Negative reaction to good news: how can that be?
You would think that when you are facing a medical crisis, good news about your health would relieve stress and anxiety. Personally, I was very surprised that after the initial euphoria of the good news, a feeling of “low” set in. It was almost as if the good news was too much. It seemed like a strange answer and thinking about it inspired me to write this article. Who would have thought that good news could produce more than just good feelings?
Let’s explore the dynamics of bad news and good news. (I covered what to do when you get bad news in a previous article.)
Anticipation is the enemy because it produces anxiety and stress. When you are diagnosed with a serious or life-threatening illness, the focus is on treatment. The anticipation is that the treatment will be successful, or at least there is hope that it will. But this is only the beginning of the journey. Doctors will eventually check whether or not the treatment is working. The anticipation and waiting for that first test is hard and emotional. After all, your family and friends are doing the same…waiting. This shared experience may feel supportive, or it may feel like you are also responsible for your feelings, or something in between. Anticipation builds nervous energy within along with negative projections and a sense of responsibility for how others will feel.
You have good news! The treatment is working. Everyone can feel a wave of relief. There is joy, celebration and expectations of being well. The truth is that the waiting game begins again for the next test and marker of your health. The next test and results follow. Maybe it’s good news again or maybe you’ll get bad news. The anticipation grows again. You and your loved ones find yourself nervous, nervous, and maybe a little exhausted with the process that you now know will continue unless the health crisis is over. The cycle begins again and the anticipation worsens, especially if you have been oscillating between good and bad news.
Now I understand the feelings of “depression” after good news. The flame of expectation lights up again for you and your loved ones. Expectation leads to anticipation, which leads to anxiety, stress, and other feelings.
Feeling depressed upon hearing good news is also self-protection from the yo-yo effect of the cycle of positive and negative news. If you don’t get too excited, it won’t hurt as much if the news is negative or neutral (more wait). If you are someone who feels responsible for the feelings of others, you may not even have the experience of celebrating. Feeling depressed or neutral after good news protects you from disappointment, protects you from upset, and protects you from future projections about your health outcome.
Now you know the mechanism and cycle that creates anticipation and causes low or neutral feelings when hearing good news. Is it okay to handle news about your health condition this way? Of course it is! There is no right or wrong with feelings. Each person manages them in their own unique way. Someone told me that staying neutral on good and bad news is healthy. Without big ups and downs it allows the body to remain calm and in healing mode. The cycle and process of managing a health crisis is just what it is: a cycle, a process, life…your life.
Staying present will also help manage anticipation. That means paying attention to what is happening now instead of thinking about what happened in the past and creating projections about what could or should happen in the future. These projections do not help unless you are using positive imagery to work with your subconscious mind through hypnosis for example, which is very effective at calming your mind, body and emotions and keeping you present in the now. After all, the NOW is all you, your family, and your friends can really handle, and focusing on the present moment makes it easy.
Exercise: If you find yourself in anticipatory anxiety, either because of past experiences or projections about the future, you can do something about it!
Get into a comfortable position with your eyes closed. Take 3 or 4 slow breaths. If your mind is still working or you feel negative feelings, just notice them. No need to “fix”. As you breathe slowly, let your body begin to relax. Your limbs may feel a bit heavy, your back will no longer be tense, and your neck will relax along with your hands and feet. Your heart rate may decrease as you relax. Keep observing your body, your thoughts and your feelings. There is nothing to do but notice. Just breathe and pay attention to your right or left foot. Notice the toes, heal, arch, and ankle. Direct your attention down the calf and shin, behind the knee and in front of the knee to the thigh and buttocks. Look at your hip. Keep breathing slowly. Direct your attention up from the hip to the thigh, down the lower back, down the spine, and down the side of the back. Look at your abdomen and belly. Become aware of your chest and the movement of your chest as you breathe.
Look at your shoulder, drawing your attention down through your arm to your hand, and notice each finger. Shift back to his shoulder and become aware of his neck and throat. Then move your attention to that side of your face, including your mouth, jaw, eye, forehead, and ear, and your forehead. Pay attention to the back of your head, moving up to the top of your scalp. Then shift your attention to the other side of your body and let your attention travel from your head and scalp to your toes.
That is. You will have the experience of being present with your body, your mind will quiet down and you will relax. If you wish, you can move your awareness around your body 2 or 3 times, which will deepen your experience. This process favors relaxation, emotional balance and being present, the space from which you can best face the experience of managing a health crisis.
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