Coronavirus doesn’t always call for stoicism: sometimes anger can be productive, too, as mental health activist Matt Haig is keen to highlight.
Maybe there’s something particularly British in the need to keep calm and carry on. Even in the midst of the most severe health pandemic known to a modern generation, there’s an unwritten sense that we should somehow get it together and stay positive.
Mental health campaigner and author Matt Haig is here to remind us that so-called “negative” emotions can also have their place as coping mechanisms.
In a new post on Instagram, Haig – who wrote the bestselling memoir Reasons To Stay Alive – calls attention to the unsung power of crying, swearing and rage.
Haig’s summary on the cathartic benefits of tears and anger has grounding in science. In one study, US biochemist and “tear expert” Dr. William Frey found that emotional tears contain stress hormones that are pushed out of the body via the act of crying.
Crying may also play an important regulatory role, helping us to better handle emotions and stress (hence the expression, “letting it all out”).
Research indicates that angry energy can also be useful in certain scenarios. While suppressing anger increases the intensity of pain, expressing it may actually reduce stress levels as a result of confronting a problem head-on.
As Haig says, anger is a motivating force, too, in part because of the perception by angry people that they are moving towards a resolution to a certain situation or issue.
All this is not to say you should spend the rest of lockdown turning the air blue in a non-stop fit of rage and crying (although that’s OK if you do).
But merely, there’s no need to feel like you have to “be” a certain way. Negative emotions are just as valid as the positive ones, and you should welcome both together right now – as another mental health expert, cognitive therapist Alyssa Mancao, points out.
Coronavirus is not a great leveller, and nor will we “fight” it simply through fortitude and strength; despite the strange language that has been bandied about by certain politicians in recent weeks.
A stoic, gung-ho attitude won’t get us through the pandemic, no matter how often we’re exposed to this line of thought. In fact, it is more likely to make us feel alienated from those we feel *are* coping OK.
The reality is, we all have good days and bad days. There are some extraordinary acts of kindness unfolding at the moment, but there are also reasons to be angry and tearful. If the latter happens to hit you, go ahead and let loose: you’ll feel all the better for it.