There are sure to be some people in your life who can be quite toxic. However, you may feel that you would not necessarily want to sever ties with them, especially if they are members of your family or circle of friends, and you love them dearly. Also, most of the time, your empathy towards their difficulties and needs prevents you from going separate ways with them — as someone close to them, you do not want to be the one who abandons them or judges them harshly.
Still, frequently dealing with these individuals can affect your own physical and emotional well-being. You may find that your stress levels go up when they are around. This stress can manifest through headaches, weariness, and even a change in your own mood. Some people even complain of anxiety, which is often a combination of constant worrying, jitters, heaviness of the heart, and an inability to focus.
This is certainly no way to live. But as mentioned earlier, it is difficult to disconnect from such people. So, what should you do?
The first thing you should do, according to a trusted psychologist in Sydney, is to correctly identify the toxic people in your life.
This is important because you may mistake people who occasionally come to you for help as true “stressors.” They may indeed cause you some stress, but that would mostly be caused by their situation, not because of the kind of person that they are. The real toxic individuals are those who are instinctively negative. They are emotionally immature, envious, narcissistic, and manipulative.
Here are five effective ways of coping with the stress of dealing with the toxic people in your life.
1. Make adjustments within yourself.
Here’s the thing: It’s hard to change other people, especially when their lifestyle dictates the way they act. However, you can control the way you act and feel, as far as toxic people are concerned.
For example, a person who is constantly angry can make you feel angry, too. You can react to that person with anger and have an explosive exchange with them, or you can be calm and soothing to that person.
Your chosen reaction determines how you will feel throughout every encounter. If you do not want to get stressed over your interaction with such a person, then it’s better to choose to be peaceful.
2. Let the other person know how you feel.
If the person is someone you care about, and is someone who (to your knowledge) also cares about you, it will not be too difficult to express yourself regarding the way they make you feel.
Be upfront and truthful about the kind of emotions that the exchange is stirring up within you. The individual may just come to their senses, realize their effect on other people, and learn to be more considerate of you and others.
3. Stick to your guns.
Toxic people can be quite manipulative (either knowingly or unknowingly). Some may want you to agree with them all the time, or to do whatever they want. But if you truly do not agree with them, put a stop to their tactics for trying to change your mind or win you over.
Be firm — learn to say “no” and mean it (but no need to be mean about it). Often, the firmest “no” is the one uttered in the gentlest manner.
4. Establish your boundaries.
Toxic people can also be invasive — they may not recognize when they are crossing a line. So, it’s essential for you to lay down the ground rules. Tell them what is acceptable and what is not. Likewise, inform them about the consequences of overstepping these boundaries.
If these people consider you to be a valuable person in their life, they will recognize these boundaries and take care not to overstep them.
5. Get help for yourself.
When you feel that you are becoming too burdened by your relationship with toxic people, do not hesitate to find support. Set an appointment with a therapist or psychologist and get a different perspective of what you are going through. This way, they can recommend helpful methods for coping and feeling better about yourself.
In addition, aim to break away from your usual routine every now and then. Treat yourself to a weekend getaway without any of the people causing you stress. Relax, pamper yourself, and regroup. Join a retreat to a faraway location, or grab a hotel deal and indulge in luxurious services.
No matter how smart, confident, and at peace you are with yourself, toxic people can take their toll on your emotional, mental, and physical health. The key is not to think it a form of weakness to escape or reach out to others who can help or uphold you.
How stressed you get from certain relationships in your life is all up to you. You just need to remind yourself that, ultimately, you are in control of the quality of your own life.
If weeding out toxic people from your life is not possible, the tips shared here should help you find a way to interact with all kinds of people within your close circle while preserving your happiness, health, and peace of mind.
Dr. Gemma Gladstone is an endorsed clinical psychologist and certified schema therapist, supervisor and trainer. Along with Justine Corry, she is co-director of the Good Mood Clinic in Sydney and has 24 years of experience within mental health.