7 tips to help you cope with bad news

Tired of seeing too much trauma on your daily bulletin? Here’s how to handle bad news fatigue and make it less overwhelming.

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Queensland and NSW floods front and centre in the news, the world can feel a bit overwhelming at times.

Yet we can’t always turn off when it comes to current affairs and world events, so how can we avoid the negative emotions that are sparked by all the bad news?

How bad news can impact us

ReachOut senior manager Annie Wylie says many people are reporting intense emotions in response to recent times – especially young people.

“People are feeling very overwhelmed,” Annie says.

“Bad news is really dominating the coverage and it’s not just traditional news, it’s social media as well.”

“Even when you’re not directly impacted by these big, bad, world news stories, it can still leave you feeling shocked, scared and with a sense of hopelessness.”

How to make bad news less overwhelming

1. Control your news sources

The first thing to do is limit your news intake to come from trustworthy sources.

“Look at your news sources and see what’s making you feel informed,” Annie says.

“Curate your social feed, according to what can keep you informed – if that’s what you are looking for – but make sure that you’re still getting positivity in your newsfeed.”

2. Limit the amount of news and social media you consume

“Think about having a no-news hour every day,” Annie suggests.

“That can mean not checking your phone, not watching the news, just some time where you’re away from the negativity.”

3. Take a hiatus from news and social media

If the first two steps don’t work, then it might be time for a break.

Think about avoiding watching the nightly news and stay off social media for a set period to help you decompress, says Annie.

4. Make changes in your own life

For those feeling hopeless, you can actually change your mindset if you take matters into your own hands, according to Deakin University public health researcher Dr Rebecca Patrick.

“We talk about active coping and doing something in your own sphere of influence to help move bad to better,” she says.

“This makes you feel like you are doing something meaningful to help the problem.”

Annie adds for the situation in Ukraine or the floods, you can donate money or your time if you are in a position to do so.

5. Set boundaries

If you find these news topics are occurring a lot in your social group’s conversations and it’s affecting your mental health, ask others to avoid specific topics.

“If you’re having a bad day, it’s OK to say to someone: ‘Hey, can we not talk about the floods today?’ Or: ‘can we not talk about the Ukraine Russia situation?’” Annie says.

6. Talk as a family

“Parents can listen to and talk to their kids about climate change or other bad news, and help them process the bad news and the feelings it brings up,” Dr Patrick says.

Annie says it’s important to ask open-ended questions to encourage kids to open up.

If your teens would prefer to share their feelings and experiences in a different way you could encourage them to join the conversation in safe and moderated online spaces such as the ReachOut Online Community.

7. Get outside

Being active and in nature can help clear your mind and shake off negative feelings.

Research shows green spaces have “restorative properties” and help us deal with stress.

“Being in a park can help restore and refresh the mind and reconnect you with the goodness of the natural environment,” Dr Patrick says.