Last month’s article on combating energy drains referenced a point about setting boundaries as a health maintenance technique. Here’s an in depth look at this crucial self-care tool.
We set up boundaries, rules, or limits to take care of ourselves. These psychological, emotional, and physical ground rules are essential for clarifying our own expectations to ourselves, in communicating them to others, and also in relaying what others can expect from us. They symbolize a commitment to self-love and self-respect.
Depending on the setting or people involved, our boundaries, or behavior codes will look very different. Personal, emotional, physical, and family relationship boundaries will manifest in one way, and those with coworkers or professional relationships, and even social media relationships in another way. We don’t have the same expectations and don’t treat all the people in our lives in exactly the same way.
People with healthy boundaries value their own opinions, understand their needs, clearly communicate their wants and needs, can say no, and can accept others’ boundaries. They are able to respond to individual situations and decide on what they will and will not take responsibility for, and are less likely to be manipulated, or taken advantage of. Clear, flexible, and firm boundaries make us feel strong, in control, confident, happier, and less stressed out because we are able to compromise and communicate our needs in varying situations. These healthy relationships are based on healthy boundaries of respect, trust, compromise, and acceptance.
On the contrary, if boundaries aren’t well established, people are confused about what to let in and keep out. And when their boundaries are regularly allowed to be breached or trodden on, they grow depressed, resentful, and anxious, and can often leave interactions and conversations feeling drained, angry, and abused.
Too rigid boundaries are also unhealthy as they can isolate a person. They usually manifest as being closed off emotionally or physically from others, being controlling, and not willing to take risks, and are often the result of past bad experience.
To create and maintain healthy flexible boundaries or rules, consider the following points:
Reflect on your life. Become mindful about the situations that make you uncomfortable, stressed out, fearful, disempowered, resentful, and disappointed. Examine them to understand the source of these feelings and what you may be neglecting in your life.
Establish your Boundaries. As soon as possible after becoming clear about where you lack clear rules in your life, begin putting small manageable ones in place. For e.g. saying no when you regularly say yes or vice versa and then build up over time. Make these limits firm but flexible and not extreme, so that you can respond to individual situations in a clear and calm way.
Reinforce your boundaries. This is especially true in the beginning and with the people who know you for a long time. Initially they may be taken aback, but consistency in maintaining the new ground rules will help everyone adjust. Over the long term, this will avoid hurt feelings, frustration, and confusion.
Respect others’ Boundaries. Just as you would like people to respect your rules, you should honor theirs. Pay attention to what they like or dislike, or their behavior and manners. For e.g. some people don’t like having their image on social media, they like being punctual, don’t sit with their feet on the sofa, or don’t open other people’s fridges.
Communicate your Concerns. Let others know in an assertive, non-confrontational tone as soon as possible when they have breached your boundaries. This may be difficult, but it is very important because it prevents depression and resentment from setting in.
Self-Kindness. Compassion for yourself is crucial in maintaining emotional and mental health. If you are able to honor, respect, and care for yourself, it will help you stand up and speak up for yourself when you need to. For inspiration in maintaining your goal, keep the company of people you admire and whom you aspire to be like.
Setting up new life rules will require tenacity but it is doable. When you feel uninspired remind yourself of the benefits of having these boundaries in place and recommit to following through.
As a mindfulness mentor, I will be happy to help you become empowered to establish boundaries for happiness and peace.
Good luck in establishing your new ground rules.