Energy Vampires This week Dr. Terri "The Love Doctor" gives you some self-defense techniques and dialogue on how to combat those who drain the life out of you. BY DR. TERRI L ORBUCH
Don't let energy vampires sap you dry
Why do I feel the need to give everyone and everything my precious time?
Are you constantly worn out or just plain exhausted after you get together with certain friends or family members? Do you wish you had the energy to devote to your marriage and spouse? Do you find yourself screening your telephone calls or putting on headphones at the gym, praying and hoping that everyone will just leave you alone? From nosy relatives to workplace gossipers, energy vampires can suck the life force right out of you unless you learn self-defense strategies.
First, what do I mean by "energy vampires"? Energy vampires are people who do not know how to read the social cues and body language of others. When you’ve been assaulted by an energy vampire, you know it, because instead of feeling energized and invigorated after being with him or her, you feel angry, depressed or "out of balance" in some other way. You may be backing away from them, clearing your throat, looking around distractedly (or for help!) or standing with your arms crossed in front of your chest. These are signals that say, "I need to get away from you." Alas, the vampire doesn’t notice.
Five Silver Bullets/Wooden Stakes
The good news is that there are silver bullets to help us say no, walk away, stay positive and preserve our energy when we encounter such energy vampires.
The first step to preserving your energy is to figure out how to recognize an energy vampire when you are with one. First, listen to your physical reactions to other people. Tuning in to how we feel around someone can give us the information we need to begin to revitalize our lives and stamina. When you leave the company of a peer, ask yourself whether you feel more stressed, out of balance or overwhelmed. These physical symptoms can signal energy drain.
No matter which type of energy vampire you're dealing with, you need to be able to say, "No, I have something I have to do right now." It is even acceptable to pronounce, "I am sorry but I’m really busy right now" and walk away. Keep in mind that no one may like it, but you need to take care of yourself and spend time with people who fuel, rather than drain, your energy.
Sometimes it’s easier for us to allow ourselves to feel stressed or drained, rather than take charge and develop a prioritized list of things that need to get done. You may even stay with those who zap your energy because you want to be accepted and feel needed. These are short-term benefits. In the long run, taking control of your life and the people in it will make you strong and confident. Set priorities for your time and don’t spend time with others who don’t allow you to meet those priorities. Enjoy people who want the best for you and spark your energy.
It is important to have boundaries for what you can do and share with others. Because others may not have boundaries for what they share with you, you have to set those limits as well. Boundaries in what you say and tell others are okay. Setting boundaries is another way of protecting yourself; you draw a line saying for instance, "This is what I can do for you, and this is what I can't."
It is important to make sure that there are people in your life whom you find fun to be around—people who are upbeat, positive and know how to enjoy life. Smiling and laughing can actually change our moods. Studies find laughter and smiling are physically beneficial to reducing stress and recharging energy. It definitely beats holes in your neck from an energy vampire.
Terri L. Orbuch (Ph.D.), aka The Love Doctor, is a psychologist, sociologist, Oakland University professor, and research scientist at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. She has written five relationship books; published over 40 articles about marriage, divorce, parenting, love, and sexuality; and recently released her 3-CD audio set, Relationship CPR: Passion, Trust and Conflict. If you want more information on this topic, or have a question, visit The Love Doctor on her website at www.detroitlovedr.com.