A pandemic, giant forest fires, joblessness, kids learning from home are all becoming a regular part of life. Although people show their resilient side during difficult times, tension has a way of increasing when too many pressures pile up. This is why setting healthy boundaries should be part of every midlife wellness plan. If we happen to be people pleasers, setting personal boundaries is even more important. It’s a way to gain more control, build better relationships and be mentally ready for whatever comes next.
Over the weekend, my friend experienced a panic attack from anxiety. Half her body was numb, her heart was racing and she was hyperventilating. She was rushed to the emergency room where she thought she was having a heart attack. She’s 54. She had been helping her sister when others in her family weren’t able to and felt compelled to be the hero. Putting others' needs ahead of herself wasn’t healthy and this was her wake up call.
Authors Gary Lundberg and Joy Lundberg wrote this description of boundaries in their book I Don’t Have to Make Everything All Better: “Personal boundaries define you as an individual. They are statements of what you will or won’t do, what you like and don’t like, how far you will or won’t go, how close someone can get to you or how close you will get to another person. They are your value system in action.” They also wrote, “Having a strong, comfortable belief in your own value system means you have choices and must take responsibility for your thoughts, beliefs, and actions.” So clarifying our boundaries in order to make sure others respect them is critical in order to have a healthier outcome.
Tips on Setting Boundaries:
- Whose problems are they? Know which problems are yours and which problems are theirs. When people lash out, it’s typically because of their own insecurities and other life events they are dealing with that have nothing to do with you. Although we can’t control what others say or do, we can control our response. It’s OK to distance ourselves from someone who oversteps our boundaries and makes us feel uncomfortable. Taking responsibility for your own actions helps as well.
- Articulate it calmly: State why someone’s action was disrespectful or hurtful and that you’re not going to tolerate it. It’s not about pushing them away but it is about clarifying your own values and beliefs and honoring what is and is not OK.
- “That doesn’t work for me”: Although someone’s behavior may not change, your steady and consistent response will provide a mental safety zone. Have a few “no thank you” phrases and stick to those responses. Being consistent will help overcome any doubts or miscommunication. When things feel overwhelming and people are asking for too much or push their agenda in some capacity, remember that saying “no” helps boost your own confidence and overall wellness and ability to have healthier relationships. Looking out for yourself is important so put your oxygen mask on first.
- Lean on your friend network: Having a solid group of friends who provide honest feedback and lift you up is beyond helpful during a stressful time like the one we’re in now. Happy hour Zoom calls have been a blessing.
As Caitlin Cantor, author of a recent Psychology Today article wrote, “No one else can decide what is acceptable to you besides you. If someone isn’t respecting your boundaries, you don’t have to wait helplessly until they do. You can take action to take care of yourself. You have more power than you realize, but you have to stop blaming others and start taking ownership of your life.” Amen.
Reviewed & Recommended:
Psychology Today: Set Clear Boundaries and Stop Accepting Less Than You Deserve
Huffington Post: Brené Brown: 3 Ways To Set Boundaries
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Emily’s vision for illume hire developed as part of her journey from a startup-curious sales and marketing professional to co-founder and CEO. Her passion is to provide the tools and community to support other mid-career professionals to maximize their mid-career momentum. In addition to her work with illume hire, Emily is part of the founding leadership team of Age Equity Alliance, a non-profit focused on age diversity in the workplace