Right now, the people who are in self-quarantine are considered the lucky and the privileged ones, but being inside 24/7 with toxic family members can weigh heavily on your mental health. And since you live in the same house, social distancing doesn’t apply, and there is no effective escape, the only way to find peace is by finding ways to deal with toxic behavior. In this article, we give you seven pieces of advice on how to generate respect in a relationship and how to set boundaries and protect your mental energy.
1. Deal with yourself first
If you want to perceive the signs of a toxic family, you need to understand your own toxic signs. If there are heavy interactions between family members, and if there is a lack of healthy relationships and healthy communication, you need to be introspective before starting to look for flaws in your family members. Understand if you are engaging in any toxic behavior yourself, and after you improve your ways to help maintain peace at home, start analyzing how you can improve your relationship with the people around you. If you are insightful enough, you will be ready to deal with the toxicity of others.
2. Identify the toxic behaviors of your family members
To better understand how to engage in healthy communication with the family member (or members) that are harming you, you need to figure out what actions are leading to the unhealthy dynamics you are experiencing. The unhealthy behaviors can range from things that some people even consider normal (when they’re definitively not!) from screaming, lack of empathy, and behavior denial, to something more serious like alcohol and drug abuse, intimidation or even gaslighting, which compromises your mental health.
These are some examples, but this list could go on forever, and even though it isn’t always easy to identify those unhealthy behaviors, once you do, there is no going back. When you share a house with toxic people, there is no running away from it, and it is vital that you set some boundaries with them. You don’t need to be cold, you don’t need to be cruel, but you do need to make them understand your point, to show them what they are doing to hurt you, and to discuss with them the changes that should be applied.
3. Ask them to respect your alone time
Even though humans are sociable creatures who need a strong support system, they also need to balance socialization with alone time. It might not be easy to get alone time when you are stuck inside with your family, but it is something that you need to do to manage your mental health properly and to deal with your own emotions. Draw a strong line and reinforce that line with consequences if you have to, but do not allow them to dismiss your boundaries and to invade your space with unhealthy communication or negative emotions. If you have to deal with a toxic family, make alone time a priority.
4. Hold the toxic person accountable for their words and actions
Toxic people can be so toxic that there will be times where they will be unpleasant or nasty, and they won’t even notice. If you notice a toxic behavior, dialogue, or even small attitude, call them on it and hold them accountable for it. Ask them why they did what they did, or why they talked as they talked and wait for their response. Sometimes the toxicity is so deep-rooted they won’t even reflect before doing or saying something. Making them reflect on their actions and on their way of speaking can be a great mechanism towards having them change their behavior.
5. Try to maintain control
Whatever happens, try to avoid stepping down to their level and become the person you were trying to fight. Be level-headed about things and handle your reactions, even when you feel like exploding or reciprocating. Do not allow toxic people to pop your well-being bubble and be ready with responses to avoid escalation. Walking out on a fight is one of the things you can do to give the other person time to reflect on their behavior. Changing the subject when you know there is nothing to win by continuing to engage in that dialogue is another good alternative. Take as many deep breaths as you need, but do not allow yourself to lose control – separate your emotions from your actions and stay rational. If the situation is getting too stressful or if an unpleasant exchange of words is taking place too often, find other methods to soothe yourself, like meditation, aromatherapy, or simply self-talking some positivity into yourself.
6. If you have a healthy support system, talk to them
It is important to surround yourself with positive people who know you well and whom you can trust with serious issues. In moments of stress, reach out to them, expose your feelings, and allow them to provide you unbiased advice. Sometimes you won’t even need that much: just talking to someone, venting, and feeling that they hear you and care about you is enough to improve your well-being. If things get out of hand and you have the chance, seek out professional health and try to get in touch with a mental health counselor.
7. Prioritize self-care
You should always be the number one person in your life, and this is not something selfish, this is not something narcissistic, but the truth is that you can’t help anyone or care for anyone if you don’t help and care for yourself in the first place. There are a lot of things involved in self-care, and some of them are quite simple – be alone, eat your favorite food, get some sunlight, take a long bath, drink a glass of wine or hydrate your hair. Be your best self, and remind yourself of who you are even through the tiniest things.
This process will help you maintain your mental stability, making you more capable of handling stressful and toxic situations. And like we have stated before, if you need professional help to deal with your problems, do not hesitate to seek it. Being home with toxic people is not easy, but do not let yourself become toxic as well – there is no excuse for cruelty and toxicity. And if you ever slip, be sure to be the bigger person and apologize for your actions. Treat everyone with the same respect, empathy, and kindness that you would like to be treated with.