Setting limits or boundaries can mean different things to different people. Brené Brown defines boundaries in Rising Strong (2015) as “simply our lists of what's okay and what's not okay.”
We like this definition most, because of its simplicity. Life is hard enough, so we are always looking for ways to keep it clean!
You can apply boundaries to not only how you interact with others but also how you set emotional boundaries for yourself. One of the most effective things you can do in ensuring your mental health is to understand what you can control and what you cannot.
Let's start with an exercise: think of a time when you felt uncomfortable because someone asked you to do something that was outside of your comfort zone. Close your eyes and bring up that memory. What was the situation? Ask yourself these questions:
How did I react at that moment?
How did I react over the next 24 hours?
What feelings did I experience?
Now take that same experience and try to identify a point in time which you had control over a situation. Imagine yourself saying something like “I hear you asking if I can bring the kids over at 2 pm, but that is right at their nap time, it won’t be fun for anyone. Let’s plan on 10 am or 3 pm, which one works for you? Reflect on this:
How does it feel to set that boundary?
What feelings did I experience after setting that boundary?
Try to be aware of your thoughts, particularly your self-talk. Identifying and redirecting negative self-talk will help in being able to understand your own limits and ensure your inner peace. Boundary setting is like any other emotional skill-- it takes practice. The holidays are a good time to stay within your values and set boundaries.
As always, be kind to yourself.
Becka Ross, MSW, LCSW & Garrett Shotwell, MSW, LCSW
Co-founder | Therapist