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Who to boot from your mental health bus

Show-Me Life: Identify the four types of people we take on our well-being journey. Not all are helpful.

Mindy Ward, Editor, Missouri Ruralist

May 24, 2024

2 Min Read
worried couple running toward bus
BUMPED: Not everyone should be in your mental health circle just because they want to. Protect your well-being by making tough choices, even leaving them behind even for a short time. Liudmila Chernetska/Getty Images

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.

About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

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