It's finally 2015, which means that New Year's Resolutions are now in full swing. People are focused on putting their plans into action. They're joining gyms, taking yoga classes, going on juice cleanses, you name it.
But while everyone is working toward changing their lifestyle, there is often a critical component missing from their regime — cultivating healthy relationships!
Often, we are so consumed with outer appearance, eating habits and behavioral patterns like sleep and going to the gym, that we neglect to consider our relationships as potential candidates for resolution. Year after year, we dedicate ourselves to losing weight, traveling more, giving up smoking, and so on. But how many of us have made declarations to leave unhealthy relationships, in search of ones that foster growth and development?
As a long time anxiety sufferer, I deeply understand the importance of maintaining healthy relationships — and the detriment of maintaining relationships that are toxic. But over the last few years, I've endured a series of unforeseen events. I was psychologically and socially crippled by an anxiety and panic disorder, survived an accidental drug overdose and battled a drug addiction that nearly cost me my life.
When I was at my lowest point, I felt the most alone. No one knew exactly what I was going through or how to help. I had to rely on my own merit and determination, until God and the universe revealed mentors for me to learn from.
Throughout my journey to health and healing, I've learned that our relationships ultimately become extensions of who we are. We are often influenced by the five (or more, or fewer) closest people in our lives. As a result, our relationships become an essential component in attaining absolute happiness, overcoming anxiety, depression and maintaining great mental health.
I had to come to understand that if I was going to overcome my demons I needed to make some life altering changes and that included re-evaluating the people I kept around me.
Based on my experiences, I've concluded three main ideas to consider when determining whether or not your relationship is keeping you anxious and unhappy.
1. Your friends are doing the things you're working to filter out of your life.
There is a saying: "You can't fight to stay the same and be dedicated to becoming better." In other words, you have to choose one or the other. When I dedicated myself to changing my life, I knew that I couldn't continue to engage in the same activities and expect things to be different.
I swapped traditional bars for juice bars, putting down the shots of cognac for shots of wheatgrass. Meditation became my medication and I traded late night partying for early morning yoga.
I knew that I was unable to change the people around me, therefore I had to change the people I was around. This led to the organic development of relationships with like minded individuals.
Walking away from the relationships that stagnate your progress will enable you to connect with people who share common interests. They will keep you motivated, inspired, and will assist you in facilitating your goals, not only for the new year, but for your new life.
2. Your friends are putting down your changes (instead of celebrating them).
There are two words we never want to hear from our friends: "You've changed." It can make us feel extremely self-conscious, even guilty, as if our friends are trying to suggest that we have lost a part of ourselves. However, if you are working toward becoming a better version of yourself, or engaging in making positive adjustments to your lifestyle, where is the harm in that?
If your friends are criticizing, demonizing or speaking adversely to or about you, they are not in your corner. It's time to walk away. I firmly believe that everyone who is with you, is not always for you.
Your friends should not be telling you that you are "too skinny" now that you've finally dropped the ten pounds you've been wanting to lose since your pregnancy. You are NOT crazy for waking up at 6 am to go for a 20 minute walk around your neighborhood every morning. They should not be diminishing your advancement, they should be encouraging your improvement.
I've had friends call me everything from an extremist to a sell-out. I'll admit, it bothered me at first, but I realized that I was not to blame
for their unwillingness to prosper or their failure to appreciate my evolution. I decided to let them continue to talk about me from a
distance. Now the only thing they can call me is absent (from their lives).
3. You are losing sight of yourself to make your friends happy.
Throughout the course of my life, I've been guilty of sublimating my needs and desires in order to appease other people. And I'm sure I'm not the only one. For many of us, it's easy to put others before we put ourselves and not realize that we are the ones being damaged in the process.
I've always prided myself on being a reliable person. I'm the guy that everyone calls when they have problems. However, my biggest downfall was allowing myself to become engulfed in their problems at the expense of my own happiness. Because I was being everything to everyone, I didn't have the time to be anything to myself. That caused a great deal of anxiety, depression and resentment toward myself. I was the only one giving, and they had no problem receiving. The person who was having difficulty receiving was actually me.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are constantly stressing over problems that are not directly tied to you, it's time for an adjustment. If you are taking on the burdens of others, you need to start developing an escape plan.
You can still be the reliable and dependable friend you've always been, but keep it to a minimum. Take yourself out of their problems. Realize that their pain is not your pain, nor is it your priority.
You should never feel anxious or annoyed whenever people contact you. If you do, that is a clear sign that you are in an unfavorable
relationship. Typically the most difficult thing for us to change is our minds. What we believe to be true is what we create for our lives. The same goes for our relationships.
For many anxiety sufferers, the root cause of anxiety is often left unknown. Some may have experienced a traumatic or life altering event, while others have become victims of their environment and casualties of pessimistic thinking and negative behaviors.
If your network is your net worth, your relationships should make you feel like Warren Buffett.