You don’t have to be an empath to feel the positivity that comes with being in close proximity to some radiant people. But, unfortunately, that energy exchange also works with those who see the glass as half-empty.
According to Belisa Vranich, PhD, a New York-based clinical psychologist, spending time with toxic, low-vibration people can leave you feeling physically sick. “You feel exhausted, irritated, or nauseous afterward,” she says. And, maybe less surprisingly, the interaction—be it IRL, over the phone, or even via text—can leave you mentally drained, too. “Emotionally, you don’t look forward to seeing them. It feels like an obligation where the main sensation after exposure to them is relief,” Dr. Vranich says.
If this conjures an image of someone particular in your life—a family member, friend, co-worker—it’s time to set some boundaries.
Keep reading for expert tips on how to keep negative energy from bringing you down.
Set a time limit
Having an exit plan for your hangout—and a firm end time—can help you protect your energy. “Every type of pain is tolerable if you know it’s going to end,” says Dr. Vranich. “If you know that it’s going to be two hours, that’s just 120 minutes.”
To make it easier for you to extricate yourself, Dr. Vranich recommends scheduling something right before and right after your date. Practice it now: “Aw shucks, I’d love to see your new place, but I’ve signed up for a 3:00 barre class!”
Bring a plus-one
We all have that friend who can talk to a wall. Dr. Vranich recommends bringing her to your gathering as a conversation buffer. (And maybe treating her to matcha after!)
Practice radical self-care
If you know in advance that “that person” will be around you this weekend, or if you’re scheduled to meet with your scary boss next week, that means it’s time to prep—i.e. take extra-good care of yourself. “Make sure you’ve slept well and you’re well hydrated,” says Dr. Vranich. When you’re tired, she says, “you’re just not as together.”
And pro tip: Always show up to meetings with negative co-workers super-prepared so you can get out of there faster.
Be clear about boundaries
Avoiding people and postponing a tough conversation just prolongs the agony. So if you don’t want to go to lunch with that pushy coworker, Dr. Vranich says it’s better to just tell them so (nicely!). Visual cues also work as boundaries in the workplace: “Put headphones in when you need to work,” Dr. Vranich recommends.
Audit your interactions
Dr. Vranich says regular reviews of your exposure to certain people is worthwhile. “I think you constantly look at people in order to evaluate their impact on your energy and health,” she says. “Sometimes you need to take breaks from folks and re-evaluate.” And technology has made it easier than ever to block unwanted contact, be it a Facebook message or phone call. So if your stomach churns when a photo of our college roommate shows up in your feed, it’s probably time to unfollow her—at least for a bit.
As much as you might crave a stiff drink before or after exposure to the toxic person, fight that craving, Dr. Vranich advises. “Having a drink before you see them is definitely not good. It leaves you more vulnerable,” she says.
Rest and recover
After exposure to a low-vibe person, be sure to replenish your energy. Dr. Vranich suggests drinking water, taking a salt bath, and smudging as a healing process. Not so woo-woo-minded? Open a book or turn on your favorite podcast. “Any ritual that helps calm your mind is almost like washing your hands of the negative energy,” she says.
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