How to Deal With Toxic People Without Losing Your Damn Mind

According to Twitter, 2017 is the year of outgrowing bad relationships (here’s to hoping). In the pursuit of that, it may be time to evaluate which relationships are contributing positively to your life, and which are leaving you feeling drained. We’ve all met those people who thrive off of drama, and if they can’t find enough of it in their own lives they sometimes seek to create it in the lives of others. Whether it is a relationship we need to cut out, or someone who seems intent on forcing their way in, toxic people are an obstacle many find themselves dealing with at some point or another.

After spending almost three years in an increasingly toxic relationship and struggling with how to remove myself from it, I now strive to (and usually succeed at) living a drama-free existence. However, I recently found myself in a situation where an outside party seemed hell-bent on stirring up trouble for their own delight. It was a sharp reminder of why I now go so far out of my way to avoid these kinds of people. Occasionally they rub you so thoroughly the wrong way that you’d love nothing more than to send a firm email and burn their house down. (The email will be cathartic, but as additionally satisfying as it may be, arson is never the answer).

I do understand though, that at times it just isn’t as easy as rolling your eyes and putting your phone down. Sometimes it is a close friend, whose relationship you value too much to let go of. Other times, it is a partner that you feel you might drown without. Only you can make the call of whether or not the relationship is salvageable – but it is important to be able to step back and look at the big picture. Is it a good friend overstepping boundaries? Is it a few outbursts because they are going through a rough patch? Or have the years been leading up to increasingly more unacceptable behavior? As difficult as it is to turn away from someone you once cared deeply about, we need to accept that eventually the repeated words and actions become defining. They are no longer dealing with some stuff, they are toxic.

While relationships and friendships should always hold an important place in our lives, they should also be mutually beneficial. You should build each other up, instead of feeling like you are being torn down. If spending time with someone constantly leaves you feeling drained, then that is something you should discuss in order to preserve the relationship moving forwards. However, if even the idea of constructive criticism would cause them to lash out, then maybe it is time to reevaluate. 

Regardless of the particular situation, my rule of thumb is to never stoop to their level. You won’t feel any better for it, and it would validate their behavior. At the end of the day, the toxicity usually stems from some discontent, insecurity, or struggle in their own personal lives, and it would be a shame to let that negativity seep into yours.

Whether you decide to talk it out in an effort to salvage the friendship, or come to the conclusion that they won’t change and decide to move on from the relationship in the name of self-preservation, dealing with the fallout is never simple. Even after our minds have called it quits, we often hold on to pent up anger and frustration for days, weeks, or in some cases even months after these encounters. I can’t promise that they will work for you, but I have a few tips for channeling the negative energy left by toxic people.

Work It Out – Literally. 

Crank some angry music and sweat it out, baby. Go for a run or hit a kickboxing class – anything to work out a little anger while working up a sweat. Not only is it a good release, but the post-workout endorphins are great, and being exhausted will help you sleep better.

Channel It.

 Take whatever feelings you are bottling up and use them to fuel your creativity. Paint, write, sing, dance, summon the rain gods – whatever you can do that allows you to turn any negativity you’re harboring into something productive. Use your emotions to fuel that creative fire!

Vent. 

Just because you are dealing with a toxic relationship in your life does not mean you should refrain from turning to your other friends. They are there to support you, lend advice, and talk you down from any crazy ideas. I feel like we often avoid going to others with our problems out of a desire to avoid gossiping or seeming like we’re just talking shit– but it is healthy to express your feelings. Often talking things through with a new set of ears can actually give you some clarity on the situation.

Unplug.

 Put your phone down and head outside (bonus points if you bring your pup) to clear your head. A bit of fresh air can help us realize just how insignificant these little dramas really are in the grand scheme of things. Or bury yourself in a good book or your favorite show and toon out for a bit to give your mind a break from endlessly going over the situation.

Call Them On It.

At times, you just need to bite the bullet and have an honest conversation with the person about how their behavior is affecting you. It may be that your friend failed to realize that they have seriously crossed the line- and they will work to repair things. On other occasions, it won’t work quite so well- but I have always found a sense of closure in knowing that I have said what I had to say.

 

Molly Watson

Molly is a former competitive equestrian who knows she's too stubborn for her own good (but is too stubborn to do anything about it). She makes a mean gin and tonic, and aspires to one day wear white without spilling on it.
Molly Watson
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