We are constantly trying to rid our lives of toxicity in every form, be it in our food or drinks, body and hair products, clothes, and home products – you name it. But what about people? To some, the idea of freeing yourself from a toxic relationship can seem almost impossible. You can cut out that processed food because of the chemicals you don’t want to ingest when you consume it, but you won’t leave a toxic relationship that can induce similarly detrimental biochemical reactions in your body.
Toxic relationships, whether it’s a spouse, friend or family member can be insidious and hard to notice when you are directly involved, but they are not something to turn your head at and they aren’t as rare as you might think. I’ve been in one where I suffered from disturbed sleep, constant anxiety which in me, resulted in heart palpitations, light headedness and dizziness and a constant feeling of being on edge and in fight or flight mode. The effects of constant stress and anxiety on our bodies is well known and can result in biological, gastro-intestinal, immune, and even thyroid and weight issues, and it doesn’t stop there.
For the nerds (me!) out there – the field of social genomics is a relatively new field of research that looks at how our social environment can impact our gene expression. There is emerging research that shows factors such a loneliness, isolation and stress can trigger an adaption in our brains called conserved transcriptional response to adversity (CTRA). CTRA is a pro-inflammatory gene expression which effects our anti-viral gene expression – which in a nutshell means, our brains adapt to a state of inflammation which lowers our immunity. Activation of CTRA from stress in our social environment could lead to chronic inflammation and related diseases such as cancers, arthritis and cardiovascular disease. So if there was ever a time to rid yourself of that toxic relationship, it is now!
Some signs that a relationship might be toxic include;
- Feeling drained – if you’re physically and emotionally exhausted after being around someone its not something to ignore.
- Lack of trust – if you don’t believe anything that is said, you should ask yourself why? Relationships are built on trust, and if it’s not there it can lead to a lack of respect and mutual understanding.
- Constantly on edge – if you’re in a constant state of fight or flight mode when you’re around someone, alarm bells should be ringing.
- You question your self worth – if a relationship makes you lower your standards on things that are important to you – it can lead to us accepting behaviours that arent acceptable.
- You get anxious at the thought of a disagreement – if the idea of having a disagreement makes you anxious, stressed, on edge and/or fearful of communicating. Having differences in opinions is a fact of life, you need to be able to confront these situation and work through them in a respectful and safe environment.
- They make you unhappy – if you’re constantly unhappy around someone, its time to let them go.
When it comes down to it, relationships are meant to be mutually beneficial in some way to both parties. You want to surround yourself with people who lift you up, support you, encourage you, help you grow and learn and they should make you happy more than they make you unhappy.
Some relationships come into our lives and aren’t meant to be there for the long term. It’s OK to let go of something, even if it’s a person – especially if its going to be better for you both mentally, physically and psychologically, in the long run.
- Cole, Steve W.; Hawkley, Louise C.; Arevalo, Jesusa M.; Sung, Caroline Y.; Rose, Robert M.; Cacioppo, John T. (2007-01-01). Social regulation of gene expression in human leukocytes. Genome Biology. 8 (9): R189. doi:10.1186/gb-2007-8-9-r189
- Fredrickson BL, Grewen KM, Algoe SB, Firestine AM, Arevalo JMG, Ma J, et al. (2015) Psychological Well-Being and the Human Conserved Transcriptional Response to Adversity. PLoS ONE 10(3): e0121839. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0121839