How to Maintain Your Emotional Boundaries

The trick is to maintain balance, there is an internal cost to expending energy

Posted Mar 01, 2017

Apparently, I am an unusual therapist. It’s not that I practice some strange method or use a crystal ball, but I actually return calls, texts, and emails from my clients, usually the same day. I really don’t think that therapy can (or should) be limited to an hour a week. If someone is in crisis, and when I am not in session, I will do what I can to help them. It usually only takes about ten minutes, and they get what they need until I can see them again.

The trick is to maintain balance, because there is an internal cost to expending too much emotional energy. This holds true for anyone who is working or raising a family. Really good performers know that giving just a little more (to clients, coworkers, or the ones they love) can yield many benefits. The great ones know that if you give your all, the results will be stellar. However, if you don’t take care of yourself in the process, you can burn out or become resentful.

This holds true for all relationships. It’s important to maintain a good balance between caring for others and caring for yourself. This means that if you are a giver by nature, you have to remember to put on your own oxygen mask first. I find that sometimes I do have to step away from the phone (or lock it in the safe), so I can take care of myself and decompress.

If you are a caring person, you may find that you give too much. If this happens, then what can you do about it? First, look at why it is happening at this moment. This is important because if you can see how you got into this position, you may be able to avoid it in the future.

Next, get out your personal decompression plan (PDP) and remind yourself what works for you. Don’t have a PDP or don’t know what one is? Allow me to help. First, write down things that help you find emotional balance, such as hugging the dog, doing the dishes, taking a walk, or playing with the kids. Making a list of these emotionally healing acts simply helps you take advantage of what you already have but may have forgotten about because you are too busy taking care of those around you.

Probably your best tool is self-awareness. We may not realize we are feeling a little over the top until someone else notices that we’re acting differently and asks, “Is everything okay?” It’s important to really check in with ourselves. These days, I’m better at asking myself the same question and being honest with what’s really going on for me.

Holding good emotional boundaries is as much about checking in with yourself as it is about learning to stand firm with other people. Awareness is key, and acting sooner rather than later will help you recover more quickly. We all need to recharge from time to time. It’s important, and vacations should be sacred. Without strong boundaries and self-care, you can’t care for anyone or anything else.