Our world is full of toxins. Emissions, household chemicals, industrial pollution, pharmaceuticals, fast food and so on. We are exposed to such poisons every hour of the day. Scientists have argued with Parliament for years over how unsafe our environment has become, at our hands. Health care workers do the same with their patients. Yet, there is very little public outcry against the stealthy toxins closer to home.
Toxic environments exist all around us. They live inside of us and can be found at the workplace or within our homes. I’m not only referring to abusive situations, though their level of toxicity is abundant; I mean any negative person, place, situation or personal behaviour that’s associated with our lives.
Even the simplest of things can be toxic if it ill-affects us. Many don’t realize they’re in a toxic environment until it becomes unbearable.
A toxic environment can be an unhealthy (abusive or non-abusive) relationship with a significant other, friend or family member; a negative work environment, home or location; bad behaviours such as playing the victim or comparing yourself to others; or unhealthy thoughts like self-doubt, negative self-talk and low self-esteem.
All of these things can cause long-term damage. A toxic environment is just as emotionally and physically damaging as any legal or illegal substance.
Recently, I removed myself from a toxic relationship with a family member. It was an extremely hard and emotional decision, but one that was essential for my own wellness. After years of being stuck in a whirlwind of emotional upheaval, which would leave me feeling anxious, aggravated and drained, it was time to break free.
There are moments when I still question my decision, feel remorse and consider reconciliation. Then I reflect on the general peace of mind and tranquillity I have felt since the parting, and I am reassured that it was all for the best.
Toxicity is a hard thing to cope with and separate yourself from. However, it can be more difficult to recognize. A toxic environment doesn’t let itself be known. It isn’t going to jump out and yell, “I’m here!” It manifests over time, eroding a person’s emotional well-being, and possibly their physical health. Friends or family may see it and bring it to the person’s attention, but it doesn’t become real until that person acknowledges and accepts it.
We are the products of our environment. Our minds are our body’s operating system, which is programmed by our experiences and surroundings. If we are negatively affected, it will most commonly be demonstrated in our behaviour. The trick is to recognize any personal alterations, which are the true signs of toxicity.
A physical weight on your shoulders
Living with something toxic in your environment is like having a physical weight on your shoulders. It becomes harder to be healthy and happy overall, causing you to feel stagnant. You may find yourself retreating from life, watching more TV, being idle or binge-eating. Once you let negativity in, it is unbelievably easy to let yourself be devoured by it.
The Western world typically disassociates physical and mental ailments. They are wrong. Our mental and physical health are inextricably linked. When you are in a toxic environment, it won’t only cause you to be moody, anxious, restless or negative, but may also affect your sex life and can lead to more serious physical conditions, such as ulcers, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and heart disease. It may even lead you down darker paths to more harmful evils, perhaps by opening the doors to substance abuse.
You can exorcise the demon from your life. Once you recognize the cues, you can find the root of the problem and move to remedy or eradicate the toxic waste. When the problem is external, it is a more straightforward fix: either attempt to improve it or remove yourself from it.
If your home contains negative energy, have it cleansed; burn sage, remove clutter, give it a makeover. If you find yourself in a toxic workplace, seek a transfer, change companies or rethink your career entirely. If your location is the problem, move.
People are the hardest, but if a toxic relationship exists between you and a friend or loved one, talk to them about it or seek counselling. If that doesn’t work, and it continues to be detrimental, cut the cord. Some people are not meant to stay in our lives forever.
Toxicity isn’t always so black and white. You can make your own environment toxic. What do you do, then? Removing yourself is not an option, nor is hiding in a bottle or pill container. Similar to when dealing with environmental toxins, the first step is to own up to the fact there is a problem. Much easier said than done, as people don’t naturally recognize their own faults.
Once you do so, you can begin the process of solving the problem through self-reflection, meditation, behaviour therapy or counselling. Some may try to battle through it in other ways. Whatever method you choose, be assured you can do it if you put your whole self into the effort.
Life is messy
Life is messy. It will always have its ups and downs. No experience, environment or situation, and certainly no relationship, will ever be 100 percent perfect all the time. Harmony exists in the wake of chaos. However, when you find your lifeblood, mood, energy, purpose or hope being constantly drained away by a particular person, place or situation, then it has become toxic and changes must be made.
Take time each day to reflect on your life and the people in it. Analyze your feelings associated with them and look for any patterns of disruption. They may appear miniscule at first, but be observant to ensure they do not amount to more later on.
Any situation, when caught early, before emotional scars take hold, is easier to remedy than those that have been years in the making. Letting go, moving on or giving up on something or someone is not a crime, if it improves your health and well-being. You must take care of yourself first and foremost, before you can be any good for anyone else.
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