Boundary pushers in your life can be tough to tackle. On one hand, you want to be respected without pressure to do or be something you are not comfortable with. On the other hand, you may be getting feedback that the boundary pusher isn’t happy with the decisions you are making. This could look like minimization, direct “I don’t like it” statements, or flat out ignoring your boundary despite clear communication. Have a look at these three tips to help you on your journey to having healthy boundaries.
#1 If you are able, decide ahead of time what you are and are not willing to do. If you don’t have time beforehand, you can buy yourself some time and space before you respond so you can make a decision that works for you. Phrases like, “I’ll get back to you on this” or “I’ll have a think on it and let you know when I have decided” can be helpful to have at the ready.
#2 If you are finding you have to repeat the boundary constantly then it’s likely time to have another conversation so you can speak to the boundary directly. It’s important to communicate as clearly and calmly as possible. They might not like the boundary, especially if they were benefiting from something before the boundary was made. It’s common for a boundary pusher to try and push the anxiety they are feeling back on you. Remember this does not mean the boundary isn’t valid!
#3 Have a look at why boundaries are so hard for you. This could be a self reflection to start, with a counsellor, or even in a workshop focused on learning about boundaries. If boundaries are tough to put in place and stand solidly in, then your difficulty with boundaries could have an origin in your early development. Some questions to explore might be: Were boundaries not ok or allowed growing up in your family? Was it ok for you to have needs? Think back to as early as you can remember in your life when you had to set a boundary. How did your family react? These are all important and useful questions to start to ponder as you work your way towards becoming solid in knowing what your boundaries are and discussing them in your relationships.
If you are looking for a counsellor to help support you as you get clear on your boundaries, contact us here to schedule a complementary 15min consult.
Give Your Brain Some Downtime
In today’s world we are constantly stimulated and connected via our electronics and are often expected to respond straight away or quickly to most messages. Even if it’s not urgent there is still that little, and sometimes not so little, part of you that wants to go and have a look at the message.
Before cell phones, giving your brain some down time was also challenging. It was pretty common to hear that people often complained about or resisted the idea of meditation. The number one complaint was by far that people feel restless, anxious, or frustrated/agitated when they stopped “doing” and had nothing to keep their mind busy.
Many people resist quiet brain time because it is common that the busyness or the constant stimulation is masking and helping manage these feelings of anxiety. Anxiety or anger is usually an emotion that has other emotions tucked away underneath it that are even less desirable to feel. These feelings could look like fear, sadness, grief or many more feelings and even combinations of those feelings.
In other words, at first glance, it seems easier to feel the anxiety than it is to feel the actual feelings living underneath that anxiety. It’s ok to distract yourself from your emotions sometimes, but when it becomes the norm it can become a problem. Carrying around your feelings in a container without “emptying” the container regularly can be exhausting and it can be really scary to even start to open the lid on that container if you haven’t been taught how to process the emotion underneath that tightly fastened lid in a healthy way.
If learning how to cope while experiencing emotions and also trying to give your brain some down time, seems like a huge mountain to climb, you might consider breaking it down into smaller bite sized steps.
First try setting a timer and giving yourself a break from stimulation in mini sessions throughout the day. If you start with 10mins a day, 30 mins once a week, or even 1-5mins 1 to 2 times a day and gradually increase when you feel ready, it could be a more manageable approach.
It might be uncomfortable at first, but giving your brain downtime could result in less anxiety, more focus, and better ability to cope when life throws you curveballs. You don’t have to meditate, but it is helpful to take note of what you are feeling when you take a moment to be unoccupied or distracted. You could simply sit and watch the birds or the trees outside or focus on a simple breathing pattern while you note what feelings are coming up. If you feel like you have to do something, you could write down your feelings and what comes up around them or even repeat an easy mantra.
If this is something that resonates with you but still feels too big to tackle on your own I would recommend seeking a mental health professional to have some support while navigating this.
Contact us here to connect with a counsellor to book a complementary 15min consult to see if you are good fit.
Have you ever had an experience when you were going about your day happily and then someone with big feelings suddenly entered your environment, in one way or another, and it turned your sunny day and your own feelings upside down? This might feel confusing and leave you wondering why you couldn’t seem to let their feelings roll off your back.
If this experience seems familiar, you may not know there are others that also feel this way. Most people would just like this challenge of, “taking other people’s feelings on,” to take a hike and let them be. It can be an exhausting and distracting experience that feels like it is taking over your life in extreme cases. You do not have to suffer alone, thankfully there are more people that are speaking up about their experiences and as a result, there are more therapists that are starting to cater to this niche. As a result, there are more “tools” to be put in the empathic or HSP toolbox to help you find some balance.
One of the first places to explore when struggling with this issue is why this imbalance exists. Some good questions to ponder are “How come I even have an "inbox" for other people's feelings in the first place?” In other words, why are you registering and then taking on others' feelings to begin with? Another way to ponder this is, what happened in your life that made it necessary to develop an “inbox” to experience other people’s feelings?
Some might say “it is because I am Empathic” or “because I am an HSP” or just plain old “I seem to be sensitive” however, some people who are empathic and/or HSP seem to be able to turn the volume down and don't struggle with this so much, so what is the difference?
The truth is, the answer is different for each person; however, the trend seems to be that people who feel unbalanced in taking on others' feelings have had to monitor the feelings of caretakers, parents, teachers, or people who hold a position of power while they were young and developing, to get their needs met. This could look like experiencing but is not limited to neglect, bullying, abuse, racism, ableism, or poverty. Many people in these scenarios have had to over-develop their “empathy” muscle in order to figure out ways of interacting with people that are in a position of power to get their basic needs met. It is a muscle developed out of necessity and often under duress.
Unpacking how your particular empathy muscle got over-developed is an important step in dismantling an old program that you probably don’t want or need anymore. If you’d like to work with someone on discovering the root of your empathy imbalance, contact us here.
What is a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)?
The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is a personality or brain trait coined by Psychologist and researcher, Elain Aron who is an HSP herself. The HSP trait is neither negative nor positive. Being HSP has some gifts and it has some considerations for living in a world that is typically not designed for people with this trait. About 15-20 percent of people are HSPs and this trait has even been found in over 100 species of animals. HSPs are sometimes confused with being introverted as HSPs often need time alone to recharge and reset, however about 30% of HSPs are extroverts and in most cases are also high sensation seeking (HSS). These HSP types like unique experiences. Some HSPs get just as anxious from being understimulated as they do from being overstimulated and finding the happy medium can be challenging.
The HSP brain type has been studied via Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). In this case, this means taking 3D pictures of the brain while the HSP people and non HSP people are given a task to focus on. They discovered that people with the trait tend to have brains that pick up on more information and therefore have more information to process through. This led them to understanding why HSPs need more time to process information, they are actually processing more! fMRI studies have also been done where HSPs and non-HSPs are shown emotional images and researchers found that HSPs had increased brain activity compared to non-HSPs when processing the emotions of others .
Common HSP Traits:
Being HSP is normal and innate and is not often understood by the majority. There are many HSPs out there that don’t even know about the trait. Depending on whether the culture you grew up in valued sensitivity, you might feel valued and cherished or you might have low self esteem as a result of being judged about “being sensitive,” so you might not feel like it’s ok to be who you are.
The Highly Sensitive Person is not a formal diagnosis. It’s a trait that is a spectrum that some identify with and others do not. Knowing that you have particular HSP traits can help you better navigate the world knowing that it’s normal and you have specific needs and considerations in order to navigate life.
Would you like to learn more about being an HSP? Contact Empathic Heart Counselling here to book a complementary 15min consultation where you can ask questions and see if one of our counsellors would be a good fit for you!