Like many, I have been doing a bit of soul-searching and mental housecleaning over the past 18 months. I am learning that, for me, the best path to mental health is meditation, physical activity, and a healthy heaping of good, restful, uninterrupted sleep. A bit of daily laughter helps a lot.  I love to laugh!

It’s no secret that I have a deep appreciation for Jay Shetty and Mind Valley. While the two platforms are structurally different, their goal is the same: support the enlightened evolution of modern humanity. Yes, that’s mumbo jumbo for “leveling up” the collective. Both Jay and Mind Valley’s CEO, Vishen Lakhiani, helped me navigate vast, choppy waters of emotional healing over the past year. Truly grateful for their inspirational coaching. I continue to look to them when things get rough or confusing.

Earlier this week, I was reflecting on recent (yet repetitive) events that saddened my heart and made me realize that I need to start moving in a new direction. Any time a situation (relationship, partnership, job) begins to show signs of decay, we have a number of action options we can take. There’s the Ostrich Approach: stick your head in the sand and do or say nothing (I’ve mastered this one; I don’t recommend it). Come Out Swinging is always a favorite barn burner if you have no desire to ever reconcile or fix the situation (I hate to admit, I’m pretty good at this one as well, but it yields mixed results). Lessons Learned are really uncomfortable. Lastly, there’s what I label Toxicity Boundaries. It’s becoming my fast favorite, but it’s also the one for which I receive a ton o’ crap for using.

In one of his recent podcasts, Jay Shetty talks about the collateral damage that we do to ourselves and to each other when we are toxic.  Yes, we all have toxicity, and like the DEFCON system, we have level indicators that tell us (and others) just how bad the current conditions are. Like the weatherman, our toxicity barometer tells us if we need to take an umbrella with us or stay inside when someone or something in our environment is smelling rather toxic, including our own damned self.

How do you know if someone (maybe you?) or something is toxic? Some tattling signs include:

  • Outright criticism: usually comes out of nowhere and catches the receiver off-guard. Who really expects an open-field, full-frontal attack?
  • Backhanded compliments: a nicety wrapped in multiple layers of toilet papered potty poo (this is also known as jealousy; haters shouldn’t hate but sometimes do).
  • Chronic Complaining: (I must admit, this is my go-to market toxin. I can complain about sunshine if I’m feeling poo).
  • Bullying: No need to explain this one but trust there’s a book coming, and I’m writing it 😉
  • Stealing: your ideas, your wo(man), your kudos, your money, your job (title), your shine! (You get the picture) …and justifying the stinky behavior.
  • Cheating: see above.

But what can you do if you’re in a toxic dynamic that needs to change? Jay suggests plenty. First, create distance to provide yourself a safe space. Toxic people and situations cannot impact you as much if you create boundaries beyond their reach. That doesn’t mean you cut them off completely; it simply means that you take a time-out from the drama and focus on you, your priorities, and your evolution rather than sit around waiting for them to remove their head from their funk.

Secondly, protect your boundaries. If the person in question is a colleague, choose to only deal with them at work. Don’t auto-agree to Happy Hour if it’s a party of two. If it’s a larger group and you feel supported, then feel free to attend, but don’t allow them to drag you into their muck or target you for attacks. But what if it’s family or a close friend? Set the timer on talk time; phone calls are limited to say 30 minutes and face-to-face visits are scaled down as well. Toxic people will feel less inclined to come at you Bro if they recognize that your shields are up and your armor is on (meaning that you know a frontal gut punch is on deck and you may punch back this time…just sayin…that’s my add…).

What if it’s repetitive and doesn’t seem to get any better? Well, then you’ve got tough choices to make. You may have to take a timeout, break, or completely change the dynamic by removing yourself from it, at least temporarily until it can be reconfigured in a healthy way. No one, including loved ones, has the right to mistreat you. Period. Nada. Never. Nuff said.

Look, life often throws some curve balls and human nature doesn’t always allow us to process them effectively, logically, and mindfully. Those damned emotions and feelings sometimes get in the way of us being grown-ups and we act out in ways that aren’t good for us or good to those (we love) around us.

Regardless, you are not the weatherman, and while you do not have control over the toxic storm that may suddenly rain on your parade, you do have the power to set limits and proactively protect yourself from getting drenched. When you detect a bit of toxicity in the air, grab an umbrella and head to the nearest coffee shop. You’ll be warm, dry, caffeinated, and best of all, happy.


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