One of the single most important things you can do to form healthy relationships and preserve self-care is to set proper boundaries. Boundary setting is a skill that many of us struggle to put into practice. Either we are people pleasers by nature or want to avoid uncomfortable conversations and confrontations with loved ones.
In these steps, derived from experts in psychology and my personal experience, you will determine where you want to set your boundaries, how to follow through with drawing the line, and when you may need to pull the plug on those who refuse to accept your limits.
Boundary setting is a large part of having healthy relationships and a healthy, supportive environment around you. It enables us to take ownership of our lives and our happiness. We feel comfortable, secure, and absent of one-sided relationships that can lead to resentment.
I was notorious for having the blurred boundaries. Unclear boundaries were an enormous problem in my relationships. I would allow those closest to me to dictate my schedule, guilt or pressure me into giving more of my time, energy or money than I was comfortable. I allowed others to speak to me in a way I did not feel comfortable. I often felt used and abused.
Sure, it wasn’t right for them to act that way, but it was also my responsibility to set and enforce proper boundaries.
Without boundaries, you’ll likely feel like I did- low self-esteem, stressed, depressed, sleepless, never taking the time to recharge. Feeling guilty for practicing self- care. Lacking confidence and lacking an identity.
These negative emotions and thoughts about myself led to poor decisions when it came to nutrition and many skipped workouts. With my sub-par nutrition and exercise regimen, my sleep patterns suffered and my anxiety increased. With less sleep, I relied on caffeine, which made my anxiety even worse. This cycle spiraled out of control. I was miserable.
It was easy for me to fall victim to this vicious cycle. As a child, I was a people pleaser through and through. I cared more about making others happy than myself. When I was 11 years old, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. She passed away nine months later. In my late 20s, it dawned on me. I could have only years to live- is this how I want to spend it? Do I want to be stressed, upset, barely surviving and hating on myself daily? Or do I want to be thriving?
I finally stopped allowing others to dictate how I felt about myself. I started saying no. I set firm boundaries, and I stuck to them. I cut ties with those who would not accept my them. I focused on my health and wellness. I organized my house and my schedule. I protected my happiness by lowering my stress levels and nourishing my body with wholesome food. I tackled some of my less than stellar coping mechanisms (like stress eating) and replaced them with healthier options (like journaling). I decided that I was worth it.
My friend and I joked during this time that I was working on my “Checklist to Freedom.” Although a joke, it was the truth. Do you feel free to make decisions that are in your best interest? Do you feel able to live the life you want to live without an intense need to please everyone else 24/7? When you are approaching your final hours on this planet, will you be content? Or did another person (or people) captain your ship through life?
If you feel miserable- even if you feel just “ok”- examine your boundaries. Make your new goal feeling fantastic. Make the new goal thriving, not just surviving.
How did I move out of the land of misery? How did I set boundaries and regain control? I used a few basic steps. It didn’t happen overnight, but it happened with persistence and determination. Living a happy life is great motivation! Find your individual “why” and focus on that when you are learning boundary- setting skills.
I identified my boundaries. We each have specific things that are “off-limits.” Where do you stand on your values and how do you wish to be treated? Write them down. Keep them somewhere to refer to if you must. These are your new boundaries.
I learned to say no. Often when enforcing a boundary, you’ll have to say no. When you say no to someone else, remember you are saying yes to yourself. It can be difficult to separate yourself from feelings of guilt you may have when you decline to participate in an activity or event (especially if this is a family gathering)- I know I felt incredibly guilty! Or worse, have to pass on helping someone you love. Overloading your schedule is the first barrier to success with wellness. With an overloaded schedule, there is little room for exercise, reading, quality time with your loved ones, or sleep for that matter. Taking care of yourself is not selfish, it is necessary. You have to divvy out your precious time wisely.
If you have trouble saying no, at least give yourself enough time to think things through before you commit. Say, “that sounds possible, but let me get back to you once I’ve checked my schedule.” Then sit down and list out pros and cons if you must regarding the commitment. Keep in mind the saying “You can do anything, but not everything.” Do not commit yourself to so much that you have removed space for fun and things you enjoy. Life is grand, and you should keep time in your schedule to stop and smell the roses. Plus, overcommitting leads to a lot of half- assed things. Who wants to do a ton of stuff at 50 percent verse a limited amount of undertakings at 100 percent? Focus on the top dogs in your life and give them your all. Don’t spread yourself too thin.
Don’t be scared to delegate, either. Give yourself permission to ask for help.
If someone is a repeat offender of your boundaries, and you have clearly defined them, consider distancing yourself from that person. Be protective of your circle and who you let in. Your energy and positivity are a treasure, guard them. Your life’s happiness is at stake.
I decided to show myself respect. When you respect yourself and your boundaries, others follow suit. If you are a victim of berating or emotional abuse from an avid boundary- crosser, put your foot down. When you are assertive (yet always respectful) and direct about what you will and will not stand for, there will be less and less boundary crossing.
Much more was in my control than I gave myself credit. I used to hear people say “just say no.” Or “why do something you don’t want to do?” and I would think “it isn’t that easy.” I saw a quote once that said, “I decided I didn’t want to feel that way anymore, so I changed, just like that.” I made that quote my screen saver. Change is never easy, but it can be accomplished.
I changed my story. You can change your story, too. Setting boundaries will help you get all you want out of life- including health and wellness- both physically and mentally.
Originally published at www.northingtonfitnessandnutrition.com.
Originally published at medium.com