, and forcing myself to work through a difficult situation.  Sitting in that chair helps me to breathe, strategize, and look for the sunshine.  

I’m always striving to learn what makes people tick.  Gathering that information helps me to be a better friend, and a better mediator.  So, I have a request.  Please comment and tell me how you deal with bad news.  Is your method effective?  Or do you think it needs some improvement?