Updated: Nov 29, 2022
We all have the same number of hours in each day. A finite 24 hours in the day to work, cook, eat, sleep, socialize, exercise, relax, and enjoy life. Similarly, we each have a limited amount of energy. We need to eat and drink to refuel our energy. We need to sleep to recharge our energy. We get tired, our energy gets used up, and we need time to rest and recover our energy. As we live our lives within the boundaries of time and energy, there are things in life that drain and deplete our energy more than normal.
Energy vampire: In human form
One key characteristic of energy vampires is their lack of awareness: They do not even know how draining they are. They are unable to see beyond their own point of view. Energy vampires are so focused on their own needs and their own ways of doing things, that they are unaware of the impact they have on others. They do not see how people are exhausted by interacting with them.
These are the ways energy vampires drain our energy:
Overly dramatic: They make mountains out of mole hills, they gossip, exaggerate, escalate, judge, instigate. When in reality, you want to say to them, "It's not that big of a deal."
Critical spirit: They constantly complain, nag, and whine about everything. They take everything as a personal attack, with a "why me?" attitude. They tend to see the bad and rarely acknowledge the good, and refuse to express gratitude. They are unable to be content.
Attacking and blaming: They can be aggressive, pointing out people's flaws. They are quick to verbalize faults in others. They are the victim. Nothing is ever their fault and they are reluctant to admit their own fault, let alone apologize and feel remorse.
Insecure: They have a low self-esteem, negative self-image, and are self-deprecating about their lives and abilities. They project their insecurities onto others and believe that people think less of them. e.g.,"You think I'm fat don't you?"
Entitled: They overcompensate for their insecurity by expecting people to give them their attention and do things for them. They are needy in seeking attention, and guilt trip you when you don't do what they want you to do.
Gaslighting: They question you. They try to make you doubt your perception of reality, logic, and they try to make you feel like you don't know what you are talking about. "Why are you doing that? I don't understand why you are doing that?"
Passive aggressive control. They will not ask you for what they want. Instead they will try to coax and manipulate you to do what they want. They will hold you accountable and punish you for not doing what they want, even though it was not communicated directly.
In general, energy vampires have trouble coping with their own lives, so they dump their stress onto others. Energy vampires have low frustration tolerance, so the stress of life gives them justification to continue behaving in these ways. These behaviors are very draining for those around them.
Energy vampire: Our thoughts
Even if we take proactive steps to address people who are energy vampires in our lives, we still have to deal with our own thoughts. For some, our own thoughts can be our biggest energy vampire. Habitual negative thoughts can drain our energy. We can stress about what happened in the past, our current situations, and worry about what might happen in the future. This anxious thinking pattern becomes habituated, where we make up things to worry about when there are no objective threats. Our worried, catastrophizing, and negative thoughts can turn any task into an energy drain by excessive fretting.
Energy vampire: Devices
In addition to the obvious time consumption that our devices take up in our lives, how we spend our screen time can often sap us of our energy. Especially, when we end up watching or playing longer on our devices than we intend to, spending excessive time on our screens can drain our energy. Using our devices at night can contribute to reduced sleep. While we can unplug our minds and enjoy entertainment on our screens as part of our self-care, ironically, what many call a self-care of watching shows and playing games on our screens, ends up not recharging their energy. For many, despite its promised efficiencies and benefits, our devices are a net negative for our energy.
How to deal with energy vampires.
1. Start with yourself.
Monitor your energy levels. Identify activities that increase your energy and what depletes your energy. Schedule your life to keep these in balance, so that you do not burn out. Work on sleep hygiene and meal planning to maximize your energy.
Develop your coping skills. Understand how you respond to stress and negative situations. Address unhealthy defense mechanisms, and learn and practice ways to manage stress productively.
Keep your mind clear. Monitor your thought life. Know when your mind is tired, cloudy, as this will exasperate inefficiency. Engage with ways to organize, clarify, process, interpret, and express your thoughts. Work on challenging negative thought patterns, practice reframing, and balancing negative thoughts with positive affirmations.
2. Set boundaries.
In an ideal world, we would simply cut off energy vampires from our lives. Unfortunately, we can't avoid being in the presence of energy vampires at work, in our families, or in certain social situations. Reduce and limit contact with energy vampires. Set limits on how often, what you talk about, and how long you are in the same room.
3. Confront energy vampires.
Out of self-respect, stand up for yourself and say something to the energy vampire. Help them see what they are doing and how they are affecting you.
Instead of trying to change or fix energy vampires, empower them. You can't change people. But you can offer them hope, you can brainstorm and problem solve together, you can offer encouragement for them to grow in their ability to handle life.
4. Garbage in, Garbage out.
We live in an overstimulating digital age. Take the time to consider the content you are consuming. Learn the "Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt" (FUD) tactic of marketing and advertising, to understand how you are internalizing messages of unhappiness, failure, inadequacy, dissatisfaction, and distress. Research and be intentional in creating your book reading and streaming watch lists. Positively, consume inspirational, informative, humorous content that increases your energy. Relationally, consider reaching out to people in your life that you want as your mentors and role models.
Imagine that we are like a cup. Ideally, we want to live in a way where we can fill up our own cups with energy and love to overflow and give to others. But energy vampires can drain our energy cups, or maybe our cups are cracked and we are draining our own energy. This is a helpful mental picture to address our energy levels.