Toxic Positivity during the Covid-19 Lockdown: How to recognise it, and how to deal with it
Updated: May 19, 2020
We can all agree that having a positive outlook on life is a good mindset to have, right? But what about when that positive attitude becomes so overbearing and toxic that it starts to create a negative impact on your life? You know what I am talking about: those people telling you to always think “it could always be worse!” or that “you should be making the most of this lockdown, I’ve signed up for so many online courses instead of bingeing on Netflix like SOME people…”.
These passing comments are popping up more and more these days, especially on social media and within social groups. It is great that everyone wants to increase their productivity and use the time to improve on themselves, but not everyone has to do this at the same velocity as others – if they want to do it at all. If you’re reading this and are thinking “I talk to my friends about this BUT I don’t say it that way”, just bear in mind this is a blanket statement (and it may still apply to you, depending on how you are saying it).
So far, 2020 has been an apocalyptic roller-coaster of a year – don’t believe me? Just look at some of what the world has had to deal with so far:
- Wildfires ravaged the Australian outback
- 176 people were killed when a Ukrainian jetliner was accidentally shot down
- A swarm of locusts descended on East Africa
- Many were killed and hundreds of thousands of people were displaced from flooding in Indonesia
- Taal volcano in the Philippines suddenly erupted
- Earthquakes in Turkey and the Caribbean killed and injured many
- The President of the USA underwent an impeachment trial
- We almost had WW3 break out following rising tension between Iran and the US
- Murder hornets land in the US
- The whole world came to a standstill due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus
All of that and we are only half-way through May!
Now the world has gone indoors to let nature heal the world and reduce the spread of Covid-19, the use of social media has undoubtedly skyrocketed. With that, the societal pressure stemming from social media has heightened – suddenly everyone is posting home workout videos and tagging their friends to do the same; others have started their business and want all their friends to “like and share” their pages; and let’s not forget everyone at some point felt compelled to bake banana bread (it didn’t count if you didn’t also post a photo of the results on social media). Every person operates in a different manner, and those who can be productive and are managing to make the most of the time truly are admirable. However, those people also should NOT project their own personal goals and ambitions onto the people around them.
If you, or a friend, are struggling to simply get out of bed and open your social media or speak to friends who make you feel pressurised into doing more than you have the mental capacity to deal with; just know you’re doing amazing just as you are! A lot of people are experiencing some form of emotional trauma following the events of this year, and toxic positivity is making it harder for people to truly acknowledge and accept what they are dealing with.
“Toxic positivity” refers to the idea that we should focus only on positive emotions and aspects of life. If taken too seriously, or pushed too far, toxic positivity can be very harmful.
So how do you recognise toxic positivity? Take a look at the below:
- Constantly saying “Good vibes only”; “just think positive”; “it’ll be okay” or “happiness is a choice”
- When someone minimises or dismisses your painful or negative emotions and thoughts
- When someone is so overly positive it comes off as fake or forced
- Suggesting quick fix solutions to fix your negative emotions without really acknowledging the process involved to do this i.e. “You’re not depressed, just get up and fake it until you make it, then you’ll be okay”
- If you feel the need to mask or hide your true feelings around people
- Feeling guilty or shameful for feeling whatever it is you feel
- Pressuring you into doing more than you have the physical or mental capacity for
- Comparing one person’s experience with someone worse off i.e. “Don’t complain, there are starving children in Africa…”
There are plenty of happy and positive people in the world. But the moment a person starts to minimise another person’s human experience, they shut down the channels of communication and therefore isolate the one trying to express themselves. Once a person starts shutting down their emotions or dismissing the feelings of others, they start to add extra mental and physical stress to the body that manifests and rears its ugly head in a myriad of different ways.
Research shows that people who acknowledge their negative emotions are more adaptable and have better mental health. It is important to remember ALL EMOTIONS ARE VALID. No person has the right to tell you whether you can or can’t feel a certain way.
So how do you deal with toxic positivity once you recognise it? Why not try one of the following:
1) Take social media with a pinch of salt
Remember social media is like astro-turf: always looks like the grass is greener on the other side. In this case the grass IS greener, but it is also fake, just like the majority of social media posts which hide the tears, fights and struggles, just to project one happy and perfect photo.
2) Acknowledge not everyone will think in the same way you do
As with everything, it is impossible to please everyone all the time. This is extremely true when it comes to processing your own feelings. When you start to modify your behaviours to avoid toxic positivity, you WILL have people coming at you from all different directions trying to justify how their behaviour and thought processes are valid. They are entitled to think this, and you are entitled to disagree. Whatever the outcome, always remember your mental health comes first and it is your prerogative to respond in any way you see fit.
3) Start a journal
A lot of what you are experiencing is personal and does not need to be shared with anyone and everyone. By simply taking the time to write down exactly what you are feeling, you are giving yourself time to acknowledge and analyse your emotions enough to write them down. After doing this a few times, you may start to realise that you have worked through your anxiety or stress towards an issue and now have an idea of how to tackle the problem at hand.
4) Talk to someone
If you aren’t a fan of writing everything down, why not try talking to someone? Whether that is a therapist (they do Zoom consultations now too), or simply a friend or family member that will listen to you with the patience and open mind you require. Sometimes all you need is someone to validate that your feelings are acceptable and you are not alone in whatever you’re going through. They can also help call you out if you subconsciously start falling into bad habits!
Maybe you don’t want to talk to anyone, and you don’t want to write anything down? Meditating is a fantastic way of relieving anxiety and stress as you actually have to sit with your thoughts and work through them all. The physiological benefits of meditation are fantastic: it reduces blood pressure, improves your physical and mental wellbeing; enhances self-awareness; reduces aging; improves your quality of sleep and boosts your immune system. If you aren’t sure on how to begin meditating, check out my previous blog post!
6) Try yoga
You are reading a blog on a yoga website – of course I will tell you about it! There are so many benefits to yoga so obviously it will help with dealing with toxic positivity and other negativity in your life. I like to think of yoga as a great way of downloading all your stress and anxiety from the day into your yoga mat. By grounding yourself and putting all your stress on the mat, you are creating a specific place in which to acknowledge and address your emotions. Eventually this process will become a psychological habit that subconsciously happens each time you enter your yoga space, thus requiring no effort and helping to improve your emotional well-being.
Whatever it is you decide to do address the toxic positivity in the world today, just always remember that everyone is going through something and you never have the full story. So try not to judge or project your ambitions and goals onto others, but simply encourage others to do whatever is best for them.
If you know someone who could benefit from reading this, feel free to share. If you have any comments, add them below!
For more information about the psychology of it all, take a look at: https://www.newportacademy.com/resources/mental-health/toxic-positivity/