Self-Care in Toxic Relationships
BY ANITA MARTIN
What are toxic relationships? They are most simply defined as harmful connections. However, if you’ve experienced a toxic relationship, you are acutely aware of its implications. The messages resulting from a harmful connection seem to infiltrate even the most personal corners of your thoughts, feelings, and soul. Toxic relationships can compromise your self-identity and ability to see the partnership clearly. In extreme situations, they can endanger your life. Often, the ideal advice is to remove your self from poisonous relationships, but for many reasons, there are those who delay a permanent decision or choose to stay. Regardless of your situation, self-care is vital to reducing the impact of a toxic environment.
A colleague once described self-care to me in this way. When stress levels rise as a result of any situation, the amount of time and attention given to self-care also needs to rise equally. Unfortunately, most of us tend to give significantly less attention to personal needs during stressful times. So, essentially our bodies, emotions, and soul experience heightened demands while simultaneously receiving less nurturing. The result of this dynamic is often physical, emotional, and spiritual depletion. We are empty.
A toxic relationship creates a near-constant harmful environment. If it is a love relationship, we are most likely sharing a home or spending a significant amount of time with our partner. Stop and think about this for a moment. You may be sharing a home, a life, children, holidays, and more within a harmful atmosphere and relationship. Additionally, you may have a stressful job, difficult family relationships, and health concerns. Even in the best relationships, self-care is important in the midst of multiple obligations. It’s easy to lose sight of how much we manage on a daily basis and in turn, expect even more from ourselves.
What can you do to increase self-care while coping with a toxic relationship?
Locate a licensed therapist who has expertise in toxic relationships. Establish and maintain regular counseling sessions. Therapy will give you a safe environment in which to discuss your feelings. You and your therapist can work to reduce the confusion inherent in toxic relationships and challenge personal beliefs that result.
Create space to be quiet, space to separate from the chaos, and space to understand and begin establishing a healing environment. Use these quiet moments to meditate, write your story, and discover who you are outside of the toxic relationship.
Creating and building memories of fun experiences will help ease the pain of harmful relationships. What truly makes you happy? Are there certain people that brighten your day? Schedule events that replenish your emotional and physical resources. Laughter is one of the best antidotes to relationship stress.
Sustenance and Rest
Focus on consuming quality food, because it is one of the most nourishing and caring things you can do for yourself. Stress can deplete the body’s nutrient reserves and activate a variety of health concerns. Demanding times often send us to convenience foods, but this will only deplete you more. If dining out is your best option, find restaurants that source and serve high quality food.
Rest is absolutely vital, but is so easily disrupted during relationship stress. It is common to be awake in the middle of the night with disturbing thoughts. Create the most peaceful environment possible for rest (which may include your own bedroom) and do things that help relax you before bedtime like hot tea, reading, or meditation.
When living in a toxic relationship, it’s important to do what you can to nurture and care for yourself, even if one suggestion is all you can add.