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Healthy boundaries make for a better you

Features column

How do you take care of yourself? I pose this question so that we may take a moment to truly reflect on what is being asked. How often do we ever really consider the importance of self-care? When do we notice that there is a deficit in our self-care efforts? These kinds of questions warrant our attention because if we are not taking care of ourselves, how are we then able to sustain the many roles we occupy in our daily lives? Think about it. Our lives are so multifaceted. We are our gender, race, and ethnicity…we are parents, partners, and professionals…we are marginalized in some contexts and embraced in others. We are all of these and everything in between and when we take all of these aspects of our existence into account and consider the complexity of our experience as we go through our day-to-day lives interacting with and being there for others, it necessarily raises the question, “How do we take care of ourselves?”

Self-care is about living a balanced life which, from my perspective, entails attending to our whole selves. This means assessing what, if anything we are doing for our emotional, spiritual, physical, and psychological well-being. Many of us make the mistake of thinking it is selfish to take time out for ourselves, particularly if we have responsibilities to many people in our lives. However, this is precisely the reason taking time out for ourselves is so vitally important. The more of you that you are extending, offering, giving, sharing, and/or using, the more attention you need to give to replenishing, recharging, renewing, and/or re-centering-you.

Each of us has to find ways, in the various areas of our lives, to attend to our own needs. Here are just a couple of examples from each of the areas I’ve mentioned to help get you thinking about your own self-care efforts. Emotionally: Do you give yourself permission to cry, laugh, or express anger in useful ways? Do you stay connected to people, places, and activities you care about and enjoy? Spiritually: Do you have a spiritual community with which to be a part? Are you open to inspirational ideas and take time out for meditation or prayer? Physically: Do you get enough rest, eat healthy, and get check-ups? Do you incorporate enjoyable physical activities and take time off from work and other duties when you need to? Psychologically: Do you set boundaries for yourself by unplugging from the outside stressors and say “No” or make yourself unavailable sometimes? Are you mindful of your own thoughts and feelings and changes in your experience?

We are fallible beings and that is OK. We cannot be all things to all people all of the time, and that is also OK. Learning to establish healthy boundaries for yourself helps you to operate at your best or close to it because doing so allows you the time to yourself to “check-in” with yourself to see what may be depleted or running low. This period of reflection and reconnection is about “refueling” so that you can stay on course throughout your day-to day journey. Take care of yourself and be encouraged.

Contact columnist LaTonya Dunn at ln_dunn@yahoo.com.