Professional Boundaries in Times of Crisis
It’s not easy to set your boundaries when you are the one responsible to provide care to someone who might be violating your boundaries.
Regardless of whether you recognize that or not, it still hurts when you feel your boundaries have been violated. Maybe you are in the health care industry and your patient coughs on you. Maybe you have to go on a 14 day quarantine because a sick person came in your store. Maybe you are a behavioral health professional who was just the brunt of someone’s misplaced anger. Maybe you are a parent and your screaming infant won’t allow you to sleep and know one can offer support. While intellectually you know they didn’t mean to do it, emotionally you might feel angry, hurt, violated, betrayed, alone, fragile, hopeless and helpless. Over an extended period of time these emotions can turn into feelings of shame and unworthiness, which will begin to impact your self-esteem and outlook on life. You may begin to lose hope and experience thought cycles that are destructive and zap your energy. Eventually, you may find that you are in a perpetual state of fight, flight or freeze as generally life’s challenges feel more like threats that you feel ill-equipped to conquer.
There is hope. It is possible to build a resilience to these negative emotions that come as a result of feeling your boundaries have been violated in these extreme situations where you have made the choice to give and nurture even in the face of fear, frustration, loss and pain?
First, recognize the truth of the situation. Just because you are making the choice to be in the situation, does not mean that you wont or can’t feel hurt, betrayed, angry, violated and vulnerable. You will. It’s only natural. Allow yourself to experience those feelings without judgment or shame.
Second, try to keep your self worth cup as full as you can. I know this may seem impossible as you are likely running on empty, but hopefully you can find just a glimpse of the belief that you are worth it! That you deserve to be filled with love, acceptance, goodness, appreciation, and anything else good you can imagine… even in the hardest of times.
When you feel depleted, it is possible to fuel up. There are a few quick and easy techniques that might help. One simple strategy is to take a moment (literally one minute or less) breathe in and say to yourself, “I love you. I see your pain. This is really hard.” When you breathe out, say, “You are giving your absolute best. Your value is beyond measure.” Do this as often as you can, maybe every time you take a drink, every time you use the bathroom, every time you make eye contact with a colleague, every time you walk away from a patient and every time you feel like crying.
Another simple strategy for when you have more than just a minute, maybe 15… take the time to watch something positive. Search for the video clips and stories of the encouragement and appreciation felt around the world for the work you do. Join in that appreciation and let it soak in until you feel it. Reach out to others who you know will have your back, who you can share your feelings with and who will comfort you and cheer for you.
Engaging in these small acts of kindness toward yourself can sustain you until you are able to take a longer break and engage in the self-care activities you know work best for you. Sometimes, your responsibilities can put you in a vulnerable position where you are unable to protect your boundaries. If allowed to go on unnoticed and for too long these boundary violations can cause significant harm to your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Remembering to give compassion, empathy, acceptance and love to yourself can build your resilience and immunity to the harm that can be caused by the giving and nurturing work you do.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you do!