Understanding boundaries has been an essential part of my trauma recovery—a concept I didn’t know existed before learning how many of my boundaries had been crossed. While recovering, I’m learning how to set boundaries for myself. I’m learning what I will accept and what I will not. From myself and from others. I’m learning that there are endless boundaries I need each day. And that I’ll try anything to keep myself in bounds.
I need boundaries for everything. Like my time. Otherwise, I’ll spend too much time on something that isn’t necessary leaving no time for what is. I create this boundary by using calendars and schedules. By using timers for when I need to take my medicine, switch tasks, take breaks, etc. I time how long something will take me so I know when to move onto the next task. And I leave notes for my future self to find, reminding me of what needs to get done next.
Setting boundaries with my time allows my days to be structured. Together. Bounded. Which allows me to be productive. To set and achieve goals. And to make good use of my time. It also prevents me from sinking into old habits—into poor use of my time. Which also keeps me from overindulging in things that are not good for me. Or having so little to do that I become depressed. Sending my mind straight to all the bad thoughts stored and waiting for a dull moment to strike.
I create boundaries for what I eat and drink each day by writing it down. By keeping track of how much water and caffeine I consume. It gives me limits so I don’t go over or under. So I don’t eat so much I feel sick. Or so little I feel faint. It helps me make sure I get enough water. And not too much caffeine. Which I’ll go over my limit with quickly if I don’t set a boundary with myself.
Having boundaries for what I will watch and read helps me keep my fear response in check. I scroll through the news each morning, but I only read titles that are safe. And I read intriguing stories with caution. (They really should start putting trigger warnings on everything.) When it comes to TV, my husband will watch some shows first so he knows the scenes I shouldn’t watch. And I mute commercials. Because you never know what triggering topic they’ll try to cover in the 30 seconds they have—throwing the trauma right at me—ambushing me. Knowing what I am willing and unwilling to watch—having my boundaries there to protect me—keeps me from being tossed into a headspace I don’t wish to go into.
Setting boundaries for how long I will engage in physical movement throughout the day is how I help engage my proprioceptive sense and vestibular sense and stay in my body. Since most of my job involves reading and writing, it’s easy to be sedentary, but we all need physical movement throughout the day. Especially those of us whose nervous systems need consistent regulation. So I make myself be active for at least 30 to 50 minutes each day. Whether it’s going for a walk or doing yoga, I record and add up my physical activity throughout the week: setting a boundary with myself for the minimum amount I need to have.
Knowing how intensely others affect me, I have boundaries for the time I spend with others too. For when I will answer emails and texts. For when I will speak with others and be social. Without structured time around others, I lose sight of when the party should end. And if I’m not careful, I lose sight of myself too.
Having boundaries also helps me know what to share with others and what not to. I have boundaries for what I’ll share with some and not with others. For what I’ll withhold. And for what I’ll keep for myself. Creating these boundaries has saved me from oversharing. Or from sharing with an untrusted party.
I set boundaries for which thoughts and feelings and needs are mine. So I can tell the difference between what is mine and what belongs to others. For it’s too easy to get caught up in someone else’s excitement. Or in their tragedy. Confusing what I’m feeling with what they’re going through. In order to know the difference, I journal daily to know what I’m feeling, and I make sure I check in with myself to assess what I need—to know what’s making me feel the way I’m feeling—and to know what my feelings are apart from the feelings of others.
I hope you embrace the boundaries you need for yourself. So you feel safe. Contained. Engaging your vestibular sense—feeling yourself in your body—your proprioceptive sense—recognizing where you’re at in space—and your interoceptive sense—connecting you to how you feel.
Creating boundaries helps us connect to ourselves and to recognize the universe that exists inside each of us. May you create boundaries that help you contain the universe within you.
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