There comes a time for everyone, regardless of health status, that it is necessary to set boundaries. We can set many kinds of boundaries, it can resemble setting up a fence that is never to be crossed, or it can be like putting up a temporary road block or construction barrel.
When we do not set any boundaries in our life we become mentally and physically exhausted. I hear so many kind and intelligent friends say “I need to learn to say no”. Saying no is setting a boundary.
Sometimes setting a boundary may not be something we say out loud. It can be an action that we take to protect ourselves. For example, if we are sharing a particular life issue or symptom of our chronic illness with a friend or family member, they may respond by saying “get over it” or “it’s no big deal”. This is a time to set a boundary, because it is a big deal to you. A way to set a boundary would be to not share as much personal information. It can often hurt to not share with a person you care about, but think about how much better you will feel without their apathetic view of your situation.
That is an emotional boundary, but there are also moments you need to set physical boundaries. A personal hypothetical situation would be if a group of friends asked me to go out to the casino on the weekend. I would have to say no thank you to this outing with my friends.
Even though I would feel pressure to go because I would want to spend time with my friends, the casino is not my scene. For one I don’t gamble, I just don’t find much enjoyment out of it. Also, the sights and sounds of a casino would make my migraine go hay wire. Even on days when my head feels ok, I am very sensitive to light and sound, so sensitive that the thought of it is making me a little nauseated.
The enjoyment I would get out of seeing my friends would just not be enough to deal with the after affects of a night at a casino. So in this case setting this boundary has nothing to do about people or my emotions, and everything to do with the physical aspect of the activity.
Boundaries can often be flexible, if we say no to leading a committee or helping with a fundraiser one time, we may be able to say yes next time. However, sometimes we have to be firm on with our boundaries.
Recently I had to stick to a boundary that I set for myself. I own a craft business where I knit and crochet awesome items. In my business I sell many custom items requested by friends and acquaintances. Some of these projects are quickly made and sent off to where they need to go. Other times I invest weeks or months into an order.
At the end of 2017 I was feeing slightly burnt out from doing this work. Crocheting had been something that had kept me going during the years was I was unable to leave the apartment or do clear enough thinking to read and write. I decided that I would take a break from making and selling hand made items in 2018. I set this boundary in order to give myself a break which I felt was stifling my creativity and making me a little grumpy.
Fast-forward to mid January when I was contacted by a friend who wants to know if I do commissioned work. My first instinct was to say “Yes, of course I do!” But wait! I made the decision to not do this kind of work in 2018, that I needed a break. So what do I do? I was worried about two things here, disappointing a friend and losing a sale (a sale that I will remind you I wasn’t even looking for.) But, I took a deep breath and chose to stick to my decision, my boundary, and I said “Normally yes I take commission orders, but I am taking a break from making and selling right now.”
And guess what, the world did not end. My friend responded “I completely understand.” How cool is that. It was such load off my mind, to know I could stick to my decision to take a break, to reinforce my boundary, and put my needs first. Although it’s such a small example, it really made me feel empowered.
So that’s what I have to say about boundaries, but one last note. In Jenni Grover’s book Chronic Babe 101 she has an entire lesson (Lesson 4) on boundaries. I have found this whole book to have invaluable advice in it (review coming soon), and the chapter on boundaries is spot on for anyone struggling with setting or enforcing boundaries. I highly suggest checking it out.
Is there somewhere you are struggling to set boundaries? Does it help to think about how it may effect you physically or mentally if you don’t set a boundary? I would love to hear from you below. As always I’ll continue the discussion over on Twitter and Instagram.