Earlier this week, I wrote to you about the hurricanes and storms of life that involve hurt feelings, unwanted drama, and broken relationships. We can identify the hurricanes, but we can’t always avoid them. So how do we prepare for that inevitable storm that’s headed our way?
The first step is to know your personal boundaries. Know what you will, and will not, tolerate from others in your life. Maybe you’ve never considered having boundaries before: “They’re family. I should tolerate anything.” Let me caution you if this has been your stance. Accepting people for who they are is so important to developing healthy relationships and maintaining peace, but you do not have to tolerate inappropriate or unhealthy behavior from anyone, even family. The family member who gossips about everyone else’s problems—you don’t have to tolerate that. The person who cannot manage their own emotions and creates drama for everyone around him/her—you don’t have to be a part of that. The one who always seems to start an argument—you don’t have to participate in that. Having healthy boundaries means that I don’t have to accept every problem or issue that’s dumped in my lap, and many times it’s better to refuse to do so.
Once we know what our boundaries are, we need to be clear about them to others. This is best done with compassion, respect, and honesty. We exhibit compassion when we put ourselves in the shoes of another, and when we try to understand what they might be feeling: “I can see this is a difficult situation for you, and I’m sorry you’re going through it” is an example of a compassionate statement. “That’s not my problem. You deal with it” is not compassionate and not a healthy boundary.
We can show respect for another person in our tone, our words, and even our body language. We can exhibit respect for them as fellow human beings, even though we may feel anger, hurt, or frustration at their behaviors. Ignoring someone, criticizing them, or yelling at them is not a respectful response and does not exhibit healthy boundaries. Finally, we must be honest about how someone’s behavior affects us, and how we choose to respond to it.
Preparing for the hurricane requires good self-care in addition to healthy boundaries. Self-care, simply enough, is what we do for ourselves to maintain our physical, mental, and emotional health. For some it involves getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating healthy. For others it may mean having down time from the stressors of life, or quiet time to sit and reflect. It may mean engaging in healthy distractions such as reading a book or seeing a movie. Self-care activities refuel us and give us the energy to face the storms of our lives.
There’s the hurricane. I see it moving my way, and I can’t avoid it. But I can prepare, and I can deal with it effectively. Next time, I’ll explain what to do inside of the storm and how to recover in the aftermath.