Tips to Stop Toxic Positivity and Cultivate Emotional Respite
As family caregivers to loved ones living with Alzheimer's, we often put our emotional needs aside to prioritize the health and well-being of our loved ones. We try to remain positive even when things are tough, convinced that a positive mindset can help us overcome any obstacle. But what happens when positivity becomes toxic? When we deny the existence of negative emotions, suppress feelings, and invalidate our own struggles just because we want to see the bright side of things? This is where toxic positivity creeps in, and it can do more harm than good.
We will explore what toxic positivity is, how it affects our mental health, and most importantly, how to cultivate emotional respite without resorting to toxic positivity.
Recognize toxic positivity
Toxic positivity is the belief that we should only focus on positive emotions and ignore or minimize negative ones. It can be manifested in a variety of ways, such as telling someone to "just look on the bright side," "keep smiling," or "everything happens for a reason."
While the intention behind these statements might be good, they can be dismissive of someone's pain or struggle, making them feel like their emotions are invalid. To cultivate emotional respite, we first need to recognize when we are engaging in toxic positivity and challenge those thoughts.
Instead of dismissing negative emotions, we need to validate them and allow ourselves space to process them.
As caregivers, we often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be perfect and always positive. This can lead to burnout, anxiety, and depression.
To cultivate emotional respite, we need to practice self-compassion, which essentially means treating ourselves with the same kindness and care we would offer to a friend in need. It involves acknowledging our own suffering, being gentle with ourselves, and offering words of comfort and encouragement.
Self-compassion can help us feel less alone, boost our resilience, and allow us to bounce back from setbacks.
Engage in meaningful activities
One of the best ways to cultivate emotional respite is to engage in activities that bring us joy and fulfillment. This could be anything - from a hobby we love to spending time with friends and family, volunteering for a cause we believe in, or practicing mindfulness and meditation.
Meaningful activities can help us feel a sense of purpose and connectedness, which can counteract the negative effects of toxic positivity. When we focus on what we enjoy and what gives our life meaning, we can find emotional respite without denying the existence of negative emotions.
Toxic positivity can be harmful
Toxic positivity can be harmful, both to ourselves and the people we care for. While it is important to remain positive and hopeful, we also need to acknowledge and validate our negative emotions.
The 3 ways to cultivate emotional respite - recognizing toxic positivity, practicing self-compassion, and engaging in meaningful activities - can help us find balance and well-being. As family caregivers, we deserve to take care of our own emotional needs as well as our loved ones', and these strategies can help us do just that.
By cultivating emotional respite, we can offer our best selves to those we care for without sacrificing our own mental health.
Have you experienced toxic positivity along this Alzheimer's journey?
Which, if any, of the following most often trigger agitation in your loved one living with Alzheimer's disease?