Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Who to boot from your mental health bus

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Public school bus drivers deal with all types of children — introverts, extroverts and instigators — and often can’t choose who gets on or off.

Our life is like driving a bus, and the passengers on that bus represent the relationships we have. Unlike the school bus driver, we have the ability to choose who stays and who goes.

The people we surround ourselves with play a crucial role in our well-being, says Monica McConkey, a rural mental health specialist with Eyes on the Horizon Consulting in Minnesota. She says we must identify who these people are, how they affect our mental health and what to do with them.

McConkey breaks down the four types of people riding on your mental health bus:

1. Front-of-the-bus people. These are the go-to people — the ones who support us, provide honesty, and invest time and energy in the relationship. They occupy the front seats because they’re reliable, trustworthy, and they’re there for us when needed. Front-of-the-bus people contribute positively to our mental and emotional well-being.

2. Middle-of-the-bus people. These people maintain a fine relationship with us, but aren’t necessarily close. They might be acquaintances, co-workers or casual friends. While they don’t play a central role, they still contribute to our overall social network.

3. Back-of-the-bus people. These are the challenging relationships — the ones that cause stress, toxicity or emotional strain. We can’t always remove them from our lives (because of work, family ties, etc.), but we can set boundaries. Consider where to relegate them on the bus: farther back, so their impact is minimized.

4. Booted-from-the-bus people. These are people who are constantly fostering negative thoughts, seeing no positive outcome to any situation. We’ve tried to set boundaries, but they don’t adhere to them. Don’t let toxic relationships consume your mental energy. Some people need to be off your bus entirely.

Boundaries are essential for emotional and mental health. Sometimes physical boundaries (such as limiting contact) are necessary, but emotional boundaries matter too.

McConkey adds that everyone should build a support system, which may include those on your bus. Seek out like-minded, value-aligned people. Join peer groups or communities.

Ultimately, invest in relationships that uplift you and contribute positively to your life. Our thoughts and feelings affect our functioning, she adds. Limit the negative talk in your life, including the time spent with those who speak it.

Remember, the people we allow on our bus significantly influence our journey. Choose wisely, set boundaries and invest in relationships that nurture your well-being.

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