And why this will help your health!
A personal boundary is an energetic line in the sand. It communicates to the world, “Here I am, and this is my limit.” It is a soft separation between your own energy and the energy of those around you. Maintaining that boundary is not to be confused with having a wall up or a defensive guard. It is a self-preservation mechanism that allows you to maintain your sense of self without handing it over to anyone. Every interaction with another person involves the exchange of energy, so why not make it pleasant and fulfilling?
Boundaries are important in order to prevent depletion, burnout, overextension and a life of obligation. It is essential to establish boundaries in order to maintain mental space and peace. There is a physical safety to having boundaries as well. You are less likely to have stored-up guilt or resentment towards yourself or others, which can have physical repercussions, such as tight muscles, misalignment, indigestion and ineffective sleep. And you are less likely to experience injury when you are present and energized without distraction.
Connecting with your own boundaries and implementing them in your day-to-day life can help raise your self-esteem and your energy level. If you are not connected to your own boundaries and are feeling drained or tested, you will likely seek out others who exhibit similar patterns. This creates a domino effect of people feeling worn out and depleted. You can stop this cycle by staying in touch with yourself and honoring your limits.
Ask yourself: “What message am I sending to myself and the world when I don’t have healthy and clear boundaries? That I am the ultimate giver? That I’m a martyr? That I can keep going and going and never stop? That I’m not worthy or deserving of having boundaries? That I’m not selfish?”
There can be many reasons why boundaries are not in place. Maybe you’re not clear on what they are or just don’t know how to implement them. The good news is that this can be a learned process and can be achieved with practice.
Here are some actions to strengthen the boundaries in your life:
1. Practice saying no. Exercise your right to say “no” when necessary or appropriate — rather than habitually saying “yes” and overcommitting yourself.
2. Schedule self-nurturing time. What do you need to feel fulfilled that day? Be present in the moment and surrender to your own needs. This boundary starts with you and will be honored by the people around you.
3. Speak up (from a kind and loving place, please). People cannot always guess how you feel about their actions or words that cross the boundaries you’ve set. It is your responsibility to share with them and let them know how you feel.
4. Create a way out. If you are caught in a conversation with someone who just won’t stop talking and/or you don’t have the time to listen, create your way out.
5. Be aware. Repetitive thoughts that aren’t beneficial can continuously circulate in your mind. Put a stop to them.
6. Commit to your bedtime. Sleep is a vital part of feeling well. When it’s time for you to go to bed, wrap it up and get under the covers.
Try a few of these ideas and see where they take you. Observe the impact they have on your health, life and relationships and assess for yourself whether they are worth implementing in your life.
Anu Abraham, PT
Mind-Body Physical Therapist at Shift Integrative Medicine NYC