How To Deal With Bad News Stories

There’s so much sad and scary stuff happening in the news right now. Often when we read something tragic, our first reaction is to feel anger at the perpetrator, then helplessness that we are unable to do anything. In this article, Jane explains how Tara Brach's RAIN method helps to deal with bad world news stories.
Jane Gabites
Jane Gabites is a psychologist and writer from New Zealand.
dealing with bad news
Jane Gabites
Jane Gabites is a psychologist and writer from New Zealand.

Jane Gabites explores a method of dealing with bad news stories. Try it yourself next time bad world news trigger anger, anxiety, sadness or disgust. (This article was published in June 2020.)

It’s healthy to feel anger—it’s a normal human reaction to tragedies. But it’s not healthy for us to constantly carry the anger around, day after day. It can negatively affect our health and it can also cause us to boil over in rage and potentially harm others with our anger.

Earlier this year in the news I heard of the former rugby league star who burned and killed his wife and children in Australia. I noticed my own reaction of horror and anger. I felt my shoulders and jaw tense and I was incredibly saddened for all the families and other people who have been affected by this senseless and hideous violence. More recently, I have felt the same when I heard about the police brutality towards black people and other minority races in the US and around the world. For example, after hearing about George Floyd and seeing the brutal footage, I was so saddened and frustrated that such a thing could happen again and again, I carried the tension around for days.

Read more: If you’re like most people, the endless stream of news from environmental degradation to humanitarian crises can leave you feeling helpless and exhausted. Instead of feeling inspired to rally for a cause, you might feel like hiding from the world. Learn more about, so called, compassion fatigue.

Dealing With Bad News By Using The RAIN-Method

American clinical psychologist Tara Brach has a powerful tool using the acronym RAIN to help us manage these strong emotions in a really helpful and positive way. 

First with the ‘R’ she tells us to simply Recognise or notice these powerful emotions. So, using RAIN, I said to myself: “I’m noticing I’m feeling angry, disgusted and sad.” Actually, just recognising it really helped.

She then tells us to Allow our emotions just to be there, acknowledging: “This is how it is for me right now. I’m allowed to feel like this.”  

After acknowledging that this experience was very real for me, Tara says we can then Investigate what feels most difficult about this. She also suggests to investigate where we’re feeling it in our bodies. My shoulders were tense, my jaw was tight and my stomach felt sick. I was able to breathe deeply into these tight and tense parts of my body, just being with the feelings and letting them soften.

I did a grounding meditation, which helped bring me into the present moment, instead of being locked in my anger. We can ask the angry part of us: “What am I believing? Am I believing that there’s nothing I can do here?” Tara suggests that we can then ask ourselves: “What do I most need right now?” And the answer could be as simple as talking about it with someone you trust such as a kind therapist, parent or friend. Or, do I need to go for a walk, or take some time out to really think about this situation.

Ground yourself and melt away anxiety with these guided meditations by Jane Gabites:

  1. Grounding & Relaxing Into The Present Moment Jane Gabites 3:54
  2. Calm Anxiety & Worry Less Jane Gabites 7:49

The third step naturally flows into the ‘N’ of RAIN—Nurture. We can then nurture ourselves with kindness and compassion, saying: “This is really hard right now.” Nurture can also remind us to hug a family member or light a candle for the mother and children, or the people who have been murdered. It might also encourage us to give a donation to an organisation that helps women in domestic violence situations, so we can make these places even more accessible to vulnerable women. And it might encourage us to go on a peaceful #blacklivesmatter march, or it might allow us to challenge some of our own ingrained beliefs, so we can kindly and compassionately challenge racism when we see it.

Read more: Tara Brach has shared a three-part blog series on RAIN meditation, how it is a tool of radical compassion, how it deepens relationships and how compassion helps us realizing our sense of belonging.

Meditation. Free.
Always.