Having healthy friendships is a vital factor in helping to protect our mental health.
Friends provide emotional and social support to make us feel happier with our lives. Talking to them about how we’re feeling, being listened to, and being there to listen when our friends need us, encourages positive mental health. So much so that several studies have shown that individuals who felt they had little social support were more likely to suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
Often, those suffering with mental health issues may try and shut themselves away from social interactions and friends because of the stigma associated with it. However, it’s in these moments that friendships are even more important.
But what happens when a friendship starts to go wrong?
Everyone has bad days. Friends might snap at you when they're not quite themselves, but they'll probably apologise, and things will be back to normal pretty quickly.
However, a toxic friendship is one where your friend(s) may ignore your problems, or attempts at communication and fail to listen to you with empathy or respect. They tend to follow a specific pattern of behaviours and won't apologise if they've upset you. They have no desire to change even when they know their actions are negatively affecting you.
Friendships like this can have a major impact on your mental health. Being continuously put down and treated in a terrible way may eventually lead you to start doubting your own abilities and strengths and consequently, your self-esteem may take a hit. If you’re someone who is struggling with their mental health, ‘friendships’ like these may be perceived as toxic.
So, what can you do about a friendship that is having a negative effect on you? Here are a few ideas:
Talk it through
The relationship may not always have been toxic. Has something happened to turn what was once a good friendship into a negative one? If you think this is the case, be open and honest with them. Tell them how they make you feel, especially in those moments when they speak negatively towards you. You may just need time apart. However, if after you’ve talked things through things haven’t changed – it may be time to let that friendship go.
Accept the friendship is no longer healthy
Realising you have a toxic friendship and accepting that it’s having a negative effect on you, is the first step in dealing with it and moving forward. Nobody wants to leave a friendship, especially if you’ve shared a bunch of happy memories together. But if it's doing you more harm than good, don't feel guilty about choosing your own happiness and leave that part of your life behind.
Follow through with the decision
Once you've had the difficult conversation and made it clear in a non-accusatory manner, make sure you follow through with your decision. Limit contact, don't respond to messages or phone calls from them. Unfollow them on all social media sites, and if they continue to contact you, keep reminding yourself why you have ended the friendship. You may have mutual friends, so openly explain to them that you’ve ended the friendship and want to avoid social events where you may cross paths. Your true friends will respect your decision.
Make use of your support network
Ending a friendship can be difficult and can often feel like a loss you need to grieve. This means you’ll need to lean on those people who are close to you and that you know you can trust. They might’ve seen it coming and recognised before you did that the friendship wasn't a positive one. The important thing is not to be alone whilst you navigate your way through this difficult period.
Fill the emptiness
Make the most of the fresh start. Make time for yourself, take part in activities you enjoy and spend time with your loved ones and those who make you smile and laugh. Look after yourself and look to the future. You deserve to be happy!
Ending any relationship can be difficult, but remember that time will heal you and make you a stronger, more resilient person in the long run. You’ve got this!
Thank you to jurien huggins for the image!