You’ve been dealing with these people – or this person – for sometime now and it appears there is a correlation between time spent with them and a decline in your health. Recognize the following scenarios? The phone rings, you see it’s them and you have to take a deep breath. Your heart skips a beat and then quickens. You steel yourself for it, deep breath, “hello!” UGH. Or – you see that text pop up from them – and again, the physiological effects begin: quickened heartbeat, shallow breathing. What is happening?
It’s stress – both physiological and psychological. You can actually feel the heartbeat quicken and that “pit” at the bottom of your stomach. What you may not realize is how it’s affecting you psychologically. This type of stress is tricky. It may be a “friend” or relative, so not only do you feel nervous about your interactions with them – you feel guilty for feeling that way! It’s a two-fer! Or – a one-two punch!
As MS’ers, we know what stress can do to us. We know that a flare could be right around the corner – and we need to mitigate our stress. But that is made more difficult when the people in our lives are causing us stress – particularly when they are “friends” or relatives. So – what can you do to dial down that stress? Great question.
What To Do
“Toxic people can try to cling on—sometimes for years! They can make you feel guilty and because of that, are not always easy to remove from your life,” says Tara Mackey, author of Cured by Nature and founder of The Organic Life.
Identify it: what exactly are they doing that is harmful to you? Are they manipulative, difficult to please, hard to work with and never apologize – even when they are obviously wrong? Do you feel like you’re constantly having to prove your allegiance to them? That’s exhausting. Are they more of a downer than a supporter? Now that you know what it is that’s toxic to you and your health – you need to deal with it.
Be definitive: Now is not the time to be wishy-washy. Set those boundaries, tell them your intentions (dialing down the stress and limiting your time with them – or eliminating them altogether) and don’t backpedal. This is important. YOU’RE IMPORTANT. They may take this is a challenge and try to persuade you otherwise. Stay strong.
Stick to the Plan: If you decided to block them from your phone, your social media and to no longer attend events where they will be – STICK TO IT. Don’t give yourself a backup plan, like maybe you’ll check in with them in 6 months or so. Unless they’ve had a near-death experience and gotten some serious help, chances are nothing with have changed – and you just opened yourself up to that same stressor.
No More Accommodation: you’re a kind person. You find it hard to be “mean” to anyone. Keep in mind – this isn’t being mean – and you don’t need to speak to them in an unpleasant manner. But you do have to be firm and quit accommodating them. If they say this hurts them – remember all the times you’ve been hurt – and stay strong and committed to your own health.
“Not my fault, not my responsibility”: this should be your mantra. These manipulators of emotion will likely come sniffing back around looking for a shoulder to cry on or some “advice” for a problem they’re having. DON’T FALL FOR IT. Direct them to any resources that you’re aware of to help them, but do not re-invest in this relationship – it will only cause you more pain – and STRESS.
Your Energy – Your Call: they will most likely try to demand more of your time when they feel things have “cooled off” a bit. Stand firm. If you said “no more” – mean it. If they are family, that complicates things a bit. However – you can still set out clearly defined boundaries – and stick by those. Perhaps it’s a timeframe – “I’ll speak to you on the phone once per week” or “I’ll see you at family gatherings only” or maybe it’s based more on guidelines like “you can call me, but I’m not allowing “CBC’s – criticizing, blaming and complaints” – or whatever your issues with the “offender” happen to be. Be clear. Be firm. Be protective of you and your health.
Energy Flows Where Attention Goes: “The more selective you are about where your focus is, the more successful you’ll be,” Mackey says. “The more time you spend away from toxic people, the more time you have for yourself and the people that are positive, uplifting, and important to you.” Focus on you, your (real) friends, those people who love and support you – and your health. Make yourself a priority and you have more love and support to offer others as well.
A book I have found incredibly helpful is Co-Dependent No More, by Melody Beattie. I’ve included the clickable link to make it easy to order for yourself. It provided me a lot of “ah-ha” moments and helps remind me of my priorities and responsibilities to myself and my health first.
If you have additional suggestions on things that have helped you to deal with stressful people in your life, please post them in the comments section below – to benefit everyone reading this post. Thank you.