Toxic Positivity and What To Do Instead
Toxic positivity is real and sometimes it can be hard to know what to do instead. The first step is to recognize when you are feeling its weight in your own life.
Imagine if everyone encouraged you to have a negative perspective all the time, even during positive events. “It’s your daughter’s wedding day, you should still be upset!” That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? So, why is it that when the statement is reversed to encourage you to be positive no matter what, we feel like a failure if we can’t?
The sentiment behind toxic positivity is good—encouraging people to adopt a mindset that helps them be happy, no matter what. And you might think with all the focus on tools to help you stay positive in my social media pages and in the JMB Living Journal that I too encourage you to always be happy. However, being positive all the time in light of all of life’s events isn’t realistic and that expectation can be harmful to mental health.
In a society that currently values toxic positivity and “grind culture”, it’s important to be able to navigate difficult times and emotional fluctuations that seemingly have no source. It’s normal to be sad randomly! And it's okay to feel this way sometimes.
Rather than trying to suppress those emotions or feel even worse trying to fight your way through it, do what is best for YOU.
Sometimes, this means leaning into these emotions, letting them temporarily consume you and then coming out of it feeling lighter and more ready for whatever comes next.
Other times or some people, it is best to overcome these depressive episodes by working through them and pushing themselves to continue to complete tasks or at least maintain a normal daily life.
Recognizing When You’re Not Okay
Sometimes we don’t even realize something’s wrong until we’re at the end of it; when you look back at the end of a long, hard week and feel overly exhausted, noticing that you haven’t eaten enough or felt mentally depleted all week. It’s important to reflect and pay attention to your body and mind’s warning signs, so that you can listen to them and act accordingly.
Mental health is a part of your overall health. Just as you would talk about your stomach hurting with a friend or family member, it’s okay to talk about struggles happening in your head, too.
For some guided introspection, it can be helpful to ask yourself questions regarding your behavior in the context of a week’s time period.
Reflection Questions to Evaluate Your Mental Health:
Was it easier for you to snap at someone that didn’t deserve it than process what actually happened and your role in the situation?
Do you feel irritated easily by things out of your control?
Has your appetite increased or decreased?
Do simple tasks feel monumental and too hard to accomplish?
Have you let your responsibilities slip?
Are you finding it difficult to fall asleep or get a good night's rest?
How easily are you finding joy?
Embracing the Struggle
When your mind and body are in tune and you can quickly recognize when you’re going through a hard time, then what? This is when it’s time to employ your coping mechanisms or temporarily adjust your lifestyle.
Before deciding on a course of action, know what you truly need to get through this: are you someone that benefits from challenging yourself to complete tasks and do better in spite of difficulties? Or are you someone that needs to take a break from the typical demands of life and do only what you have to do until your internal reserves are refilled?
Here are some suggestions to help you exist in times of struggle. If you notice a common theme between the options that resonate with you, it can help you decide your course of action and use it in the future when you experience depression or an off-week.
- Increase your activity level- exercise more, spend time doing a hobby, schedule things for after work
- Scale back on socializing- reschedule the plans you had for the week for later, telling your friend that you don’t feel well and need some time to truly enjoy the outing; decline social invitations until you feel like they add to more than deplete your happiness.
- Indulge on a night (or weekend) in- order takeout, pick a movie or book and create a nest of blankets with candlelight to just spend time with yourself.
- Reach out to your support system- if you need to talk to a friend, therapist or family member to release the emotions keeping you down, do it! The people in your life care about you, and your support system is there to help you through times just like this.
- Add to your routine- adjust your routine to include one more thing for you each day; maybe this looks like an extra 30 minutes of journaling, a quick nap, a phone call with a friend, a peaceful meditation. Do one thing for you that helps soothe you and makes life feel a little more normal again.
- Spend time outdoor - take a walk, a hike, garden, or simply sit on a porch swing and enjoy the breeze.
Whether your push through hard times or lean into feelings flowing through you, not being your best self all the time is valid and okay!
Sometimes, it’s hard just to be a functioning version of ourselves and that is only harder when you hold yourself to an unattainable standard of constant happiness and perfection. We all have a struggle bus and sometimes we ride it and sometimes we drive it—don’t worry, there’s seats for both.