How to Handle Bad News and Stressful Times

We have all been profoundly affected by the current coronavirus pandemic. Psychological surveys indicate one result of this global crisis is a growing mental health emergency, the consequences of which may be felt for years to come.1 And new medical problems, resulting from the untested, experimental, and sometimes forced mass vaccination of the population, compound this dilemma; citizen trust in our leaders is dropping rapidly. Sometimes it seems there is nothing good ever being reported today, only gloomy and depressing news.

Back when the coronavirus pandemic first began, I wrote an article about fear, anxiety, and depression. The idea was to show that however the new crisis affected us, we needed to remember it was Satan and his minions (news media, politicians, world leaders, and corporate officials) who were provoking us. Many of us believe it is all about Satan’s effort to get us to abandon our trust in God — a brazen ploy enacted as Satan’s time for action is running out.

Fear, I said, is just a temporary lapse into atheism; it reduces the majesty and power of God in our hearts. It deceptively whispers a lie, like was done in the Garden of Eden. We must remember that the followers of Satan have an agenda of evil, like their leader, and wish to implement fear to manipulate control or direct us into ungodly situations.

The fear of the disease, we were told, was not only how bad it is, but how bad it might become. That fear was made worse by constant consumption of the news hawking the tragedy. Today, we are not told the truth about this crisis being much less deadly than the regular seasonal flu, but are told manipulated statistics and lies about how deadly the virus is and how it will continue to be an ongoing threat. And at the same time, the news media tries to cover up the latest factual indications that the vaccines are causing more injuries than the virus itself.2 There is an agenda of cohering us into vaccination, whether it is needed or not. It kinda makes one wonder, “Why?”

Like the virus they were, supposedly, trying to combat, the government was operating just like a virus itself, infecting our minds and bodies, monitoring speech, association, and movement, with various tools of surveillance.3 Generally, when you hear a government say that something is being done to protect its citizens’ safety, health, and well-being, chances are you are going to lose some of your rights in exchange. As the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan, once said, “The most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”4

As the pandemic unfolded, many began to realize those points made were true. That article I wrote in early 2020, was titled ‘Combat Your Fear and Defeat Anxiety with Prayer: How to Handle COVID-19′. Anyone interested in reading it can follow the link listed in References & Notes.5

Because of a public lack of knowledge about the virus, a little known term became popular during the onslaught of the pandemic. It is ‘doomscrolling’ (or ‘doomsurfing’) and that is the act of spending an excessive amount of screen time devoted to the absorption of dismal news.6 When we are surrounded by bad news, it’s tempting to do one of two things: (1) avoid all mention of it, like sticking your head into the sand and making believe the problem doesn’t exist, or (2) do as many people do, obsessively read about every little detail, which leads to doomscrolling.7

Let’s face it, bad news isn’t in short supply anywhere in today’s world. And with so many of us working from home, screen time has risen dramatically. That goes for children, too, as school classes at home have also caused a 50% increase in computer use among children.8

How do we react to all the bad news?

Past research had shown that we have always been more likely receptive to good news than bad, but the current forced increase of our bad news intake is skewing our perception. The result is that our bias is changing from sharing in the harmony of good news, to absorbing the disorder of bad news. This sense of disarray disrupts our spiritual nature and our relationship with God.

If someone was already suffering from depression before the pandemic, the flood of bad news will, obviously, make their condition worse. This problem is being reflected in increased visits to psychologists, as well as reported suicides. And young females, it has been found, are more likely to suffer severe distress, at least from what the records of emergency room visits demonstrate.9 This may be from their increased dependence upon sharing their personal lives on social media sites, instead of by personal contact.

Exposure to consistent, sensationalized pessimism, and negativity can become the norm for those keeping up with the news, and this matters because research shows us that what we see on the news can significantly impact our mental health.10

Because of our new negativity bias, we build a greater sensitivity to unpleasant events. Our brains become attuned to negative views. This is why negative political campaigns get better results than positive ones. “Nastiness just makes a bigger impact on our brains.”11 This bias keeps our focus on what is wrong, blinding us to all that is right. It distorts our thinking.12

Not only that, but research has also demonstrated that people respond quicker to negative words. Scientists set up a lab experiment at McGill University in Canada, demonstrating this fact. By flashing a word to the test subject, researchers measured their response time in pressing a button. They responded quicker to words like cancer, bomb, or war, than to words like baby, smile, or fun. They also responded to the negative words faster than the positive words, even if knowing it was going to be an unpleasant one beforehand.13

The news media “have incentives to use emotionally powerful visuals and story lines to gain and maintain ever-shrinking news audiences.” They use this method, at least partially, to make us “pay more attention to things that are dangerous or threatening.” Those, who specialize in the psychological effects of media violence, suggest that violent exposure can contribute to, or escalate, the development of stress, anxiety, depression and even PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).14

A British psychologist and author, Dr. Graham Davey, said, “Negative news can significantly change an individual’s mood — especially if there is a tendency in the news broadcasts to emphasize suffering and also the emotional components of the story.” She continued, “Negative news can affect your own personal worries. Viewing negative news means that you’re likely to see your own personal worries as more threatening and severe, and when you do start worrying about them, you’re more likely to find your worry difficult to control and more distressing than it would normally be.”15

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (USA) are seeking to find the areas of the brain that identify with bad possibilities. A professor of neurosurgery and biomedical engineering working on this project, Dr. Ilya Monosay, said, “People are constantly checking, checking, checking for news, and some of that checking is totally unhelpful. Our modern lifestyles could be resculpting the circuits in our brain that have evolved over millions of years to help us survive in an uncertain and ever-changing world.”16

So what can we do?

The Bible tells us who is causing all our troubles; our plight is not a struggle against other humans, but one against evil spirits. These spirits use humans as tools for their own purpose. The real foes lurk behind them, manipulating, deceiving, lying, tempting, and controlling. This is a spiritual war against a devious, wicked, and a ruthless enemy.17 Satan, evil spirits, and demons are actual invisible living beings and it is very important for us to know the reality of this matter.18

While we struggle through our lives, just have faith and keep praying to God, for it will do wonders for our mind, body, and spirit. The Lord’s free gift of salvation is, indeed, good news, which indicates that the chaotic ways of this evil world only demonstrate how close we are to the future paradise he has promised to us.

One of my ways to counter the unbalance of good news/bad news is through Bible study and prayer. Another way is to take a deep breath before believing what I read in the news. I just think it through. Is the story just manipulating my God-given sense of fear to get my attention, or is it a report containing real facts? If I decide the story may be truthful and not exaggerated or manipulated ‘fake news’, then I try to get a second opinion. I learn a lot more truth this way, and it reduces my stress.

My wife uses her own techniques. One thing she does is increase her intake of ‘good news’ to give balance to the bad news she reads. She makes a habit of scanning through a positive news website on a daily basis. Her choice is Sunny Skyz,19 but there are many others available, too. Besides that, she devotes a lot of time to her garden, as she feels it brings her closer to God and nature and that is definitely a good thing.

Scripture will help, also, as it is reassuring in every aspect. For instance, the Psalms, known for expressing things so eloquently, testifies of salvation by grace through faith in the Lord. Speaking of the necessity of patient perseverance through trials, David wrote, “When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears, and rescues them from all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit,” (Psalm 34:17-18, NRSV).20

Jesus used the heavy, wooden crossbars connecting two oxen for plowing as an example in the Book of Matthew. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” (Matthew 11:28-30). Allegiance to Jesus and his Kingdom results in a sense of peace, because it is not laborious.21

And the Apostle Peter gives advice for everyone, young or old, male or female. He was writing about living in humility in a hostile world, because we do God’s will. He said the following.

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you,” (1 Peter 5:6-10).

In due time, God will transform this world into a better one, but as Christians, we should be under no illusions. Our opposition is satanic, but our confidence is in God, so our anxiety should be minimal. All wrongful demands and temptations directed to us should be resisted, even if that means suffering, because such suffering is the universal badge of the true followers of Christ. Such suffering is but temporary in God’s plan.22

The Book of Philippians offers advice especially for situations such as we must endure during this current time. When we adopt a defeatist attitude, because of a mind filled with unwelcome thoughts, this scripture teaches us that we can control what we think.23 The Apostle Paul wrote, “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you,” (Philippians 4:8-9).

When we think we can’t get ourselves through a situation, the fact of the matter is that we can, if we use positive thinking. Whenever a sad, bad, or stressful thought comes to mind, we should immediately get rid of it by meditating on the person and work of Jesus Christ.24

And while we are considering scripture from the Book of Philippians, the song chosen for this study is direct from that sacred text. The song, ‘Whatever is True’, is taken directly from the Apostle Paul’s letter (Philippians 4:8) and is sung by Contemporary Christian artist Cheri Keaggy. This Dove Award winning singer often includes scripture in her songs.25 Selected lyrics are below and a link to the music video is listed in References & Notes.26

Whatever is true, whatever is noble
Whatever is right, whatever is pure
Whatever is excellent and most worthy of praise
I will think on these things, Lord

And the peace of God will deliver me
And the peace of God will bring truth to me
And the peace of God will take hold
Of the things of my life

Copyright © 2021, Dr. Ray Hermann
OutlawBibleStudent.org

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Reference & Notes

  1. “Stress in America”, (American Psychological Association, October 2020), https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2020/report-October
  2. Carillo, Anton, “Reports Indicate Vaccines Causing More Injuries, Deaths Than Natural COVID-19 Infections”, (Christianity Daily, 13 June 2021), http://www.christianitydaily.com/articles/11042/20210304/reports-indicate-vaccines-causing-more-injuries-deaths-than-natural-covid-19-infections.htm
  3. Barnes, Robert, “I am an American constitutional lawyer – and I see our government using Covid-19 to take away our fundamental rights”, (RT Op-ed, T-Novosti, 22 March 2020), https://www.rt.com/op-ed/483758-coronavirus-constitutional-rights-government/
  4. “Ronald Reagan Quotes”, (Brainy Quote, retrieved 15 June 2021), https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/ronald_reagan_128358
  5. Hermann, Ray, “Combat Your Fear and Defeat Anxiety with Prayer: How to Handle COVID-19″, (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 25 March 2020), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/combat-your-fear-and-defeat-anxiety-with-prayer/
  6. Leskin, Paige, “Staying up late reading scary news? There’s a word for that: ‘doomscrolling’”, (Business Insider, 19 April 2020), https://www.businessinsider.com/doomscrolling-explainer-coronavirus-twitter-scary-news-late-night-reading-2020-4
  7. Miller, Korin, “What Is Doomscrolling? Experts Explain Why We Do it—And How to Stop”, (Health, Meredith Health Group, 17 July 2020), https://www.health.com/mind-body/what-is-doomscrolling
  8. Fischer, Sara, “Kids’ daily screen time surges during coronavirus”, (Axios, 31 March 2020), https://www.axios.com/kids-screen-time-coronavirus-562073f6-0638-47f2-8ea3-4f8781d6b31b.html
  9. Klein, Milissa, “Suicide attempts spike in teen girls during COVID-19 pandemic: study”, (New York Post, 12 June 2021), https://nypost.com/2021/06/12/suicide-attempts-spike-in-teen-girls-amid-covid-pandemic-study/
  10. Perimutter, Austin, “How Negative News Distorts Our Thinking”, (Psychology Today, 19 September 2019), https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-modern-brain/201909/how-negative-news-distorts-our-thinking
  11. Marano, Hara Estroff, “Our Brain’s Negative Bias”, (Psychology Today, 20 June 2003), https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200306/our-brains-negative-bias
  12. Perimutter, Austin, “How Negative News Distorts Our Thinking”, (see above).
  13. Stafford, Tom, “Psychology: Why bad news dominates the headlines”, (BBC Future, 28 July 2014), https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20140728-why-is-all-the-news-bad
  14. Gregoire, Carolyn, “What Constant Exposure To Negative News Is Doing To Our Mental Health”, (Huffington Post, Science, 19 February 2015), https://www.huffpost.com/entry/violent-media-anxiety_n_6671732
  15. Ibid.
  16. “Brain Areas Involved in Seeking Information About Bad Possibilities Identified”, (Neuroscience News, 11 June 2021), https://neurosciencenews.com/information-negative-event-neurons-18613/
  17. Jamieson, Robert; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), vol. 2, p. 357.
  18. Hermann, Ray, “Ephesians 6:12: Satan, Fallen Angels, & Demons — the Real Enemies of Our Faith”, (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 22 September 2020), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/ephesians-612-satan-fallen-angels-demons-the-real-enemies-of-our-faith/
  19. Sunny Skyz: https://www.sunnyskyz.com/
    Other sites include: Good News Network; Positive News; Happy News; and there are more.
  20. All scripture is from New Revised Standard Version Bible, Division of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, 1989. Used with permission.
  21. Barry, John D., et al., Faithlife Study Bible, (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Matthew 11:29–30.
  22. Mays, James Luther, (Ed.), Harper’s Bible Commentary, (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988), p. 1285.
  23. MacDonald, William, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, (Ed.) Arthur Farstad, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), p. 1979.
  24. Ibid.
  25. Baer, Samantha, “Cheri Keaggy: Life’s Journey is Expressed Through Her Music”, (Risen Magazine, Spring 2013), https://www.risenmagazine.com/dove-award-winning-singer-songwriter-cheri-keaggy/
  26. “Whatever is True”, Artist: Cheri Keaggy; Album/CD: No Longer My Own, original release date 7 August 2015, (Publisher: So I Can Tell Publishing; song copyright by Cheri Keaggy; used under ‘fair use’ copyright for teaching under Section 107 of Copyright Act of 1976): MUSIC VIDEOhttps://youtu.be/m6sYeoAY9i4
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