By Percy Mohn
Elm Staff Writer
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many people have developed a lot of stress and fear about the current situation. The unease and uncertainty about when our “normal” lives will resume coupled with the isolation we are facing makes it difficult to talk about these feelings.
However, talking about our fears to our friends, according to The New York Times reporter Anna Goldfarb, is healthy. In fact, we can help each other out by learning how to talk about our own feelings and be a good listener to our friends.
Talking about your feelings with your friends might feel awkward at first. We may feel like our problems are inconsequential compared to others or that everyone is feeling the same worries.
But this, as My Online Therapy consultant Jessy Wrigley explains, can lead to unhealthy behaviors since bottling up your negative emotions can lead to many negative long-term effects, even resulting in anxiety and depression.
“When we bottle [our emotions] up they only come back stronger — with potentially worse consequences,” Wrigley said in an article about the benefits of letting out your emotions.
“You can think of it like putting a lid on a boiling pan: when we put the lid on our feelings, in time they’re going to boil over,” she said.
Explaining your emotions to your loved ones can help give a name to what you are feeling and help you control them. You may think that you are bothering others with your thoughts and worries, but being open with your own feelings can possibly help others open up as well.
And, because humans are social creatures by nature, we do not — and should not — have to handle our emotions on our own.
“We can model vulnerability and authenticity thereby giving others around us permission to do the same,” Dr. Karyl McBride from Psychology Today said.
When you are listening to your friends speak about their feelings, it can be difficult trying to fall into the trap of dismissive positivity. Dismissive positivity is the act of reframing a friend’s trauma into trivial positives like ‘you’ll get through this’ or ‘you’re not the only one dealing with this,’” she said.
This dismissive positivity has good intentions behind it, but it does not acknowledge your friend’s vulnerability in that moment.
Instead of validating your friend’s feelings, you have effectively dismissed what they were saying in favor of trivial and impersonal statements.
“Don’t assume you have all the answers,”The New York Times reporter Anna Goldfarb said in her article about toxic positivity on July 3. “If someone is worried about, say, getting sick, once you validate that, yes, it is scary to be fearful for one’s health, ask what aspect of contracting the virus he or she is most worried about [and] make sure the other person feels heard.”
The real key to helping people who are struggling is to be invested in what they are telling you. Your friend feels safe enough to tell you what they are going through, and the worst thing you can do is break that feeling of trust.
However, if you have made this mistake, it is fixable by simply reaching out to your friend to attempt to validate their feelings.
We are living in unprecedented times, so it is crucial thatwe reach out about our own mental health, as well ascheck in on our loved ones. The important thing to understand is that we are not alone and that it is okay to feel afraid or upset.
And, as cheesy as it sounds, we are in this together and we must check in with one another and listen when our friends need support.
Featured Photo caption: As uncertainty over the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow, it is important to check in on yourself and those around you for the sake of your own mental health. Photo Courtesy of Volodymyr Hryschenko.