Knowing how to cope with bad news isn't easy. 4 expert tips for dealing with distressing global events

Remember this: you're not alone.

How to cope with bad news: A woman watching the news on her phone
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're Googling how to cope with bad news, chances are, you're one of the many people finding the current global news cycle unsettling and distressing. 

While we've brought you an article on how to help the victims of conflict in Israel and Palestine, that doesn't make the events any less devastating. Each day, we're faced with a myriad of highly emotive, upsetting headlines which can very much affect our mental health.

If you are feeling a little out of sorts at the constant barrage of headlines, news reports and distressing world scenes, know that you're not alone. There is plenty you can do to show your support and further, several ways to safeguard your own mental wellbeing. Below, we've spoken to Gail Marra, clinical hypnotherapist and author of Health, Wealth & Hypnosis, and Joanna Konstantopoulou, health psychologist and founder of Harley Street’s Health Psychology Clinic, to get their take on how best to cope - mentally and emotionally - with the current global events.

How to cope with bad news: your guide

Konstantopoulou shares that sometimes it can feel as though we’re seeing a constant barrage of negative news coverage - especially given the last few years. "From climate change, to war, to terrorism, to major crime stories, media coverage can feel relentlessly gloomy. That can be incredibly distressing," she explains.

Find that the news often heightens your fear and anxiety symptoms? You’re far from alone, she continues - especially given the current situation. "Whether you feel that you're regularly affected by the news or not, it can be upsetting to watch and read the current coverage," she goes on.

Do know that, as humans, we have what’s known as a "negativity bias", which unfortunately means that we tend to be drawn towards negative and distressing news often without even realising it, explains Marra. "It’s good to be aware of current world events, but we can get sucked into the negativity," she explains. "It can become overwhelming and ultimately, make you feel totally powerless - yet by default, you search for more of it."

While seeking out negative news may be a part of human nature, as with everything in life, the hypnotherapist explains that how you respond is key.

When we react negatively to negative news – particularly dramatic news that threatens to affect us personally, like the ongoing war - we automatically go into fight or flight mode. "In this mode, we are on the defence, pumping out adrenaline and cortisol which raises our blood pressure, increasing our heart rate, and leaves us feeling confused, angry, stressed, anxious or afraid."

Bottom line: it's okay to feel stressed right now, it's okay to feel nervous, and it's okay to feel anxious. We are facing unprecedented times, which will undoubtedly affect your day-to-day.

There are, however, a number of coping strategies you can use to help protect your mental health, share both experts. "You may not be able to change the situation, but you can change the way you react to it with these simple steps," shares Konstantopoulou.

Below, the experts detail their top tips for safeguarding your own mental wellbeing.

1. Help where you can

Know this: You can't necessarily change current affairs, but you can learn to live with bad news and make a difference where you can.

"Small acts may not stop bad things from happening, but they certainly help, plus can assist you in feeling like you are helping the situation," shares Konstantopoulou. Think laying flowers, sharing your thoughts online, or paying your respects in your own way.

2. Talk to people

A problem shared is a problem halved, and talking about your anxiety can help you work through the emotions and perhaps get a clearer perspective, shares the psychologist.

"Other people may have a different take on a news story or the future outcome, and hearing their point of view could help you find a balanced perspective," she shares.

3. Switch off

One of the best coping strategies? Taking a break from the coverage.

"Yes, it’s important to be informed about world events, but if it all becomes too much and is starting to damage your mental wellbeing, then taking a break from the coverage is key," Konstantopoulou shares.

Try this: Reset your social media feeds, avoid news websites and turn off the TV for a few hours in the evening. A break from the constant media coverage can give you the headspace you need, plus will allow you to take the information in, acknowledge your thoughts and feelings towards it, and then decide how to act on it.

4. Decompress

If you know that you have taken in the current news headlines and done everything you can to show your respects, know this: decompressing and making sure you are protecting your own mental health is one of the easiest ways you can help.

"In therapy, I encourage clients to close their eyes and imagine their mind as a clear blue sky with the occasional white cloud passing through it," shares Marra. "Breathe slowly and deeply as you visualise the clouds floating gently past until they fade and disappear. Spending a few moments every day practicing this simple method can work wonders in restoring calm and clearing your mind."

Keen to know how to find a therapist? Our expert-led guide can help.

Ally Head
Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, eight-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She regularly hosts panels and presents for things like the MC Sustainability Awards, has an Optimum Nutrition qualification, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw, with health page views up 98% year on year, too. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.