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Mental Health & Toxic People

Guarding our mental health in today’s challenging times is often easier said than done.  One mental health goal toward which we should all be striving, however, is a significant reduction of  time spent around toxic, negative, unpleasant, rude, bullying, thoughtless and/or chronically grouchy people.   That, unfortunately, is not always possible (think workplace and relatives!).  It is, however, worth our attention and efforts to at least minimize the negativity and toxicity generated from these unpleasant encounters.

Most of us would most likely agree that the stress, exhaustion and other fallout we suffer from toxic people can often stick with us long after the “exposure.”  So when we can’t avoid such situations and people altogether (always the preferred course of action!), it’s important that we at least minimize the negative effects.  This is important for many reasons with our mental health and the quality of our days being at the top of the list.  One way to do this is to prepare in advance a few constructive responses to the poisonous attitudes, remarks and looks of toxic folks.  This includes how we respond verbally with our words, physically with our body language and inwardly or how we let it affect us (and for how long).   Otherwise, we can get caught off guard even when we are  in those all too familiar negative situations we know from experience to expect with certain co-workers, relatives and other acquaintances.

Staying in the present moment is also critical to minimizing the stress caused by and harmful effects of negative people.  This means focusing on and truly living each moment at hand rather than remaining in the past or projecting too far into the future (i.e. brooding over past negative/toxic moments or fearing future ones).   Our efforts to successfully minimize and detoxify any negativity around us must be done with our full attention and confidence…neither of which can exist if we’re stuck mentally in the past or future.

Finally, we should ask ourselves often what personal habits or traits we should change or do differently.  Do we need an attitude adjustment, to rethink what our body language says with or without the help of our words?  And, what about how we speak — our tone — and choice of words?  A key question is what are we doing to fuel or enhance the toxicity of negative people?  Or worse, are we someone that others would describe as negative or toxic to be around?  It’s far easier to criticize what others are doing wrong than it is to identify, face and eliminate our bad habits or harmful ways of communicating.

Bottom line — before we can succeed at minimizing the stress brought upon us by toxic people, we must look into that painful mirror of truth, squarely face our need-to-improve characteristics and work hard on eliminating our own negative — maybe even toxic — attitudes and actions.  And, if we’re being brutally honest with ourselves, we all have plenty of room for improvement.

In summary:

  • We should avoid toxic people or negative environments as best we can, but recognizing that isn’t always possible to do;
  • We can decide and plan in advance how we are going to handle such moments constructively and proactively;
  • By living and staying solidly in the present moment, we can reduce the stress caused by hanging onto past negative situations or fearing  more of the same in the future; and
  • We should stay closely in touch with and minimize any negativity we may be bringing to the mix via our attitudes, actions, non-actions, tones or words

I love the saying (author unknown), “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns…or…rejoice because thorns have roses.”  We can complain endlessly about the stress caused by negative people in our lives or rejoice because we can take proactive and healthy steps to reduce the stress.

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Nancy Byerly Jones
 

Nancy Byerly Jones is enthusiastically resourceful and tirelessly dedicated to helping her clients build success stories that last...and as a family law and workplace mediator, she is a passionate advocate for helping keep folks out of the courtroom and moving positively forward with their lives. And, oh yes, she also loves every minute at her family's mountainside ranch - the happy and always active home of 5 horses, 9 donkeys, 3 dogs and 1 very tough cat! She writes about the critters at Southern Fried Blog

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