Pent-up stress? Pandemic-fueled rage is a thing | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Pent-up stress? Pandemic-fueled rage is a thing
Pent-up stress? Pandemic-fueled rage is a thing

The video clip taken at a luxury Boracay resort starts in an innocuous manner. It shows several women enjoying an evening dip in the pool that is bounded on all sides by several low-density buildings housing the resort’s guest rooms. There’s another group in the pool, a couple of men who move closer to the women who are talking and laughing loudly. The men are not trying to mingle—they’re telling the women to tone down.

It’s still unclear what triggers the blowup but in succeeding clips, more voices are raised. People outside the video frame tell the women to pipe down to no avail. By then the women have clambered out of the pool and are defiantly pacing outside their room, which has direct access to the water. Backup is brought in, a security guard who tries but fails to defuse the situation. The women appear to have no plans of toning down their pool party.

The clips uploaded on TikTok have been viewed countless times and the women have been mocked for how they acted, but still there are unanswered questions. Why did the situation escalate so quickly? Was it so hard for them to lower their voices and just enjoy what was probably their first out-of-town vacation in two years? Could this all have been avoided?

The short answers? Possibly pent-up stress, maybe, and yes.

‘Form of catharsis’

That we’ve all been living with mounting stress ever since the pandemic hit in March 2020 is a well-established fact. Lockdowns and restrictions have forced many of us to keep within a certain radius, exist within a special bubble. But now that restrictions have been relaxed and traveling is more feasible, people are determined to enjoy themselves at any cost.

“It’s so easy now to pick a fight with people,” Abbygale Arenas de Leon, a certified image professional, told Lifestyle in a phone interview. “The rudeness that seems to be so common nowadays is not an etiquette issue. I was just talking to my father who is a psychologist and he said it’s a form of catharsis.”

Catharsis is described as the process of releasing—and thus providing relief from—strong or repressed emotions.

De Leon recalled reading about how a group of harassed mothers in the United States recently gathered in an open field so they could scream their hearts out after months of juggling household chores, jobs and other duties with the kids underfoot.

“In Pampanga where I’m from, taksiyapo is an old swear word used when one is seething with anger. It’s also a wall in a restaurant in Tarlac where people can hurl ceramic plates as a way to release tension,” she said.

For the vacationers in Boracay, the chance to be rowdy with friends or relatives they probably hadn’t seen in months was cathartic for them. They must have felt that the guests and resort staff who told them to be quiet were stifling their newfound freedom.

Boorish behavior

They’re not the only ones who have been exhibiting especially boorish behavior. Hong Kong-based writer Bennet Sto. Domingo went to a well-known drugstore chain to stock up on vitamins during the pandemic. When she asked one of the staff to explain the different brands available, the staff looked annoyed and raised her voice.

“Why are you angry? Isn’t it your job to assist customers?” Sto. Domingo said, adding, “You just lost a sale,” before exiting the store.

Junior high school teacher Roy Roldan was having a haircut late last year when a client of the salon barged in with her staff bearing grocery bags filled with canned goods and other food items.

“She then loudly told the salon employees to stop what they were doing so they could receive their ayuda courtesy of a party list member,” Roldan recalled. The staff was instructed to hug the grocery bags with smiles on their faces for photos.

“Before she left, she told them that they would most likely starve if not for the generosity of the giver. I told the staff later that they didn’t owe anything to the giver and that they shouldn’t be swayed by such appalling and demeaning campaign tactics.”

Chef and restaurant owner Pauline Banusing’s recent brush with rudeness came from a “tita” who cautioned “hala, hala, hala,” while touching Banusing’s stomach.

“I admit I gained a few pounds during the pandemic due to stress eating and doing fewer activities but the way she acted, it was like I had committed a mortal sin,” Banusing recalled. Fortunately, the chef has a high self-esteem and a strong support group made up of her supportive husband and kids.

Lifestyle contributing editor Alya Honasan was at the receiving end of road rage last December when her car broke down while in traffic.

“The driver of a van unleashed a stream of unbelievable expletives at me. I couldn’t believe it,” Honasan wrote in a public Facebook post.

Friends commiserated with her and soon after, the driver was identified, although Honasan declined a face-to-face apology. “He just has to know he cannot get away with that. So what happens when he runs into a hothead with a gun? I have never, ever been cursed at like that in my life.”

‘Count backwards’

When caught in such situations, De Leon chooses not to engage. “I count backward from 10 to one because I find it helps defuse the anger I might be feeling. I also remind myself, ‘Maybe that person is going through something right now. Maybe they’re having a bad day.’”

Not all of us can be as understanding and magnanimous as De Leon, but she suggested other ways to express our pent-up emotions, some of which have since become outlets of creativity for many during the pandemic, like plant-tending, cooking and baking.

“Participating in team-building exercises is another way because if you notice, once you share with another person how and what you’re feeling, somehow a part of the weight is lifted from your shoulders. Taking on a sport you like could also help. My husband (photographer Jun de Leon) feels energized after a round of golf, while I try to sneak in a run during the day.”

De Leon is in the United States after undergoing a grueling series of treatments for cancer. It was a trip she asked her husband if she could take with their younger son as a way to recharge and, at the same, time catch up with her US-based parents.

“I remember telling Jun, ‘Once all this is over, I want to get on a roller coaster and just scream my lungs out.’” She got her wish, not once but twice, on two different roller coasters—at Universal Studios Hollywood and at Legoland California Resort.

De Leon felt infinitely better after each invigorating, thrilling, shout-out-loud ride. And she didn’t put off any other people on their vacation.