What did you say when you found out your director of nursing had quit? Or that a new COVID-19 variant was knocking at your facility door? Or when CMS announced that survey citations will appear on Care Compare even while facilities are still disputing them?  

Did you use some naughty words? I hope so, because research suggests swearing might actually be good for you. 

I’m not talking about harmlessly shouting “Gadzooks!” or quietly muttering “Heavens to Betsy!” I’m talking about the real thing, sudden outbursts of the sort of words I couldn’t possibly write in this column. 

Let’s be honest with each other. We all do it, at least under our breath. And if you say you don’t use bad language at least occasionally, then fiddlesticks, I think you’re not being entirely truthful. 

At a tender and impressionable age, I recall being initiated by my grandfather into the dark realm of the obscene utterance. As I watched him attempt to repair a tractor one peaceful spring day, he hit his thumb with a wrench and emitted an unforgettable torrent of unintelligible German obscenities. The actual words made little impact on me — it was the sound of them, their cathartic aggression, propelled off his tongue in jagged consonants carried by flying spittle.

It was all very impressive and seemed to make him feel better instantly, a phenomenon I realize now has plenty of scientific support. In one British study, participants who cursed while sticking their hands in ice water could keep them there longer and felt less pain than those who used a neutral word. Apparently swearing causes a burst of adrenaline that jump starts a fight or flight reaction, while also inducing a soothing analgesic response. 

Keep in mind, however, that those scientists come from the country where “Death’s head upon a mop stick!” is considered swearing. Also, note that the positive effects of cursing in that study were not seen in those who admitted doing it more than 60 times in a typical day, which unfortunately includes some of us.

I have no idea what challenges today will bring for each of you, only that they are bound to be unexpected and plentiful. So, by the powers vested in me by absolutely no one, and with the dubious blessing of very minimal scientific research, I hereby authorize you, the beleaguered long-term care professional, to blankety-blank swear with blankety-blank impunity whenever necessary to preserve your doggone sanity and endure whatever gosh darn nightmare comes next.  

I also authorize you to take all the money from your swear jar, shut the lid forever and redistribute the contents to all staff members who can demonstrate a commitment to the occasional and healthy use of strategic vulgarity. 

And in the highly unlikely event that the President of the United States talks about your profession negatively for 12 seconds in the State of the Union, you should definitely start cursing immediately. 

Trust me, you’ll feel better.  

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a two-time national Silver Medalist and three-time regional Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program, as well as an Award of Excellence honoree in the APEX Awards. He’s been amusing, inspiring, informing and sometimes befuddling long-term care readers worldwide since the end of a previous century. He is a writer and video producer for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.