Practice Self-Care with Healthy Boundaries

Sneakers from above.

Trying to keep the happy in people’s holidays and avoid rocking their boats can be demanding and draining to one’s physical, emotional and psychological health. Sometimes you may feel that you must please everyone in your life, even to your own detriment – especially during the season of giving. People-pleasing can come in the form of agreeing to every favor, task or assignment. It could be allowing people to be present in personal space even when preferring to be alone. Or it may be putting up with behaviors that cause feelings of anger, frustration or sadness but never acknowledging offenses to the offender.

These actions may indicate a need to explore the process of setting boundaries. A boundary is the deliberate space that you establish between yourself and someone else. Boundaries define the behaviors, actions and characteristics that are not tolerable within a relationship. It is important to determine what you will and will not accept in all relationships, including those with family, friends or shipmates.

Benefits of Boundaries

Setting boundaries limits unwanted behaviors and treatment from the people in your life. It indicates that while your relationship with others is important to you, you still prioritize your own feelings and emotions. Boundaries can prompt loved ones, friends or fellow Sailors to realize they should also consider your feelings in their interactions with you and respect the limits that you have established.

Remembering that “no” is a complete sentence is essential in the process of setting boundaries. Comfortably saying “no” to unwanted requests or inconsiderate actions tells your family members, friends, romantic partners and fellow Sailors that you are not afraid to advocate for yourself. For family or romantic partners, navigating situations involving household tasks or frequency of communication may require setting boundaries and saying “no.” Social situations involving drinking or unethical actions could arise and require you to be assertive and say “no” to a fellow Sailor. Whatever the situation may be, maintaining boundaries signals to others that you do not feel obligated to accept unwanted actions or requests and promotes healthy relationships with friends, family and shipmates and also with yourself.

Steps for Setting Boundaries

Setting healthy boundaries can be a difficult process, but it is a necessary act of self-care that is crucial for psychological well-being and for maintaining integrity in your relationships with others. Here are some tips for setting and maintaining boundaries in your relationships:

  • Understand and acknowledge your values and your feelings. When someone engages in a certain unwanted behavior towards you, take a mental or even written note of what feelings the behavior causes, but do this when you are away from the person. Understanding and centering your own feelings and emotions over those of others is necessary for establishing boundaries. It could also be helpful to have a mentor that can help you navigate your feelings as well.
  • Make your boundaries and consequences clear. Unless you clearly communicate to the people in your life what your boundaries are, they will never know what they are or how to avoid overstepping them. Be assertive and explain the results that would accompany their disregard for your boundaries. Avoid making compromises that may still cause you to feel uncomfortable or upset.
  • Do not feel bad about setting boundaries. Remember that setting boundaries is a necessary part of a comprehensive self-care routine. Maintaining boundaries allows you to focus on your own physical, emotional and psychological health. Just as you may have regular doctor’s appointments that take precedence over other things, your own immediate needs should also come first. Saying “no” to things that may cause you undue stress should not cause guilt, and you do not have to provide an explanation of your feelings. Know your personal worth and expect others to respect you.
  • Know when your boundaries are not being respected and respond accordingly. Explore the actions of those with whom you have established boundaries, and understand your options. If someone oversteps a boundary that you have clearly set, acknowledge it. Explain that you have already communicated your boundary and that you will have to resort to the consequences. Respect your own boundaries in this situation, and do not feel pressured to give multiple chances to someone who has a clear understanding of your boundaries but still refuses to acknowledge them.

Relationships After Setting Boundaries

People may feel hurt when you establish and enforce boundaries because they realize that they will no longer be able to interact with you in ways that are only beneficial to them (and potentially damaging to you). When someone does not respect a boundary you have set, it is a sign that they may also not respect you. For some, the frustration with your boundaries may be temporary, but for others, it could be the tipping point toward the end of your relationship.

The people you should allow in your life are those who respect you and realize that maintaining boundaries is a necessary part of demonstrating that respect and maintaining their relationship with you. No matter what, adhering to your boundaries and refusing to allow negotiation is crucial. That is a part of the process of learning to prioritize and take care of yourself.

Reaching out for Help

Problems in your relationships can be difficult to deal with. If you or a shipmate are dealing with psychological health concerns or issues with a spouse, family member or children, the Fleet and Family Support Program provides support through counseling services. Be sure to follow U.S. Navy Operational Stress Control on Facebook, on Twitter and our holiday hashtag #HealthyHolidays for ongoing self-care tips throughout the holiday season and into the New Year.

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