We are aware of the effects of food on the body; the effects of poison or toxic chemicals on the body. But are we aware of the effects of toxic relationships on our health? Most of us do not, and that’s why I’m showing you how to recognize (and dump) toxic relationships.
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Creating personal boundaries with a chronic illness
Back when first diagnosed, I started creating personal boundaries to ensure my success at healing and restoring my body to optimal health. My pain management team could only do so much to make me feel better. There were certain things only I could do, and establishing personal boundaries was one.
The first thing I did when creating those boundaries, was think of the relationships in my life and how they affected me. I wanted to get well again, and I didn’t want anything or anyone to hold me back. This is MY life and I want to be as well as I possibly can.
There were people that did wonders for my mental health, and those were the ones I wanted to surround me. For those that made me feel not so great, I immediately cut them out. They were toxic to me and my health in more than one way, so I cut them out. Cold turkey – done. Already I had taken back my health and was restoring it to optimal health. It was a phenomenal feeling that I could have power in who I’m interacting with and how it affects me.
Exercise: Identify toxic relationships
I want to ask you some questions.
Who surrounds you?
What type of relationships do you have?
How do your relationships make you feel?
Do you realize the impact relationships have on you and your health?
- Write down those individuals you interact with daily/weekly basis.
- Under each name, write the feelings you associate with each person (Real feelings and not blanketed feelings. Try this wheel of emotions to help or download one to print. )
- review your list of feelings
- are they mostly negative for a person? or mostly positive?
*For those mostly negative feelings, that is a toxic relationship to you.
Toxic relationships can, and will, impact you one way or another. A common side effect of an unhealthy relationship is stress. Chronic stress can take on real, physical manifestations as well as mental anguish. Over a course of time, chronic stress can lead to complicated health issues.
Chronic stress can cause:
- muscle tension
- breathing harder
- increased heart rate
- increase risk of heart attacks and strokes
- abdominal pains
Sometimes the toxicity someone has on us is immediately obvious. Example, a stranger approaching you in a public place yelling at you for something you did or didn’t do. Would you allow this to happen? What feelings would it invoke? This is an immediate effect of a toxic interaction.
Other times, it’s less noticeable, more subtle. The feelings of having a toxic person are not always felt immediately, but damage just the same (if not more than). Sometimes we need to take a step back from a relationship in order to assess the feelings involved to determine how it is affecting us. This is where the exercise discussed above comes handy.
8 tips for eliminating toxic relationships
Up to this point we’ve talked about all the ways to identify toxic people around us. Now how do we get rid of that toxicity?
1.Recognize the toxic relationships.
If you did the exercise listed above, then you’ve already done. Bravo! If you have not, that’s okay. Do it now and identify those unhealthy faucets.
2. Decide if you want to keep it or repair it.
It’s important to decide if you want to keep that toxic relationship or dump it. I would say dump it, but there are possibilities that the other person doesn’t realize they are having a negative effect on you. Communicating this is fair to both of you, because if it’s an honest overlook for them, then the relationship can be repaired. On the flip side, their response to you talking about could also lead to a better informed decision of keeping or dumping.
3.Make a plan of action.
This goes hand in hand with making a decision to dump or repair. If repairing, make plans to meet up on neutral grounds to discuss the issue at hand.If dumping, you could either cut them off like I did, or communicate with them about your decision. You can list reasons or not – it’s your choice. You are in control of who surrounds you.
Recognizing the toxicity in your life is the first step in self-growth. Taking the time to evaluate your relationships is a strong indicator that you want to better yourself. Continuing to cultivate that growth involves taking action on those toxic relationships and learning to love yourself. A great resource for learning to embrace yourself and practicing self-love is Tami Stackelhouse’s book, Take Back Your Life. Chapter 7, How can I help myself?, shows you how to stop fighting your body and embrace it. How to treat yourself and set an example to others on how to treat you.
5.Create personal boundaries.
Learning how to say no is hard for many of us including me. Read my article Setting Personal Boundaries on why you should set personal boundaries and how to do it without feeling the guilt of doing so.
6.Remind yourself why you are doing it.
If you ever find yourself wondering why you are dumping the toxic relationships in your life, then post a reminder. Sometimes we need a visual reminder of why we are doing the things we are doing in order to inspire us to continue doing it.
7.Continue to assess your relationships periodically.
Like me, you may forget to assess your relationships and unhealthy people will make a place in your life. In order to avoid this, remember to periodically assess your relationships to identify any toxic relationships.
8.Recognize the signs of a toxic relationship.
This help you to become better at identifying unhealthy relationships before they become too evolved.