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Is Swearing the Best Way to Beat Stress?

by Katie Brozen 2 years ago in coping
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Netflix recently debuted a comedic take on profanity in the History of Swear Words. Despite an underwhelming performance, it explores why the sin of swearing brings us much-needed relief.

Photo by Matthew Brodeur on Unsplash

In dark times encompassed by chaos, we're all looking for relief from stress and anxiety. From riots and cannabilism to allusions to civil war and vaccine shortages, all topping our newsfeeds, we're all looking for something to lighten our worries.

We all know stress and anxiety can cause long-term health effects. High blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, to name a few, are all linked to chronic stress.

But there's one coping mechanism, backed by Science and topic of a new Netflix series, you probably already have in your arsenal.

One that is typically frowned upon in society. Yet, most of us use it so frequently we don't even realize it.

When, in an unexpected moment - you stub your toe, someone cuts you off in traffic, or simply something pisses you off- your automatic response takes over, and a string of profanity passes your lips.

Does it change what happened?

No. But you feel better.

There's a reason there is a sigh of relief when you let out an explicative in a tense or exciting moment.

Defining Stress

First, why do we get stressed?

Stress is our body's normal hormonal reaction to a demanding or challenging situation. It activates our immune system, our fight or flight response, to allow us to respond quickly to a perceiving dangerous situation.

But it's not constrained to a lion chasing you in the wild. Experiencing unexpected and new situations release our stress hormones, which our lives are full of these days.

Though perceived as something we want to avoid and minimize, stress is good for us. It is pressure to help us push through an intense situation, like running a marathon or enduring infinite zoom calls. Stress allows us to release built-up tension quickly and adapt to a new situation.

The dark side of stress is when we let it inhibit our daily lives. Chronic stress repeated over-time leaves us in a permanent fight or flight state, where we become unable to cope and are overwhelmed by almost anything that comes our way.

So, you're probably wondering how using bad language helps us relieve stress.

Bad language is a language of emotion

When it's simply too hard to find the words, curse words always seem to fit. It becomes a rebellious response that can be universal across an array of emotions and experiences.

Instead of finding the right word to express how you feel, you use tone. One word, said differently, can convey any meaning you are searching for yet can't seem to find at that moment.






Through context and inflection, you can use the same word to express a range of emotions. And no matter what, you're message is understood.

Few words in the English language are so widely understood. Even different cultures, speaking a completely different language, adopt the language of curse words. Making it the perfect way to express whatever you are experiencing.

The research confirms it. When studied, people were able to increase their pain tolerance solely by using profanity. When asked to hold their hands in a bucket of ice water, those swearing could sustain longer amounts of time than when they weren't.

It provides comic relief

Despite holding a taboo connotation, there is an underlying joy in dropping that unnecessary (but oh-so-necessary) f-bomb. It provides relief.

Like when your typically proper and composed parent, friend, or coworker, hits their breaking point, gets so angry or frustrated, and expresses themselves through a brigade of curse words?

Instead of being completely horrified, you find yourself doubled over in laughter. It's shockingly funny when even the purest individual, falls victim to a curse word or two. It proves the power of swearing is too intrinsic to avoid.

In a recent article in the New Yorker, the author found more children are swearing in quarantine, calling this right of passage into adulthood as cute.

It's like our sinister plot to turn everyone over to the dark side of dirty language. And every time a swear word is spoken, especially by the innocent, we laugh at our small victory.

It is a distraction

When you hurt yourself or voluntarily hold your hand in ice water, swearing provides a distraction from your pain.

It's the emotional and physical response discussed earlier of your fight or flight hormones. Swear words activate your autonomic response, increasing blood flow and speeding up your heart rate the same way it would if you were running for your life.

As a result, you feel less pain. It allows us to release the tension caused by this unpleasant experience and find relief in the moment.


Is using profanities the answer to our stress and anxiety ruled times?

Probably not.

While Science and research tend to agree that it does provide relief from temporary pain, the jury is still out on whether humanity will deem this an appropriate response to our troubles.

And like most things in life, there is a good and a bad side to swearing. There is a responsibility when using profanity that shouldn't be taken lightly.

But, if often you feel guilty over using foul language to cope with stress, rest assured that you are just providing yourself with the relief you need to overcome a challenge.

Interested in knowing more about the history of swear words, check out the new Netflix comedy The History of Swear Words.

Photo by Matthew Brodeur on Unsplash


About the author

Katie Brozen

Professional chef. Sharing stories, secrets, and recipes from behind the line of a professional kitchen.

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