“Sure, Mom, I’ll help.” As soon as she spoke the words, Mary’s internal thought was, “I do not have time or energy for this! Why did I agree to help?”
Sometimes we just say things automatically, we feel emotionally tied to a situation or we feel an enormous amount of guilt and before we even think what it might involve, we slip out a Yes statement. Sometimes this ends up following us and becomes a standard we try to maintain or attain.
Setting boundaries and being a resilient caregiver is about recognizing the importance of our own lives, family, and work. It is striving towards caregiving within those limits. It doesn’t mean we aren’t dedicated to caring. Quite the opposite. Setting boundaries allows caregivers to continue caring with compassion and devotion and to not feel lost or swallowed up by what the caregiving role. Boundaries are a sign of self-respect.
Good healthy boundaries let caregivers maintain an emotional connection to the person they are caring for without the negative results of feeling they “need” to rescue, enable, fix, or control.
Boundaries allow people the freedom to be themselves. To love and care for someone while accepting personal responsibility for our own actions.
Some Tips for Setting Boundaries
- Whose Issue is this?Is it yours? Your other family member? The person you are caring for? Too often people run into tricky situations with boundaries because they get into other people’s situations where they are not wanted nor requested to be.
- Figure out what keeps you coming back for more; it takes two for a boundary to be violated. If you can figure out why you allow it, you have the option to change. Is it guilt? A desire to please? Do you want to rescue them? Once you figure out the underlying reason, it makes it easier to set boundaries.
- Know Your Limits. You can’t set good boundaries if you’re unsure of where you stand. List your physical, emotional, mental limits. Consider what you can tolerate and accept and identify makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed.
Feeing discomfort and resentment are warning signs we are out of sync with our boundaries. If you are feeling being taken advantage of or not being appreciated, it may reflect pushing yourself too much (due to guilt, wanting to please or rescue). Or the person we are caring for is imposing their expectations, views or values on us.
When someone acts in a way results in feeling of discomfort, it a sign that they may be crossing a boundary.
- Caring within a boundary.
- Managing your role as a caregiver can start with determining what parts of caregiving is something you, and only you, can fulfill.
- Ask yourself if someone else meet the care recipient or person’s needs?
- Sit down and discuss with the person you are caring for what you can do and what you can’t (or won’t) do.
- Explain why you are setting the boundary: work, stress, health, other family obligations, etc.
- Give other options (if warranted).
- Give yourself permission. Take care of yourself and setting boundaries are usually in direct conflict with feelings of guilt, fear or self-doubt. Caregivers can often be worried about the other person’s response when a boundary is set and adhered to. Caregivers also feel they “should” be able to cope with a situation even though they feel their boundaries are being violated. Putting yourself first gives you the energy and perspective to better handle your role as caregiver.
- Find support. Having a group of peers to talk to or a close and trusted confidante, makes it easier to set boundaries and being accountable.
Above else – It takes courage and practice to set boundaries and stay the course. Be kind to yourself in the process.