Garlic, wooden stakes, fire, beheadings and sunlight…pop culture has taught us that those are the ways to kill vampires. But what happens if you meet the metaphorical kind – “energy vampires,” those toxic people who are sucking out your energy (instead of blood), taking you away from claiming the career and personal life you deserve? Travis Bradbury, the author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, notes that toxic people don’t just make you miserable; they are hard on your brain, creating unnecessary complexity, strife, and worst of all stress. These days, you don’t even have to be in the presence of an energy vampire for the damage to be done. A study conducted at the University of West Virginia, which was published in June 2018 in the journal Depression and Anxiety, found that every 10 percent increase in negative social media experiences with others was associated with a 20 percent increase in the odds of reporting depressive symptoms.
Ready to get rid of toxic people, create boundaries and claim your inner rock star? In your personal life, you can often drop energy vampires from the friend pool with time and distance. Family members may be more challenging. But hardest of all is dealing with energy vampires at work, where playing nice with co-workers, your boss and employees is essential for success. As a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach serving as the Chief Communications Officer at a $2 billion corporation, this I know all too well. Rather than douse your desk with holy water, here are some tips for neatly slaying the energy vampires in your world and free yourself to activate your full potential. Steps include:
1. Identify the bloodsuckers. Recognizing the “Debbie Downer” in the room is easy, but many other forms of energy vampires, like frenemies pointing out your flaws or the narcissist leading your team, can be harder to spot. Go by how they make you feel. Constantly complaining or putting you down? Is it always about them? If you leave a conversation with a lot less pep in your step, chances are good you’ve been bitten by an energy vampire.
2. Realize it’s okay to let people go. Just because you’ve been friends with someone since fourth grade, it doesn’t mean that relationship needs to continue for perpetuity. If someone in your life detracts from your well-being, it might be time to let them go. You can gracefully release the negative individuals who drain your energy by slowly pulling away or, if your they are still occupying much of their time, having a direct, respectful conversation about why the friendship isn’t going to move forward.
3. Create boundaries. Establish guidelines for handling energy vampires who must dwell in your daily life. Learn how to develop mental energy bubbles, the permeable kind that allow good-for-you people and opportunities in, while keeping the toxic ones at bay. (Kind of like a reverse “roach motel” if you remember those retro TV ads.)
4. Plan social media consumption carefully. It’s great to keep up with others and learn new stuff online. But scrolling through engagement announcements, exotic vacation pictures and more from others who aren’t adding back to your happiness can impact your mental health. Written about in Harvard Business Review, the robust “Association of Facebook Use with Compromised Well-Being: A Longitudinal Study,” found that using Facebook regularly can have a negative effect on a person’s well-being, especially in light of negative self-comparison. Whether the authors of those updates intended to do so or not, some posts can have an energy vampire like impact on your self-esteem.
5. Build up your energy reserves with the “Five Things I Did for Myself” trick. I started doing this about four years ago, when I felt exhausted by people, work and life demands and health challenges. Quite simply, before going to bed at night, I started recounting a list of five things that I did for myself that day. Necessary tasks like doing laundry or going to the grocery store didn’t count for me, while self-care (exercising, getting enough sleep, having a manicure) made my list. At first, it was hard to come up with more than one item. But focusing on that nightly practice caused me to start planning energy-fueling activities the next day to have a more robust list. Now I often exceed the five things list, which helps my energy skyrocket and protects against energy vampire attacks.
How have you dealt with energy vampires in your life? What impact have those actions made on your well-being?