A Guide to Creating Healthy Boundaries Everyday
Our downtown Toronto Psychotherapists at Integra Health understand the challenges and importances of setting healthy boundaries. To learn more about them and how they can help:
We may not always be able to put it into words, but chances are you know what it feels like when your boundaries have been crossed. Our feelings give us crucial information and tells us when something feels inappropriate or dangerous. We learn boundaries from responses we get early in life and when our feelings are met with disapproval or disrespect, we learn to push them down and ignore the valuable information they have for us, which can have far-reaching consequences throughout our lives. A lack of boundaries in our personal and professional relationships can lead to resentment, anger, and burnout.
Boundaries can be incredibly difficult to assert, but it’s an essential skill to cultivate to maintain a healthy, balanced life and a strong relationship with yourself and your own values. Setting healthy boundaries can help us make decisions rooted in our core values and maintain a sense of autonomy and independence.
Though learning how to properly and effectively set boundaries can be a long process, here are basic steps to begin setting healthy boundaries in your relationships and this is how our downtown Toronto Psychotherapists assist in helping you establish these boundaries:
- Examine existing and lacking boundaries
You may have healthy boundaries with your partner, but not with friends or coworkers. From there, you can decide what types of boundaries you want to set.
- Tune into your feelings
Two key feelings that are signals that we’re letting go of our boundaries: discomfort and resentment. Discomfort is a cue that a boundary has been crossed. Resentment usually stems from being taken advantage of or not feeling appreciated or pushing yourself beyond your limits. When you notice discomfort or resentment arising, explore the root cause of your reaction.
- Name your limits
Knowing your limits is crucial when setting good boundaries. Identify your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual limits. Consider what you can tolerate and accept and what makes you feel uncomfortable or resentful.
- Give yourself permission
Fear, guilt, and self-doubt are big potential barriers since many of us wonder if we even deserve to have boundaries. Boundaries aren’t just a sign of a healthy relationship; they’re a sign of self-respect. So, give yourself the permission to set boundaries and work to maintain them.
- Decide the consequences ahead of time
What will you do when someone crosses your boundaries (which they undoubtedly will)? Decide what the consequences are. For example, if a friend calls repeatedly during a time-frame you are not to be able to talk, you will not answer the phone. The best way to figure out consequences when people cross your boundaries is remembering your core values, honouring your needs, and trying not to judge other people’s choices. It can also be helpful to write consequences down.
- Communicate clearly
Even though we hope people can be mind readers so we don’t have to step outside our comfort zone, this is very rarely the case. Sometimes we’re afraid to confront others or tell people what we really want because we don’t want to hurt them or fear their reactions. However, a lack of clear communication can create a lot of confusion in relationships. The more you remain clear with your boundaries and values, the more you’ll be able to be clear in your communication.
- Start small
Like any new skill, assertively communicating your boundaries takes practice. Start with a small boundary that isn’t threatening to you, build on your success, and then incrementally increase to more challenging boundaries. And remember that it’s a skill you can master!
- Let your behavior speak for you
Stating your boundaries is not about presenting people with an ultimatum. (“If you call me again at work, I will never speak to you.”). It’s about presenting your boundaries clearly then let your behavior enforce the boundary. People will push back and disrespect your limits. You’ll know it’s getting easier when this doesn’t get as much of an emotional reaction out of you.
- Seek support
If you’re having a hard time setting healthy boundaries, seek additional support through a support group, church, counseling, coaching, or good friends. This can help you feel less isolated and work with others to maintain accountability.
Boundaries will require maintenance, which can feel overwhelming, but the health and strength of our boundaries is directly related to our emotional health. Building boundaries is like any other skill – the more you practice, the better you’ll get!