Can your relationships really make you sick? In a word… YES! I have worked with so many clients over the years that have struggled with maintaining relationships that no longer served them out of loyalty. The fear of how someone may react or respond when new boundaries are set can lead to silent suffering for many. For people of color, support to and from our communities is incredibly important. But, what happens when certain community norms amongst your loved ones no longer work well for you? Anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and heart disease can all be impacted by our emotions and how they relate to our connections with others. Here are 5 red flags to watch out for:
1. You feel drained – If you are often left feeling physically or emotionally exhausted after interacting with someone, this can be a huge red flag that something’s not right. A lack of boundaries is often the culprit in many of these cases. These encounters can leave you feeling tired, anxious and even physically sick. This is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. Listen.
2. It’s all about them (their thoughts, their needs, their problems) - To be very clear, there are people in your life that may attempt to manipulate you by dominating all of your time. People that utilize this strategy for your attention are always in crisis and always need your help. However, many times these encounters are not about the crisis. Instead, they are driven by a need for your attention. This is why no matter how you try to assist, offer advice, or intervene in other ways, their situations stay the same. Entering into this pattern can prevent you from focusing on the people and activities you love and enjoy most. Instead of spending sleepless nights worried about what you cannot truly control, let them do their own internal work. Your loved ones must do this for themselves to see permanent change in their own lives.
3. They never show up for you - While relationships go through many different seasons, all connections should have some mutuality. If you find yourself going above and beyond for others while you struggle alone and in silence regularly, it’s time to re-assess the quality of your relationships. Also, are you clear and open about what you need with your friends and loved ones or do you assume they should know what you need? If you’re making assumptions, this can lead you to harboring resentment and anger.
4. You feel obligated – This can be very tricky, but choosing to continue a relationship with someone purely out of “obligation” is never ideal. I see this often in families, where there are some family members that are allowed to act out against other family members, without consequence. Controlling how and when you interact with these individuals is incredibly important. While there may be some responsibilities you choose to take on, emotional torture and abuse should not be on this list.
5. You’re more committed to others’ wellness over your own – You may be very used to coming in and saving the day for your friends and family members. Amongst groups, there is usually a “go-to” person that is designated as the problem solver. This role can be incredibly draining, especially if the problem solver has nowhere to turn when they face challenges of their own. If you fall into this category, you must be very diligent about taking good care of yourself. How many times have you observed a caregiver falling sick and declining faster than the person they were caring for to begin with? Prioritizing self care is not selfish. It’s necessary.
Taking on bad relationships is a form of neglect against yourself and can very bad for your physical and emotional health. Consider some ways you can be kinder to yourself by being more mindful about the people and situations you engage in.