Self-care means more than eating right, exercising, getting plenty of sleep, and stress management. While all those habits are essential to your well-being, there’s another behavior that many of us struggle with—setting healthy boundaries. What exactly does this mean and why does it matter?
Why You Need Healthy Boundaries In Recovery
The University of California, Berkeley defines healthy personal boundaries as “the limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships. A person with healthy boundaries can say “no” to others when they want to, but they are also comfortable opening themselves up to intimacy and close relationships.” It indicates the other ends of the spectrum as well:
- Someone with rigid boundaries “always keeps others at a distance, whether emotionally, physically, or otherwise.”
- A person with porous boundaries “tends to get too involved with others.”
Whether you’re in recovery trying to remove negative influences or love someone struggling with alcohol use disorder (AUD) or substance use disorder (SUD), healthy boundaries are essential to your well-being. They ensure your ability to maintain positive relationships and safeguard your overall well-being.
5 reasons for setting and maintaining healthy boundaries:
- Respect and self-worth
Healthy boundaries demonstrate your self-respect and self-worth. They let others know how you expect to be treated and help prevent people from disrespecting or taking advantage of you. When you establish clear limits, you signal that you value yourself and expect others to treat you with the same respect.
- Stabilize emotional health
When you have selected boundaries in place, they prevent you from becoming emotionally drained or overwhelmed by the demands and needs of others. Putting limits on how much emotional energy you invest in certain relationships or situations ensures you have enough energy to take care of yourself.
- Personal growth and self-discovery
Setting boundaries requires you to reflect on your values, priorities, and limits. As you establish and enforce your boundaries, you gain a better understanding of yourself and what you need to thrive.
- Healthy relationships
Many people dealing with AUD or SUD haven’t been able to foster quality connection with others. Boundaries are essential for building and maintaining healthy relationships, as they encourage open communication, trust, and understanding between individuals. When both parties understand each other’s limits and needs, the relationship can thrive without excessive conflicts or misunderstandings.
- Preventing burnout
Without clear boundaries, it’s easy to overcommit and spread yourself too thin. Establishing limits on your time and energy helps prevent burnout and allows you to focus on what truly matters to you. This is particularly important in personal and professional settings.
Remember: setting healthy boundaries isn’t about building walls or shutting people out. Instead, they provide an opportunity to create a balance that respects both your needs and those of others. They contribute to a more harmonious and fulfilling life by promoting respectful interactions, self-care, and personal growth.
Tips for Setting Healthy Boundaries
The Cleveland Clinic indicates that the first step is to “know what your needs are and what you need to be healthy, have good self-esteem, and retain your sense of identity.” To do this, it suggests:
- Reflect on your core beliefs and values, and list them in order of priority. Suggestions from the organization include “What do you need to be happy? What makes you feel safe? How much time and energy are you willing to spend with different people and situations?”
- Next, “trust and believe that you have the right to set and enforce a boundary.” Many of us grew up in an environment with unhealthy or blurred boundaries, so we don’t understand the importance of healthy ones. We often feel guilty or worry about rejection if we set firm boundaries.
- If this whole concept is new to you, start small. For example, if you recognize that regular exercise is essential to your ability to avoid triggers and cravings, make it a priority and politely decline people or circumstances that infringe upon this time you’ve set aside for it.
- Be consistent with your boundaries. It’s hard for other people—including intimate partners, family members, friends, and even coworkers—to respect your wishes if you don’t uphold them. This is the happy middle ground between having rigid and porous boundary signals. And if someone doesn’t understand or honor your boundaries, they don’t have your well-being in mind.
Whole-Person Care at Great Oaks
Great Oaks Recovery Center outside of Houston provides individuals and their families with critical tools for developing understanding, improving communication, and expanding connection. These essential elements are often lost in the chaos of addiction, but with evidence-based treatment, guidance, and support, everyone can learn to be the best versions of themselves and have better, supportive relationships. Learn more about our programs for hope and healing.