Like many of you who are committed to keeping the level of toxins in your home as low as possible, I am conscious of only using green cleaners and buying organic produce and grassfed meat. Knowing that it is harder for my son who has autism to detox from the toxins that are so prevalent in our environment, taking this step helps to keep the toxic level in our home as low as possible.
But in the last few years of our healing journey, I have become aware of another area in which I need to consciously keep our toxic level low: toxic people. It might sound harsh, but you know like I do—supporting our children as we remediate their autism takes a huge amount of work and a huge amount of our energy. As a mom working hard every day to support my child’s healing and bring love and balance to our whole family, I’ve found that it is absolutely essential to keep “toxic people” at bay. My natural instinct is to be a listener and to give to others, so it’s been much more challenging to set limits with people than it was to toss out my old cleaning products and junk food.
But I’ve found some strategies that I hope will be helpful to you, too:
Identify: I describe toxic people as those people who suck your energy, and leave you feeling negative or anxious. Tune in to how you feel during the time you spend with a friend or family member. Are you energized or drained after spending time with them? If they drain your energy or bring your spirit down, they probably belong on your toxic list.
Plan an elevator speech: You may not be able to rid everyone on your toxic list from your world—some folks may be family members, neighbors, parents of your children’s classmates. But once you’ve identified them, you can plan to set limits around how much time you spend with them. When I first started setting these limits, I had prepared lines that I would say because it was hard for me to say no. “I’m busy working on my child’s therapy” is a simple line that you can use when that toxic person calls.
Prepare yourself: If you’re going to a gathering where some of those folks will be present, make sure to protect yourself. When I am faced with seeing a person who has cast doubts about my child’s healing or gives me pitying vibes, I imagine a bubble of light and love around me so that whatever negativity comes to me can bounce off of. It’s amazing how much this strategy works! I also make sure to identify positive people who will be at the gathering and make sure that I focus my energy with them. Speaking of which…
As you let go of toxic people, you make room to increase the amount of positive energy that you bring in from people in your life. It’s important to identify the people in your life who can:
Support you: If you’ve always been the “giver” in your family or circle of friends, it may be challenging to open up and let people know that you need support. Notice what people in your community lend listening ears, ask kindly about your child, and welcome you to share whatever feelings happen to come up for you in that moment. Supportive friends will boost your energy.
Lift your spirit and encourage you: There are also those special people who will not only listen, but whose presence will lift your spirit. These may be people who do not share your journey, but whom you can connect with from a place of common interest. It may be the woman lying on a yoga mat next to you, sitting by you at your house of worship or singing in the choir with you. We’re all so busy, but by giving yourself at least a small amount of time each week to put yourself in a positive place, you’ll be more likely to connect to positive people.
Understand your path: Finally, it’s been so important for me in finding acceptance, balance and even joy to connect with other parents who are living similar journeys to my own. Generation Rescue offers many opportunities to connect and learn with other parents. I hope you can join us at the AutismOne/Generation Rescue conference in May—I’ll be there sharing parent and child cooking ideas and would love to connect!