Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
This article first appeared on SHE'SAID' and has been republished with permission.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been a participant in some toxic behaviors that have hurt myself and the people around me.
By nature, I tend to be a chaotic combination of impulsive, reckless and anxious with a nasty habit of doing what I want, when I want (with zero regards to the consequences).
It wasn’t so long ago that I had a rock bottom moment. Well, month.
I was struggling with crippling anxiety, a horrible living situation, and an incessant stubborn streak that made it impossible for me to admit I was having a hard time.
Whenever friends would check in and ask if I was ok, I would get annoyed. If they didn’t believe me when I said I was fine I cut them out. Clean break. Giving friends the chop was much easier than explaining what was going on with me. After all, I hardly knew myself what was going on.
In classic style, I went out every night. I told myself – and my friends – I was just being 20, and they were jealous because I was living my life to the max. Big nights at the bar turned into benders until I woke up one morning and didn’t recognize myself – or my life.
I’d hurt people who were close to me and was completely isolated from my closest friends. There I was, sitting all alone at the rockiest of bottoms.
I was tired; tired of disappointing people, tired of my spiraling mental illness and tired of justifying my poor behavior.
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The hardest lesson learned is that you are responsible for your own mental health and you are solely accountable for the way that you treat people.
It’s not easy to hear but understanding it is the prerequisite to removing, what can sometimes be the most toxic thing of all – your attitude.I hope you’ve got a mug because I’m about to spill some (honest) tea. Here are some ways to stop being toxic…
Say what you mean
Stop being passive-aggressive, effective immediately.
Being indirect and snappy about things that bother you is one of the most toxic habits there is. Confrontation isn’t easy for everyone but there is nothing worse than being ignored for no good reason
Start being honest about the way you’re feeling. This isn’t license to drop truth bombs like there’s no tomorrow – your sister doesn’t need to hear that the bangs she loves just aren’t working for her – but consider this permission to be upfront about your feelings.
It’s easier, in the long run, to be clear about what’s going on.
Take your mental health seriously
Take it from me, pushing anxiety or depression to the side doesn’t make it go away.
If you have any concerns that you may be struggling with a mental illness of any description, please see a medical professional. You don’t have to be crippled by anxiety before ‘it’s bad enough’ to go to a doctor.
I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety five times before I took it seriously. The time I spent ignoring my mental health was the most toxic I’ve ever been. I felt helpless and I didn’t know why so I took it out on other people.
Therapy is an amazing way to talk about your feelings and get professional advice on the best ways to cut toxic habits. The good news is, therapy is for everyone – you don’t have to have a diagnosed mental illness to talk to a professional.
The best way to stop being toxic is to take care of your brain.
Stop being toxic by comparing yourself to others
“Ugh, she’s so pretty, I hate her.”
Comparing yourself to other people is one of the most damaging things you can do. Not only is it unfair to yourself, but it can also really damage your relationships.
We all know that social media can be dangerous when used excessively and perfectly curated Instagram feeds can cause you to spiral. Sure, you’re not on a beach in Santorini or maybe you don’t have the perfect boyfriend, but that doesn’t make your life worse or less meaningful!
Your time will come. So look after your soul and log off social media when it starts getting toxic.
Don’t drink away your problems
Do you know what’s worse than hitting rock bottom? Hitting rock bottom with a hangover.
Alcohol is a super-easy way to avoid your problems but it can do more harm than good. While there’s nothing wrong with Friday cocktails with the girls, drinking excessively more than a couple of times a week can damage your physical and mental health.
Stress can interfere with the way your body processes alcohol. This often takes away the pleasant effects of alcohol and can make symptoms of stress and mental illness worse.
Before you reach for a glass of wine tonight, ask yourself why you’re drinking. Are you enjoying a beer with dinner or are you getting drunk to avoid your feelings?
Want to stop being toxic and look after your liver? Assess your drinking habits; they could tell you more than you would think.
Invest plenty of time into self-care
Self-care is your new best friend.
I don’t mean face mask on a Sunday self-care; I’m talking top to toe, inside-out, looking after yourself.
Reducing alcohol intake, drinking water, exercising and eating nutritious food are good first steps in removing literal toxins from your body. As you start to feel better physically, the emotional stuff will become much easier to handle.
That’s not to say turn yourself into a gym junkie. If you’re like me and the gym just isn’t your thing, try going for walks or doing yoga instead. Getting outside and having some thinking time is good for the soul.
Another method of self-care is to reach out to a friend. In your toxic spiral, you may have neglected your friendships but it’s never too late to make amends. Surrounding yourself with support is going to make this journey a world easier.
Trust me, once you start looking after your body and mind everything else will fall into place.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
Like all things in this life, letting go of toxic habits is a process.
Putting too much pressure on yourself to be perfect is just going to make you spiral back into bad habits. Be patient with yourself as you learn new ways of coping and try to enjoy the process.
Engaging in toxic behaviors does not make you a bad person. It just means that you’re human.
You should be proud of yourself for making changes and bettering yourself as a person.
Soul work is hard work but don’t give up. Future you will be grateful – and be a better human for it too.