When the Mask Falls – Discovering the Truth About Myself Through Minimalism and Slow Living

Some time has passed since my last post, but truthfully, I’ve been going through a few things, and I’ve also discovered something big about myself in the healing process. 

I’ll start by briefly mentioning that I’m in the process of healing for postnatal OCD, obsessively checking on my baby daughter, having terrible intrusive thoughts, and horrendous night terrors that have woken me almost as much as the baby. To say I’ve been exhausted is an understatement. 

My mind and body have been completely totalled. I was still going out for long daily walks but that itself wasn’t fixing anything. I couldn’t understand why I felt so completely overwhelmed even when things were calm. 

When I say I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, the only way I can describe it is like a constant deafening ‘noise’ in my head. Not literal noise. Just a feeling of so much going on that whenever there was a moment of silence and my baby napped, my head felt as if I had just been to a nightclub, then got home and sat in the silence with my head promising a hangover. 

This feeling isn’t new to me. I’ve often struggled with it and sometimes it’s even lead to the odd meltdown. Now, I do have an autism diagnosis, but to me that’s never felt like the whole picture. 

At night, I couldn’t wait to reach for the wine or the beer to ‘tone down’ the constant sensory overload I was feeling. Obviously, not a good thing. 

Well, a few weeks ago, I made a radical decision. I was going to dramatically tone down as much sensory stimulation coming at me as possible. This has meant leaving Facebook, leaving Whatsapp, not checking the news, not filling in silences, not playing intense videogames for a long period of time or before bed, and not checking my phone in the morning. 

The news has been constant source of worry and stress over things I can’t control, as well as yet another thing to keep me clicking and bombarding me with information. Why was I doing it to myself?

I was fed up with the urge to check all the time, losing hours to apps and then feeling as if I’d had no time to myself, fed up with feeling as if i had to respond on Whatsapp all the time (the app shows when a message has been read) and I simply don’t want that pressure to respond instantly. 

Nobody should have to feel that kind of pressure unless it is an emergency. 

For those reasons, I likely won’t be returning to Facebook at all or checking the news unless I absolutely have to.

I’ve taken breaks in the past thinking I would reset my habit and all would be fine. But because social media services are designed to exploit our minds and our need to be accepted, I know that isn’t going to happen which is why I’ve found myself time and again down the endless, noisy rabbit hole. 

I understand that in the current climate, the expectations to communicate digitally are heightened, but for me, it’s not been doing my mental health any good. 

With a 4 month old and a 6 year old autistic son, total peace is just not going to happen, so I’ve taken control of what I can so I can show up for my family as a better, calmer person, and hopefully continue to heal. 

I’ve been making a habit of colouring again as part of the healing process. Honestly, I had forgotten the joy and the peace of simply worrying about what colour to use next. I’ve also been just sitting in silence for long periods of time with my favourite beverage of choice (a calming herbal tea or some hot milk).

I’ve slowed down my walking speed instead of walking like I’m on some imaginary timer, and that had paid off because I captured some great photos I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed. It seems that rushing around doing anything automatically makes my brain think I’m in a survival situation, so I’ve been intentionally slower with household chores as well, and in moving around the house. 

I make sure to feel the floor beneath my feet, whether that’s the warm cosy carpet of the bedroom between my toes, or the cool hard flooring of the living room. 

Mornings are now much slower. No longer do I rush to get myself and my son out the door to school. The stress was doing neither of us any good so I’ve started making time for cuddles and showing him the amazing sunrises from his bedroom window instead (to which he runs off to get his camera). 

I also make a point to braindump in my notebook every morning which is akin to emptying the household trash and is seriously refreshing. 

I’ve got rid of even more stuff. In fact, I now consider myself an extreme minimalist (which i want to talk about in another post). 

I’ve cut out chemicals and sprays which I was incredibly sensitive to and switched to all natural products instead. Even that has gone some way to reduce the overload on my senses. 

As I’ve slowed down and started noticing the signals my body is giving me, I’ve realised that caffeine is yet another thing I am sensitive to, which has been putting me into fight or flight mode without even realising. Without slowing down, I never would have noticed that as I chugged every cup of tea like I was on a timer.

In just over a week, my husband tells me I’ve not been waking up screaming as much, sometimes not at all, and I feel generally calmer in myself. More grounded. 

Now for the revelation I discovered about myself. And it was the brain-dumping and reducing the huge amounts of sensory input which lead to the realisation. 

I’m actually an extroverted HSP (Highly sensitive Person)

Why is that such a revelation, you ask? Because for pretty much my whole life I’ve ignored that and lived a loud, obnoxious lifestyle. 

Growing up I always had trouble making friends and being bullied, and a few other traumatic things happened in my life, so I acted out constantly. Later on, when I finally did make life-long friends, I acted silly and loud and hyper all the time (which quickly became a part of my identity with friends). I acted that way for so many years I forgot it had once been a mask. In fact, it was still a mask.

I wore this mask because deep down I feared being lonely and friendless and a little voice in my head told me I couldn’t be calm because I’d be seen as boring, that I’d lose the people close to me if I calmed down because there was nothing else about me. I continued to tell myself that story for the longest time. 

Sometimes people would comment and go ‘that’s very Emma’, or ‘that’s not very Emma-like’ which further cemented these fears I had to live up to this identity I had forged.

Even after receiving a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia (which has calmed down somewhat after cutting out gluten and using more natural products) I carried on like I was, continually burning myself out. I wasn’t even aware I had been wearing a mask because it had become such an ingrained part of myself. 

The relief upon realising this was as if I had just dropped a heavy sack of potatoes I’d been carrying for years. I just stared and stared at the page where this had all come out of me, hardly able to believe it. 

That’s not the only thing that helped me come to the realisation I’m an (extroverted) HSP. I’ve been minimalist a few years now and have become more and more on the extreme side, wanting less and less visual distraction, craving peace and nature more than ever before. 

I found myself watching Youheum’s Heal your Living on Youtube (an extreme minimalist) just so I could feel the calm and because I love her incredibly serene, slow voice. But, strikingly, what made me watch these videos over and over, was that she talks about being a HSP, which is something I hadn’t heard of before. 

When Youheum spoke about being a HSP and how extreme minimalism was helping that, something clicked for me. I felt like she was talking about my deepest self, but I wasn’t yet ready to accept it, so I watched it a good few times. 

Upon reading about HSP’s, and finding it is a very real thing, I was struck by how much like me it all was, the only difference being I’m in the 20-30% of extroverted HSP’s – most are introverts. 

So now, I’m kind of dealing with the mask having fallen away, and am having to nurture and nourish the ruined, daylight-deprived skin beneath. And I’m doing this mainly by myself because everyone else has always known me as ‘that crazy loud girl’. It’s embarrassing, to be honest, and despite being public,  this blog felt like the safest place to explain it. the safest place to be myself.

I have to wonder if it wasn’t for the postpartum illness, and if it wasn’t for minimising even further, how much longer would that mask have stayed welded to me? Until I had another meltdown? Until I got yet another chronic illness? 

This is the first time I’ve spoken about this.

In a way, it’s helping me to process the fact I’ve been pretending for so long and subjecting myself to unnecessary levels of stimulation and noise. All under the belief I was boring and undesirable. All because I was petrified of being lonely.

I’ve since come to realise after all these years what quality friends and family I have, and that anyone worth having in my life, will continue to love me for who I really am. 

And I’m also thankful to discovering minimalism because without that, I’d never be where I am now and this blog wouldn’t even exist. 

If you’re also a HSP or have recently discovered you are, feel free to comment and I  will get back to you within 48 hours. 

Photo by William Farlow on Unsplash

Stuck Inside – Ways To Beat Boredom and Maintain Your Mental Health

Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

It’s like something from an apocalyptic movie;  a pandemic has been announced, countries are in lockdown, people are isolating themselves for months, and businesses are struggling. 

In times like these, it’s easy to panic, and it’s easy to lose sight of the good things around you. And if you’re self-isolating for a long period, loneliness and boredom can set in quickly. 

Humans are social creatures and it’s vital that we find ways to connect with others and maintain our mental health, not just during times of challenge, but as a part of everyday life.  

Here are some things you can do to beat boredom and look after your mental health when you’re stuck inside. 

Feel-Good Productivity 

Deep clean your kitchen cupboards 

You’ve probably been meaning to do this for months, but work and other responsibilities meant you could never get round to it. Now is the perfect time to empty those cupboards and give them a thorough cleaning. For more cathartic impact, imagine that all the grime you’re removing are also layers of negative thoughts being scrubbed from your mind. 

Deep clean/declutter cutlery drawers 

Remove all your cutlery, declutter what you don’t need, and give the drawers a good clean. It’s so satisfying to get your utensils out of a clean and organised drawer, and makes meal times much easier. 

Deep clean/declutter the bathroom

Bathrooms accumulate mould and bacteria quickly. It’s also amazing how many supplies end up multiplying in bathroom storage. Get rid of out-of-date toiletries, makeup, and medications, then remove everything else and make the surfaces shine. You’ll be glad you did. 

Declutter Rooms In Your House 

Start a mission to declutter your home, starting off with one room and gradually making your way round to the others. When you remove what you don’t need and keep only the things you love, you create space and clarity in your home and your life. It also becomes much easier and faster to clean, which frees up time for other activities or rest. 

Decluttering is so incredibly freeing on the heart and mind it can become addictive. 

Photo by Norbert Levajsics on Unsplash

Wash/clean your curtains or blinds

I don’t know about you, but I rarely think about the blinds in my house when I’m doing a clean and recently I couldn’t work out why my rooms still had a dusty smell to them. The other day, I thought to check the blinds, and they were covered in a thick layer of dust. Giving your curtains a wash or your blinds a good wipe-down will help to freshen the air in a room. 

Wash your bedding 

Bedding needs changing once a fortnight, or even more frequently if you’re a heavy sweater. Dust mites also build up inside mattresses, so it’s a good idea to give the mattress a hoover while you’re at it with a dust mite vacuum. 

Declutter/tidy the shed or garage 

Sheds and garages are clutter hotspots. They accumulate multiples of tools or things get stowed away in them which we believe we might need ‘one day’. If you have a nice sunny day, why not set aside some time to clear these spaces out? 

Fix the thing you never got round to 

You know that broken toy you promised your kid you’d fix two months ago? The shelf that’s been wonky for the past year? Now’s a great time to finally get round to fixing it. Once it’s done, it’s off your to-do list and your family or partner can stop nagging you to do it. 

Self Improvement & Mental Health 

Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

Take a course/learn a new skill

Always wanted to become an awesome cook, but never had the time to learn? Thought about learning how to write a book or start a blog? There’s no time better than the present.

There’s no shortage of both free and paid courses online to learn anything your heart desires. Some sites I recommend are Udemy, Skillshare, Open university, and Youtube. And there’s an ocean of excellent, insightful books out there for your chosen topic.

So, what’re you waiting for? 

Go for a walk or run around your neighbourhood

Walking or running is a fantastic way to boost your mental wellbeing and should be a part of your everyday routine if you can. It’s also a great way to get your dose of vitamin D on a sunny day. Currently, the lack of cars and human activity in many areas has made for cleaner, fresher air, so there’s no better time to get some fresh air.  

Beautify your garden (if you have one)

Gardening can also have a positive effect on your mental wellbeing.  Not only is it a mindful activity, it can keep you fit. And there’s nothing like the satisfaction of some beautiful green space to clear your mind after a stressful day.

Journal 

Journaling is a fantastic way of getting your thoughts down on paper (physical or digital). It can relieve your mind of worries that have been building up on you, lead you to solutions to your problems, or even help you build a writing habit.

You don’t have to be perfect; you don’t have to be able to write well; you don’t have to please anyone. You can be as messy, as creative, or as neat as you like. There are no rules. 

When you go out for or order a shop, buy some flowers or plants to cheer the place up 

It might sound small, but buying some flowers or some nice house plants can really help to freshen up a room and make it feel more cheerful. Believe it or not, houseplants are known for being beneficial to your health and productivity. 

Photo by Julie Marsh on Unsplash

Practise gratitude 

This might feel almost impossible when the world around you seems to be going to Hell, but I assure you, if you set aside the time and put some thought into it, you’ll come up with at least a handful of things in your life to be grateful for. Practising gratitude is great for boosting mental wellbeing and for adopting a positive mindset. 

If you really struggle, there are some lovely gratitude journals out there which give you some gentle prompts and beautiful pages to look back on. 

Colouring

Before you cast this aside as childish, hear me out. Research has shown that adult colouring can help to reduce stress and anxiety. It’s a peaceful, mindful activity and there are hundreds of beautiful or humorous adult colouring books to choose from. It doesn’t matter how good you are because there’s nobody judging you. It’s all about you and your relaxation.  

I personally love Secret Garden by Johanna Basford.

Play some uplifting/upbeat music 

Music can change or enhance our moods, so if you’re on a bit of a downer, try putting on some happy, upbeat music (or whatever chills you out). Music has also been proven to reduce pain in some chronically ill patients. I have been enjoying sitting in my sunny garden with the living room door open, listening to the radio, and have found it massively relaxing.

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Play board/card games 

A few weeks ago I bought two classic board games from my childhood: Ludo and Snakes & Ladders. Despite all the screens and other distractions, they’ve been a surprising hit and are something the whole family can enjoy. When the board games are out, boredom flies out the window, people’s cheeky and competitive sides come out, and screens are forgotten. 

Recently, I’ve discovered Solitaire Klondike and have become somewhat addicted (no, I really hadn’t played this before).

Don’t underestimate board games or card games for some classic family fun.

Play videogames 

I’ve always been a gamer, but even if you don’t consider yourself one, or have never picked up a controller in your life, there are thousands of games out there now to appeal to all ages and preferences.

The Nintendo Switch is a https://www.nintendo.com/games/switch/good choice for access to a massive library of games, as is the Nintendo 3DS.  You can’t go wrong with either and there’s bound to be something you like whether that’s puzzles, point & click, party games, platformers, or action-shooters. 

Multiplayer videogames are also a great way to stay in touch with others, make new friends online, or have fun with the family. 

Help someone in need 

For the ultimate pick-me-up, if you’re not sick you can always help somebody in need. With panic buyers emptying store shelves, and the elderly and vulnerable unable to get supplies, there are multiple ways you can help. 

You can deliver shopping to their doorstep, leave a kind note, or drop off some flowers. Even making a few phone calls to some lonely people would be a huge help with the current situation. 

Here are some links to just a few of the acts of kindness that have come out of the Coronavirus pandemic.

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/26/europe/kindness-coronavirus-strangers-helping-gbr-scli/index.html

https://www.stylist.co.uk/life/coronavirus-how-to-be-kind-random-acts-of-kindness-ideas-helping-others/368441

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/coronavirus-positive-kindness-italy-singing-corner-shop-elderly-postcard-a9404781.html

Photo by Austin Kehmeier on Unsplash

What NOT to Do

As important as it is to stay updated, there are some things you shouldn’t be doing, that have the potential to increase your anxiety and feelings of hopelessness. 

Don’t keep checking the news

The news updates to the minute and it’s tempting to keep refreshing it or checking back to see new updates of what’s happening. But as useful as the news can be, it can also be a huge trigger for anxiety and worry.

Every time there’s a new death, there’s a new headline. Do you need to know about every single death and crime? Keep in mind, many articles are written in a way to grab your attention and make you react with a panicked curiosity. These kinds of articles are often referred to as clickbait. 

Set times for when you will check the news. After all, why worry about the things you can’t control? 

Don’t check the news/social media first thing in the morning or last thing at night 

How you start your day affects how the rest of your day will feel or go. If you start the morning reading depressing, worrying news, those will play on your mind for the rest of the day and keep you checking on events.

Similarly, if you start by scrolling through social media, that can have the same anxiety-inducing effect as constantly checking the news, especially as people are currently voicing their constant anger and worry. 

Checking either late at night could keep you scrolling well into the time when you should be relaxing or catching a good night’s sleep.

Not only can the blue light from devices keep you awake, the anxiety from the news or from other people’s feeds can make you too anxious to sleep, and cause nightmares. And if you aren’t getting decent sleep, you’re going to feel consistently crappy. 

Don’t believe everything you see on your newsfeed

Along with the coronavirus came the viral wave of fake news sweeping the internet. Companies are trying to slow the tide of fake articles, but there’s only so much they can do. The best thing you can do is to do your research.

Don’t immediately believe what you read online unless it’s from a well-trusted news source or website (in the UK mine ours is BBC News, Sky News, and the NHS website). There’s also the World Health Organisation who keep their website updated with the latest Coronavirus information. 

But how can you know if what you’re reading is fake? First, check the source. Is it a familiar website? Has it got a weird-looking address? 

A lot of shared fake news starts off with someone who knows someone else, who’s related to someone important, who said or saw something that nobody else knows. A quick Google search should show you if it’s fake or not. 

It’s better to ignore ‘news’ like this, as it’s the equivalent of a game of Chinese Whispers – one which starts off with a lie to begin with.

Remember, if it’s not on any of your main trusted news websites, it’s likely not true. 

Don’t worry about what you can’t control e.g other people’s behaviour. 

In the end, no matter what’s going on outside, you can’t control it all. So focus, instead, on what you CAN control: your thoughts, your reactions, your words and actions. 

Try not to succumb to vices such as excess drinking which can make anxiety or feelings of depression worse. 

In many supermarkets, shelves are being stripped not just of food and other essentials, but of beer and wine. While there’s nothing wrong with having a drink now and then, drinking to excess will eventually cause a slew of both physical and mental health problems including anxiety, depression, weight gain and liver damage.

I hope these ideas have been useful to you, and remember: stay calm, stay healthy, be mindful of others, and follow the safety rules in your area.

Photo by Erriko Boccia on Unsplash

Healing Your Inner-self: Care For Others by Caring For You

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

While walking the dog, I saw a single white flower, almost like a large daisy, beneath a tree where everything else around it was defeated by ground frost. This flower stood defiant against the elements for many more weeks before finally going crispy and brown. Even then, it stood proud, refusing to fall. 

It’s all too easy to end up wilted and lifeless, lacking motivation and longing to hibernate like a bear, especially during these cold, dark, busy winter months. 

We get sick, depressed, and lethargic. And if you have a chronic illness, symptoms may become even worse during the colder season. 

Add the stress of the holidays, increasingly bleak news headlines, tough finances, family arguments, and you have the perfect recipe for depression, anxiety, overwhelm, and hiding under the duvet for months on end. 

There may be times when you feel completely drained and hopeless, but rest assured, there are things you can do to bring that spark back into your soul.  

You see, in today’s modern world of consumerism, always-online technology, scary news, uncertainty, and filling tick boxes, we forget to take care of number one. In fact, society tells us it’s selfish to do so; and that couldn’t be any more damaging or further from the truth.

But how do you know when you’re at your limit? 

The trick is to understand the signs of when you’re nearing overload. These can include but are not limited to: 

Easily losing your temper, even with small things

Feeling like hiding for long periods of time 

Thoughts of running away

Feeling stressed without knowing why 

Having flare ups of existing illnesses

Unable to cope at work 

Fatigue and lethargy 

Withdrawing from social situations

Persistent negative thoughts 

Please bear in mind that the things I’ve mentioned can also be symptoms of mental illness such as depression, anxiety disorder, or other conditions. If you’ve suffered with symptoms for more than a few months, be sure to talk to a doctor, trusted friend, colleague, or a family member. 

Don’t suffer in silence. 

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash


Society tells us that it’s selfish to take care of ourselves before we take care of others, but the opposite is true. 

Think of yourself as being like a storage box- one with rammed with so much clutter that you can’t possibly fit anymore in. 

If you try, the stuff just spills out and the box might even break. Stuff deep inside of it gets damaged because it’s buried under the weight of so much other stuff. 

And here’s the thing: it’s impossible to be there for others when your internal storage box is overflowing with to do lists, negative emotions, and other people’s baggage. 

Christmas is a particularly stressful time of year but there’s so much you can do to dial it down whilst raising your overall happiness levels. 

Did you know that 36% of people have self -harmed over Christmas, and a further 45% have thought about committing suicide?

It’s vital to rewrite the message that society gives out and take care of yourself.

Set healthy boundaries with others. What I mean by that, is if someone is piling their problems onto you, but you feel like you’re creaking under the weight of your own problems, you don’t have to keep cramming your internal storage box beyond capacity. 

What you can do, is to tell them that you’ll happily listen to them, but you need a day or so to take some downtime. That way you’re not letting them down, all you’re doing is taking care of yourself so that you’re able to help them. 

Realise you don’t have to participate in every event and splurge hundreds of pounds on gifts. You could just as easily donate to a charity and avoid the stress of cards and gifts, all while feeling great because you helped someone in need. 

This will also lessen the financial burden that comes with Christmas.

We buy so much stuff to show our love, stuff which will be unloved and unused because it’s the person that’s loved, not the thing. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of thousands of people on the streets who can’t afford a hot meal. 

I’m not trying to make you feel guilty here, but for me, the reality that’s on the streets of my own town has helped me to put things into perspective.

Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash

Do the things you love. Whether that’s snuggling up to watch movies, chilling out to music, writing, playing video games, sewing, drawing or volunteering for charity. Make time for you. 

Learn to relax. There’s no need to cram your schedule so full of shopping and events that you lose sight of what’s really important.

Declutter your home to make way for the positive energy of the New Year. Make way for the things that are important to you because you’ll have a far clearer view of what you truly want when it’s not buried by a mountain of stuff you don’t need. 

Practise gratitude and look for it in everything that’s around you.

Take Vitamins. A lack of Vitamin D, especially when days are short and dark can contribute to feelings of depression and other health issues. Remember to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.

If you’re still struggling and dealing with issues such as bereavement or social anxiety there are some more useful tips on this website.

However, if you really want to help out someone else who’s suffering, here are some tips you can use to support them, many of which I’ve learned from completing my counselling course and further studying. 

Listen. Truly listen. And empathise. To do this, you must be completely non-judgemental and turn off your inner chatter. Focus only on them and try to feel things from their view of reality. All too often we think we are listening, but can’t wait to bombard them with advice that might not even be suitable. 

Depending on the age of the person you’re supporting, you should be very careful if giving advice because it can make them feel powerless, and also cause them to become dependent on you to solve their problems. 

Everyone has endless potential to grow and to take charge of their lives, if given the right kind of support, in supportive, kind and caring conditions. 

Signpost them to a helpful organisation, charity or service. This would be useful if what they are going through is far more than what you could realistically help with. E.g sexual abuse disclosures or severe mental health issues you are not trained to support. 

Don’t assume anything Making assumptions can be more harmful than you think. For example, it would be easy to assume that if you have been through something similar, they must feel the same way about their situation as you did. 

That’s not always the case because people are so unique and the meanings they drew from that event in their lives may well be different from your own. Making assumptions is the easiest way to show someone that you don’t understand their viewpoint, and that you’re not truly listening. 

Visit them/meet up for fun or just a nice, cosy chat. Christmas can be the loneliest time of year for people or bring forth sad memories and feelings. 

You can find some more great tips here. 

Remember, to take care of somebody else you must first remember to declutter and maintain your own internal storage box. 

Don’t feel ashamed to reach out to someone.

Photo by Moe Kong on Unsplash

With that, I wish you all the best health, a Merry Christmas (if you celebrate it) and a fantastic New Year.


How to Deal With Toxic People and Better Understand Yourself in the Process

Minimalism is more than just about decluttering your home and your schedule. It can also apply to people and relationships in your life that are causing you stress or harm. So, this week’s post is all about how to deal with toxic people. 

You know the kind of person; they walk into a room and the atmosphere becomes dark and oppressive, almost as if someone sucked the light and energy out of it. They whine and complain, moan and berate. Punch and stamp. The world is a terrible place. They’re always a victim.  It’s always your fault.

But I’m not talking about people who’ve had a bad day once or twice, have a moan and say something they later regret. I’m talking about the people who constantly whine, complain, talk about others behind their backs, take without gratitude, and never ever give back.

I’m talking about people who raise their fist and use fear to gain control over others.

Personally, I don’t like the word ‘toxic’ for these people. Rather, I see them as damaged individuals who may or may nor be conscious of the effect they’re having on others. It’s the behaviour that results from that damage that’s toxic. 

Please understand that I’m not giving these people a free pass to abuse or belittle others – there is no excuse whatsoever and it’s not acceptable in the slightest. I’m also not asking you to feel sorry for them. I’m simply trying to shed some light about what’s really going on with the so called ‘toxic’ individuals. 

For example, a person who spent their whole lives being smacked around by their alcoholic father might go on to abuse others in the same way, or become an alcoholic themselves (I realise that not all abused people go on to abuse!). But the person with that behaviour was once a pure soul who came out of their mother like everyone else. 

Granted, there are people who are born psychopaths, whose brains simply don’t function correctly in certain areas, if at all. But the premise is the same: they’re damaged – albeit in a very different way. 

These kinds of people appear in all walks of life. They’re parents, brothers, sisters, children, friends, colleagues, and people in authority positions. 

At best, they make you feel annoyed and fed up. At worst, they start to have a huge impact on your health and mental resources, or even pose a danger to your life. 

It doesn’t matter how serene or minimalist your life is behind closed doors, if you constantly hang around people who drain you in such ways, your life will always feel like a hellish whirlwind and you’ll constantly feel exhausted. 

Photo by Yuris Alhumaydy on Unsplash

But how do you deal with that kind of person without resorting to nastiness or reacting to their behaviour in the exact same way that you despise from them?  

I know the feeling; you want to finally say something.  To take action. But you worry about feeling guilty, and perhaps hating yourself. Maybe you’re scared.

The reality of having those feelings becomes even more of a worry when you consider that many of these damaged people are also manipulators who know all the right buttons to press to make you feel that way and forgive them , time and time again. 

The alternative, is you play tit-for-tat. Perhaps you shout at them and call them even worse things than they called you. Maybe you threaten them with not doing favours for them in the future, or withhold something from them in the hope that they will change. 

THIS NEVER WORKS. Reactions such as promises to change will likely be based on fear and/or control. People cannot change overnight. They have to want to change themselves, and it takes many months or years.

Here’s the thing: it sounds crazy but you can still forgive these people without hanging around them and further forfeiting your well-being. You can let go of these people while still remaining a friendly and caring person. 

You see, when we hold onto negative feelings for too long; hate, upset, frustration, fury, sadness, despair, helplessness, it becomes emotional clutter that weighs even more heavily than an excess of physical possessions. Eventually, you can no longer function. 

But you don’t have to hold onto to all of those feelings. Here’s some ways to deal with those people who are wearing you down, without playing tit-for-tat. 

  • Gradually reduce the time you spend hanging around these people.  Or massively cut down on the time you spend responding to them on social media or other means.
  • On the more extreme end of the spectrum, cut them out of your life completely. This might be the only option if the person is extremely mentally and/or physically abusive or has worn you down over many years with no possibility that they will change. 
  • If you really must be around them, frequently attempt to change the topic of conversation to something more positive. Refuse to engage in negative discussion, especially if it involves bringing others down or going against your own values.
  • Encourage them to be positive by being positive yourself. Be kind and friendly to them at all times. Be a positive influence in their life. This doesn’t always work and you might find that they re-gravitate towards more negative people, instead. Remember, kindness doesn’t mean you have to accept abuse!
  • Raise your standards of the kind of people you allow into your life. Many times I’ve heard people say “Why is it I only seem to attract assholes?”, “Why don’t people ever treat me with respect?”.  If that sounds like you, consider the Law of Attraction. If you’re negative yourself, orbit around people with toxic behaviour, and you see yourself as that’s all you’re worthy of, I can guarantee without a doubt that you will attract more of the same . The universe will send more people like that your way, and it won’t stop.  Manipulators and other damaged people will sense your weakness and take advantage, even if they, themselves, don’t realise they’re doing it.
  • Simply accept them as they are but put boundaries in place. This doesn’t mean tolerating disrespect and abuse, but understanding why they are the person they are and seeing things from their point of view. Show them warmth and understanding, but have boundaries in place to protect yourself. For example, you will gladly listen to them but under no circumstances will you join in with bad mouthing others, and you will not pick up their messes for them. You are not on beck and call 24/7. Recognise that unless they have a severe mental illness, they are, ultimately, responsible for themselves and their actions.  Again – you do not have to put up with any kind of abuse.

If you’re deeply worried about a person and what they might do without you, or they make threats of suicide, either call the emergency services to protect them, or provide them with helpline numbers and services they can contact. As tempting as it might be, try not to play the part of the rescuer unless it’s absolutely necessary. Use common sense and trust your judgement, but don’t be manipulated. 

Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash

For those of you who aren’t sure what to look out for in a manipulator, some signs are:

  • threats of suicide if you leave them or don’t do as they ask
  • Sudden bouts of aggression or dramatic weeping when they’re denied something or don’t feel in control.
  • controlling behaviour e.g controlling who you talk to 
  • gaslighting and making you doubt your reality
  • constant phonecalls/texts/social media communications 
  • saying or doing things to make you feel guilty, either by saying something to make you feel sorry for them or by buying expensive gifts. 

Please take what I say as a guide only. How you choose to deal with the people in your life will depend on many factors including: your situation,how long it’s been going on, mental health, the ages of the people involved, their relationship to you, and your beliefs. 

Whatever you take away from this post, let it be this: you are a worthy human being who deserves love and respect. Learn to love yourself and don’t let others devalue you. 

That being said, if you frequently suffer from depressive thoughts and feelings, or can’t seem to pull yourself out of a slump, talk to your GP, or consider therapy such as counselling. 

Now, if you’re reading this with two fingers down your throat pretending to vomit, I urge you to consider why that is. Do you feel vulnerable?

It’s hard to admit but it makes me feel vulnerable whenever a sappy scene plays in a movie or game. I sometimes recoil and make immature comments or start acting silly in general. 

It used to make me feel vulnerable when my husband acted sweet and romantic towards me (he still does, although I’m now much more mature and accepting about it).

Why? Because it might expose my feelings. Because others might ridicule or judge them, and therefore, ridicule and judge me. 

But why, in a post about dealing with ‘toxic’ people, am I telling you this? 

Because by becoming better in tune with who you really are and what you really want out of life, you can start to recognise and deal with the toxicity around you.

With that, I leave you with a few questions to think about. 

Who are you and what do you stand for? 

Who and what do you want in your life and why?

How do you want to spend your time and who with? Why?

How do you want to be treated? Why?

What kind of person don’t you want in your life? Why not?

How don’t you want to be treated? Why not?

How don’t you want to spend your time? Why is that?

What’s the worst way you can imagine yourself or anyone else behaving? Why?

If you allow yourself to be treated as less than human, why is that? Are you scared of being alone? Do you feel unworthy? Why? 

You may have noticed that the above questions contain a tonne of ‘whys’. So many they might just be driving you nuts. The reason is because without a ‘why’ it’s next to impossible to understand yourself and others. Without a ‘why’ you’re more likely to give answers without much thought. It makes it easy to avoid difficult truths and feelings.  

Remember: never settle for less than you’re worth (you’re always worth far more than you think) and always be kind.