It’s OK Not to Be OK: Why Tapping into Your Emotions Is Healthy
There’s no denying that the pandemic has taken its toll on us, not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally. According to online Leger surveys from 2021 analyzed by the Association of Canadian Studies, two out of every three Canadians think that their mental health is worse now than before the pandemic. In addition, 16 per cent of respondents reported having been diagnosed with depression.
Yet, despite the obvious possibility that the surge in such cases are largely due to having our lives turned upside down because of lockdowns, restrictions, and health and safety protocols related to COVID, there’s still a misconception that we have to pretend that everything’s fine and rosy to cope with the pandemic.
Having a positive outlook is amazing to have. When you’re positive, it usually is infectious and the people around you feel it as well and they also adapt an upbeat attitude. However, if left unchecked, this positivity can easily turn into toxic levels. Rather than feeling cheerful, some feel anxious because they feel pressured to have a sunny disposition even when they can’t and know full well they have a good reason why they can’t.
As a result, they start questioning themselves and the feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy seep in. They start to feel their emotions are invalid because the positive affirmations aren’t getting through to them.
The Harmful Effects of Toxic Positivity
When one’s practically toiling to suppress their emotions so they can pretend everything’s hunky-dory because people expect them to, more harmful psychological effects are likely to occur compared to when one fully embraces their feelings and allow themselves time to process their emotions.
The pressure to be positive eventually leads to anxiety and depression, resulting in poor sleep and substance abuse, among other issues.
COVID and Its Negative Impact
When you stop and thoroughly think about it, it’s reasonable to have this rollercoaster of emotions in the middle of a pandemic. Imagine, if you’ve been planning a tropical vacation for so long only to find out that you won’t be able to do so, or if you’ve been longing to visit a relative you haven’t seen in years only to learn that you can’t, then of course you’ll be upset.
Why is that? Because you care and are excited about these things and suddenly COVID has swooped in and taken these opportunities away from you. It’s a completely valid human reaction to be disappointed.
Tuning into Your Emotions
In situations like the ones above, it’s OK to step back and allow yourself those emotions instead of sweeping them under the rug merely because someone keeps on telling you to “don’t worry, be happy.”
Your plans didn’t work out as smoothly as you’d hoped. Of course you’ll feel let down.
And the sooner you realize that and let your emotions be, then the better you’ll be able to come to terms with the situation. This way, you’ll be motivated to take action to handle it well.
The pandemic definitely has brought us struggles that we haven’t experienced before, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed. The knee-jerk reaction to force ourselves to have a plastered smile on our faces and pretend everything’s OK is not the answer. This will do more harm than good. Allowing ourselves those genuine emotions is the healthier option than bottling them up. And eventually, we will be OK.
Ibrahim, Erika. “Polls suggest decline in mental health, but point to clues on how to address it.” CTV News. https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/polls-suggest-decline-in-mental-health-but-point-to-clues-on-how-to-address-it-1.5719146
Scully, Simone M. “‘Toxic Positivity’ Is Real — and It’s a Big Problem During the Pandemic.” Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/toxic-positivity-during-the-pandemic#Its-OK-not-to-be-OK-right-now-in-fact,-its-normal