Nearly two years ago, I wrote a post that served as a reminder that self-care is not selfish. Given the extent to which many of us are struggling with self-care during the coronavirus, I think the message of that old post is as relevant as ever.
Usually, when I feel that the message of an old post is relevant again, I republish the post. However, the original post was made under a set of circumstances that don’t exist now, so republishing the post would likely result in my significantly editing the post in a way that I think the post would become less powerful.
As such, instead of republishing the old post, I’m posting a link here to my original post on self-care. You can read the original post below.
Today’s post is the next installment in the “What is _____?” series, where I go over terms used commonly in social justice circles that may sound like jargon to some.
Today’s “What is_____?” post will focus on a term that I’ve started to hear more about in the mental health and chronic illness communities: toxic positivity. It’s a term that I think is particularly relevant right now during this coronavirus pandemic, hence the reason for publishing this post today, rather than waiting until later during this series.
Toxic positivity is when there is a focus on positive things and positive thinking while, at the same time, rejecting or minimizing emotions that aren’t happy or positive. Examples of toxic positivity can include phrases and sentiments such as “don’t worry so much,” “it’ll be fine” (especially if it’s something chronic or serious that won’t 100% heal), “just think positive,” and “don’t worry, be happy.” Phrases like these, while not ill-intended, can come across as trying to minimize, invalidate, or suppress negative emotions, which is why the positivity is toxic.
It is especially problematic to suppress the negative when you’re living in a time like the coronavirus pandemic. There are times when suppressing the negative is equivalent to suppressing reality. And now is one of those times when to me, at least, suppressing the negative is equivalent to suppressing reality, because reality is that we have suffered great losses in New York City and not even attempts to suppress the negative would take away that reality.
You might be wondering, though, how to avoid this well-intended, yet toxic, positivity. I’ve heard different takes on this, but here’s mine, for the time being: instead of trying to suppress negative thoughts, show empathy. Instead of suppressing the sadness of a friend who just found out about a close relative passing away, try to be sympathetic to what the friend or family member is going through. Instead of trying to tell others not to worry, be a listening ear when they do worry. Instead of telling others to “just think positive,” be willing to talk through the negative emotions if your friend wants to talk through such feelings with you.
In many if not most cases (at least in my experience), people who struggle with toxic positivity genuinely want to help their friend, their family member, or their neighbor. However, there are times when positivity at the expense of minimizing negative emotions is not the best way to go about things, and that empathy is the best course of action, in my assessment. That being said, if any of my readers have alternates to toxic positivity that I didn’t mention here (because there are different takes on toxic positivity and the alternatives to it), or any thoughts on the topic of toxic positivity, I welcome the suggestions and feedback!
For able-bodied people like me, commuting in the snow takes a little bit more twisting and turning than it does on the average day. It’s annoying, but doable, for me.
For people with certain health challenges, whether it be physical health or mental health, the barriers created by individuals’ and/or society’s handling of winter weather, as well as barriers caused by the bad weather itself, can be problematic. Here are a few such barriers:
We as individuals don’t clear away a path wide enough for wheelchair users to navigate our sidewalks.
Many wheelchair users need a pathway that’s at least 32 inches, so a pathway shorter than that will most definitely not be friendly to people using wheelchairs. For this, the solution is simple—just clear a wide pathway on our sidewalks!
We as a society have no effective way of handling the crosswalks that get plowed in.
After major snowstorms, many a crosswalk in New York City, my hometown, get plowed under inches or even feet of snow. This affects wheelchair users, the young, people with other mobility issues (regardless of whether they use a walker or wheelchair or not) and the elderly the most, keeping all of these groups from effectively moving around. I am personally not aware of effective yet reasonable alternatives to this problem, though if anyone has solutions you can let me know in the comments section down below!
Pathways between sidewalks and buses are nonexistent or not wide enough for wheelchair users to pass, or for people with other mobility issues to navigate.
This is something I only noticed during a blizzard in January 2018, but boy is it a problem! Many pathways between sidewalks and buses that should exist don’t exist, making access to the bus impossible unless you’re completely able-bodied as I am. If the entity/entities responsible can shovel a pathway between sidewalks and buses wide enough for wheelchair users and people with other mobility issues to pass, the problem can be fixed.
The bad weather has adverse affects on mental health.
A string of bad weather days can affect people who deal with claustrophobia (fear of involving being confined to small spaces), and the weather can cause great deals of stress that can be harmful to mental health, to name two. Nobody per se is at fault for these issues, but nevertheless we should be aware that these issues exist.
So next time a snow or ice storm comes, some of us may rejoice while others may complain. But regardless of what our own reactions are, we must be sensitive to the challenges that people with disabilities face in the elements. To that end, feel free to comment below is there’s some issue (physically or mentally) caused by winter weather that I did not mention in this post.
The holidays can be a busy and stressful time for some of us. Gift shopping, meeting with family you don’t get along with, changes in schedule, and much more, in addition to trying to keep up with the usual responsibilities, can be stressful. Thankfully, Jenny at Jenny in Neverland has some tips on how to look after your well-being during the holidays. I definitely benefit from following these tips, and so would many others, which is why I’m sharing her post today.
Also, if any readers have additional tips on looking after one’s well-being during the holidays, feel free to comment below!
Two weekends ago, the United States had two heavily publicized
mass shootings within fewer than 24 hours of each other: one in El Paso, Texas,
and one in Dayton, Ohio. Between the two mass shootings, over 30 lives were senselessly
In the wake of such tragedies, many of us, regardless of
political affiliation, try to seek out explanations for these mass shootings.
But, given my own openness about mental health on this blog, I think that I
need to address just how problematic it is to simply blame mass shootings on
mental health problems.
Blaming mass shootings on mental health problems makes me, and other people who’ve struggled with their mental health, feel misunderstood. By blaming mass shootings on mental health problems, we are creating this portrayal of mental health issues as something that is monstrous and seeks to do harm to others. The reality, though, is that there is a range of mental health issues, many of which have nothing to do with a desire to harm others. For example, my intrusive thoughts (unwelcome, unpleasant, and upsetting thoughts and ideas), which I’ve talked about on my blog did not involve even the slightest of desires to harm anyone else; instead, the intrusive thoughts involved a fear of my wanting to do harm to myself, even though I didn’t even want to harm myself. My friends and family who have struggled with anxiety and depression (issues different from intrusive thoughts, by the way) have never expressed a desire to harm others, either. In the wake of many mass shootings, mental illness is often associated with harm of others, even though many of us have mental health issues where we fight against harm of self, not a harm of others.
The consequences of feeling or being misunderstood with
mental health are serious. According to mental health experts, stigmatizing
mental health issues after mass shootings likely makes it harder for people to
seek the treatment they need than it would if mental health issues were not as
We, therefore, create a situation where people struggle to seek treatment for
conditions that in many cases seek no harm of others, precisely because we link
harm to others with mental health issues. That is not what we need if we want
to address individual mental health crises.
Even though it is problematic to link mass shootings with
mental health issues, we should not ignore the serious problems with America’s
mental health system. We should not lose sight of the fact that the United
States lacks stand-alone mental health legislation,
and we should not lose sight of the fact that many patients in the United
States struggle to get access to mental healthcare. If
we want to improve individuals’ mental health, we should avoid blaming mass
shootings on mental illnesses, but instead improve our mental health care
is worth having this quote from an American Psychological Association statement
dated August 4; this quote was published in TIME Magazine: “Routinely
blaming mass shootings on mental illness is unfounded and stigmatizing. The
rates of mental illness are roughly the same around the world, yet other
countries are not experiencing these traumatic events as often as we face them.
One critical factor is access to, and the lethality of, the weapons that are
being used in these crimes. Adding racism, intolerance and bigotry to the mix
is a recipe for disaster.”