There are people who endanger your health by draining you dry and coming back for more. Learn how to empower yourself—and kick their vitality-sucking butts!

Slay your energy vampires: there are people who endanger your health by draining you dry and coming back for more. Learn how to empower yourself—and kick their vitality-sucking butts!

Elizabeth Barker

NOT ALL VAMPIRES live in Anne Rice novels. There’s a less romantic species of life-sucker likely lurking within your family, workplace, or circle of friends. Attacking their victims with negativity rather than fangs, these energy vampires drain their prey of good spirits–and return to strike again and again.

At first, their behavior may seem merely annoying. The self-pitying friend whose whining knows no limits, the impossible in-law who endlessly nitpicks and guilt-trips, or the snide coworker who’s always eager to gossip–each offers up a spoonful of pessimism or disapproval you feel compelled to force down.

“Human beings are sources of energy, and every interaction involves an exchange of that energy,” says Jon Gordon, author of Energy Addict. “Even if you’re in great health, an energy vampire can cause you to feel exhausted.”

Brief run-ins are sometimes dispelled with fresh air, extra-strength aspirin, or Double Stuf Oreos. But prolonged exposure may leave you feeling lethargic, disheartened, and weak. Over time, these noxious exchanges can increase your risk for fatigue, depression, headache, nausea, overeating, and conditions ranging “from ulcers to heart attacks,” explains psychiatrist Judith Orloff, M.D., author of Positive Energy.

Orloff says the eight most common types of energy vampires are sob sister, drama queen, blamer, fixer-upper, outwardly nice socializer, go-for-the-jugular fiend, constant talker/joke-teller (aka jester), and unintentional sapper–though many other varieties may be lurking in dark shadows. Every vampire has an individual attack method, but defense strategies follow the same principle for all: Set limits, and work on enhancing your own positive energy. “Energy is the most important commodity we have,” Orloff declares. “Without it, we’re nothing.”

psychic garlic

HOW DO YOU KNOW if you’ve been bitten? An interaction will leave you weakened and deflated, yet the energy vampire becomes reinvigorated. Orloff recommends logging vampire attacks in your journal. Once you’ve determined that a friend, relative, or co-worker is sapping you of strength and stamina, start plotting your defense.

Establish boundaries.

The sob sister–one of the most prevalent and damaging vampires–prattles on about her many problems without ever focusing on solutions. “It’s not your responsibility to be somebody else’s therapist,” says Orloff. “Instead of saying, ‘I’m sick of you, I can’t stand you anymore,’ tell her you can only listen to her complaints for five minutes.” Stress that you care about her happiness. “Usually people will put up a fight and ask, ‘What kind of a friend are you?’ You can say, ‘I’m a good friend, but I need to take care of myself, too.'” Don’t expect one lone discussion to turn your relationship around; be prepared to repeat your rebuttal in the future, and maintain a kind but firm attitude.

Clear your energy. Positive energy is the most powerful antidote to negativity. “When dealing with energy vampires, your positivity, certainty, and vision have to be greater than their doubt,” says Gordon. Create a mantra that tunes out negativity, and repeat it to yourself during an attack. Or take a cue from The Sound of Music: Remember your favorite things, particularly times of triumph or joy. “Thinking about a great moment in your life builds a force field around you and blocks out negative energy,” adds Gordon. Picturing your energy can offer protection, too. “Visualize your energy as a beautiful, golden light, and send that light through your body,” suggests Reiki master Carolyn Agosta. “Tell yourself, ‘My energy is only valuable to me,’ and disconnect your energy from the other person’s.”

Know your exit cue. With some types of energy vampires, your best response is to walk away. “That’s especially true with the constant talker or joke-teller–that chronically perky motormouth who’s solely concerned with his own opinions,” says Orloff. “People hesitate to interrupt and stop the conversation because they’re afraid of being impolite.” Can’t think of a way out? One of Orloff’s favorite lines is: “Excuse me, but I really have to go to the bathroom.”

Be kind. It’s easy to resent energy vampires, but getting caught up in negativity only makes the situation worse. “To neutralize energy vampires, you need to look in the mirror and make sure you’re not being negative, too,” Gordon says. You can stop the negativity cycle by sending out love to the other person through prayer. “These people are often looking for help and just glomming onto anybody they can,” says Agosta. “Assuming they mean malice isn’t really fair.”

rituals for replenishment

JUST AS strengthening your immune system keeps you healthy despite constant exposure to germs, cultivating positive energy lessens your vulnerability to vampire attacks. Start by looking at what’s around you–you can draw positive energy from the foods you eat, the music you listen to, even the colors you wear.

“Physical energy has a great impact on emotional energy, and vice versa,” says Gordon. To keep both plentiful, get ample sleep, eat vitamin-rich foods, exercise each day, and monitor your stress levels. “When you’re tired, burnt out, or sick, you’re more susceptible to vampire assaults,” says Orloff.

Spiritual replenishment–via meditation, prayer, or other practices–also enhances your vitality. Try these daily soul-fortifying rituals to bring more good vibes into your life:

Say “thank you.” Gratitude wards off negativity, says Gordon, who suggests taking a daily 10-minute “thank-you walk” to zero in on pressing matters. “If you’re at work and dreading a meeting that’s coming up,” he says, “then take a walk around your office and say to yourself, ‘I know I’m stressed about this meeting, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to have it.'”

Start a success journal. Devote a few minutes to recording each day’s accomplishments, big and small. Orloff contends that you’ll always be able to come up with at least one thing to write about. “The more you focus on success, the more success you create,” she says.

Do a 3-minute meditation. You don’t need to overhaul your routine to fit in a rejuvenating meditation practice. For three minutes each day, go to a quiet space, sit down, turn off your cellphone, and concentrate on taking deep, slow breaths. “Focus on a positive image, like a child’s face or a red apple,” Orloff suggests.

Check your emotional health. If there’s a problem you’re struggling with–a breakup you can’t get over, dissatisfaction with your career–you’ve made yourself a target. “The vampires that get to us reflect what we haven’t worked out in ourselves,” says Orloff. “But if we begin to heal, there isn’t the same pull.”

Be accountable. Observe how and with whom you choose to spend your time. “Take inventory of the people in your life,” Orloff advises. “List the ones who energize you and the ones who drain you.” While it may be impossible to rid your life of energy vampires altogether, you can choose to spend more time with the friends and family members who help your spirit shine. You’ll likely end up finding your way to people who bring more radiance into your life. “If we work on our energy needs,” says Orloff, “we begin to attract people with more positive energy.”

illustrations by CURTIS PARKER

Gather Your Power

Fighting the good fight takes energy. If you’re feeling too drained to do battle, psychologist Joe H. Slate, Ph.D., author of Psychic Vampires, suggests this simple five-step technique to tap into the power of the universe:

1. Find a quiet place at home, at work, or outside, and sit comfortably.

2. Draw your attention to the center of your forehead, then move your focus downward through your body. Identify the areas in which you feel stress, and deliberately relax them.

3. Envision your solar plexus region as a core of energy. Let that energy expand and spread throughout your entire body.

4. Turn the palms of your hands upward, and envision rays of light coming into your palms.

5. Clasp your hands together in a prayer position, and use this handclasp as a cue to activate your psychic body scan’s energizing effects.

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