How implementing boundaries improved my health

Boundaries exist in every facet of our lives. Whether they are visible boundaries as in a gate on a property or invisible as in pausing to think before committing to a weekend away with longtime friends.   

I think the term “boundaries” may have a negative stigma associated with it. Without a proper understanding of what boundaries are, why they are important and how they can lead to healthier lives – I understand how some can be repelled by the term. 

“Make good boundaries your goal. They are your right, your responsibility, your greatest source of dignity.” – Elaine N. Aron

So here is where I ask you to carve out a few moments and analyze what boundaries you have in place, from a particular lens – your health. 

Then you may want to look at your boundaries with commitments, relationships, work, and the “extras.” If you’re like me – you may soon embrace them and find them essential.

Let me give you some examples. 

Health boundary #1

One of my boundaries in health is I won’t keep floating along, taking a medication or undergoing a treatment that isn’t getting to the root of the problem and in turn, improving my health. After a normal allotted period of time, add in a buffer period, I feel I should be seeing a positive effect on my health.   

It is at this point I say to myself, “It’s time to have that conversation with my doctor and see what the next plan is.” That also includes me doing my own research, talking to people who have the same condition or symptoms as I do. I find out what their successes and failures have looked like. As we each have our own DNA makeup – the sneaky genetics playing a role, allergies, beliefs, goals, limitations etc., it’s good to at least open the conversation with others.

That’s really where it circles back to the community we surround ourselves with, right? Recall the article: Five people influence your personality, behavior. We need people to pull information from – people we can rely on.

We need to be in a circle that lifts us up, not drag us down. This includes reading good blogs, newspaper articles, and asking practitioners. Key input could even be a happenstance conversation you have with another guest at a wedding. (This truly happened this past summer to me.) Our community has valuable input.

It is easier to not do anything, to continue to let symptoms exacerbate and impede quality of life than it is to move forward, to the next approach. It takes energy, but maybe consider a new doctor.

Health boundary #2

Invisible boundaries, in both physical and mental health are very much worth discussing.

One I was just thinking about while driving is I should call my friend back that called me a few days ago. And I then stopped and thought to myself that where I’m driving for the next 20 minutes is so peaceful, beautiful, and elevates my spirits to such a high level, why not just enjoy and absorb that? I could make the call but this drive immerses me in nature and makes me so happy. I’d love to just let the peace, beauty, and calmness seep into my soul. I don’t need or have to call my friend back right this second. I will make the call, but the value of this scenic drive was valuable to my mindset.

It was at this moment that I realized I was getting the “I should” tangled with the “I need to” or “I have to.”

What about that little dose of “me time”? As I sit here typing this, I’m at a coffee shop – one of my favorite things – listening to chipper patrons trickle in and out, the espresso machine firing on all cylinders, and the uplifting background music playing a small but magical role.

And that’s where it comes finding boundaries that make sense to you.

It’s easy to quietly scroll through your mental “to do” list and say ‘I need to make this call’, ‘I need to stay up late and do this.’ Let’s keep in mind what is really beneficial to our health.

For me, it’s important not to compromise my sleep schedule because I have found that my overall health depends on it. It affects how I feel the next day and even the days after. As we all know, when we lessen our sleep, it can have a domino effect.

The Sleep Foundation explains “sleep debt.”

It “is the difference between the amount of sleep someone needs and the amount they actually get. If your body needs 8 hours of sleep per night, but only get six – you have two hours of sleep debt.”*

“Research has shown that it can take up to four days to recover from one hour of lost sleep and up to nine days to eliminate sleep debt.”*

Health boundary #3 – With a purpose to respect others’ lives

One boundary that I learned at a young age is the appropriate times for making non-emergency phone calls. I was taught not to call before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m. and to this day still respect others by doing so, unless they have indicated they prefer to communicate prior to 9 a.m.   

A boundary I personally have in place is to not be on the phone late. To enjoy optimal health, I have found that is vital time for me to wind down, get into a relaxed state, in hopes of bringing on a great night’s sleep. 

By being mindful about others’ health and individual situation makes me feel like I’m doing my part in respecting their lives and health.  Even if just in the slightest way!  (Did they sleep well or were they up all night? Was work more taxing today and perhaps they called it an early night? And if all of those are null and void – is there really a need to call before or after 9? We’ve got 12 full hours in between.)

What invisible boundaries do you have in place in your life? Perhaps carve out some time to think about this. What makes sense to you – your life, your health, your day-to-day?

 

*https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/sleep-debt-and-catch-up-sleep#:~:text=While%20sleeping%20in%20for%20a,to%20eliminate%20sleep%20debt10.

 

Coming next: Nutrition at the root of a healthy digestive system