We’re often reminded of the importance of limiting harmful toxins for our body. There are warning labels on certain foods, documentaries made, and even cleanse diets to rid our body of harmful toxins. Should we not enforce such warnings when it comes to the people we surround ourselves with?

Toxic people can wear down your mental and emotional wellbeing in the same way that a steady stream of junk food can throw your body out of sync.

You’ll no doubt be familiar with the traits of toxic people. Their behaviour is predominately negative. They are generally critical, self-absorbed and often create drama around them. They’re the people you feel a sense of dread rise up from your feet to your heart when you see them.

Sound familiar?

If so, the key is in how you manage these relationships. It’s often not possible to avoid these people completely or to expel them from our lives – particularly at work and particularly as we move into the festive season.

The most effective way is to limit the amount of time and energy that you put to the interactions, so that their negative energy doesn’t adversely affect your positive mood, energy and attitude.

Action Steps

1. Limit how often and how long
Set limits on how much time you spend with them. If your time is an obligation you can’t avoid, try to shorten the duration and frequency of your interactions.

2. Limit your emotional engagement
This may be difficult but do try to not take on their energy and opinions. Listen politely but keep an emotional distance to preserve your values and opinions.

3. Limit the interactions if they turn negative
Negativity can breed negativity so set boundaries and stick to them. If they try to engage you in negative behaviours such as gossiping or complaining, try to limit the interaction and exit the situation at your earliest opportunity.

Caring for your mental and emotional wellbeing involves many of the same principles as caring for your physical wellbeing – including limiting unhealthy influences.

Who comes to mind first when you think of ‘toxic people’? What steps might you take to limit the effects of that person on your wellbeing?

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Adele Sinclair is a wellness coach and trainer who focuses on mental wellbeing at work. She has a background in management and experienced job burnout twice as a result of ongoing work stress. If you liked this article, you'll love Adele's coaching programs to help you with strategies for a great worklife.