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Guest Post By Camille McDaniel, LPC, CPCS

I didn’t know exactly which topic I wanted to share with you initially. I wanted it to be relatable and at the same time hold your attention. Then it hit me. A voice said, “Just write what you see.” So I’m listening.

This is something I’ve helped so many people with over the years and this is a road that I travel regularly. Logically, you may know that you need boundaries with friends and family in order to keep your emotional and mental wellness intact. However, it can be difficult to put these boundaries into action when the time comes. Why? Why can’t we just do what we know we need to do and say what we need to say in order to maintain emotional and mental wellness? It has a lot to do with our perception of what it means to be assertive, how we want people to see us, and how we feel about ourselves.

Today, I want to give you three tips for creating the foundation of healthy boundaries. I also want to provide support for that part of your brain that may hold tight to the idea that it’s not worth the risk to try these three tips.

  1. Give yourself permission to be okay. Everyone is not interested in being healthy emotionally and mentally. Sometimes staying in what is familiar, even if it’s toxic, is more comfortable than trying to change for the better. When you decide to start creating a healthier space for yourself, some people may try to use manipulation as a way of getting you to just accept their poor behaviors, as if you’re the one who is wrong for trying to create boundaries for yourself. My advice? Don’t try too hard to make them okay with your changes. Let them own their own feelings. Boundaries are okay and YOU are okay for wanting to create a healthier life for yourself.
  1. Let people know how you feel when it happens. When you don’t advocate for yourself by speaking up, something happens. You sit and think about the event over the next few days and instead of actually saying what is wrong, you may let your body language speak for you or you may act like everything is fine and start resenting the person for “not knowing better” than to act that way. Letting the person know how they affected you will give that person an opportunity to learn more about you and understand how their actions are impacting you. What if they don’t care you ask? Well let me refer you back to the last part of #1: “Boundaries are okay and YOU are okay for wanting to create a healthier life for yourself.”
  1. Know when to let go. Sometimes you just have to love people from a distance. It’s not because you don’t care about them. It’s because you care about them and yourself enough to know when to stop toxic cycles from continuing in both of your lives. In time, that person may change or maybe they won’t. Either way, you must know when it’s time to put space between you and them.

Cam Headshot

Camille McDaniel, LPC, CPCS is the founder and director of Healing Psychotherapy Practices of Georgia, LLC in Kennesaw, Georgia.  She is also the creator of an online business called The Counselor Entrepreneur. You can find more about her work at http://www.CamilleMcDaniel.com.

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As a child, one of my favorite things to do was to blow bubbles in the yard. Sometimes I liked to blow them in the house, too, until my mom caught me and told me to get outside. I distinctly remember a time at my dad’s house in Rhode Island when bubbles got my sisters and I in major trouble. Dad was at work and the lady who lived in the upstairs apartment was babysitting. Two of my sisters and I decided to take the bubble blowing up a notch and add an element of ice skating. While enjoy our bubbles – indoors – we emptied the container of soap onto the kitchen floor. In our socks, we skated around like we were in the winter Olympics.

Until our dad came home…

I’m sure many of you also enjoyed blowing bubbles as a kid or with your kids. I still love to get out the wand or squeeze the Dawn soap bottle until the kitchen fills with tiny bubbles. But, let’s look at a different meaning for the word “bubble.”

The term is used to signify one’s physical comfort level with others. If we are too close to someone because they have stepped inside our metaphorical bubble, all kinds of emotions can come up. For me, I don’t like being too close to individuals so my bubble is much larger. Others enjoy being close and have no bubble at all. Regardless, it’s OK to determine how big or small is your bubble and to allow certain individuals to cross into or not cross into it.

While in crisis prevention intervention training, we did an exercise that challenged us to consider how close we let people get to us. The purpose was to show how when our personal bubbles are burst, we can react quickly to the discomfort. The trainer pointed out that as my partner in the exercise got closer, I tended to lean back and rub my hands together with anxiety. My partner, however, had a very close personal bubble and it was OK on her end to be within inches of my face.

There is nothing wrong with creating your own bubble size. In fact, it’s healthy to be aware of what is comfortable for you and what can trigger intense anxiety or other emotions. I have a rule with a family member who, because of cognitive disabilities, is unable to realize my bubble size: Ask before hugging me. If left up to him, he would hug me every five minutes, but he knows now that I will refuse to hug him unless he asks… BEFORE wrapping his arms around me.

It’s not mean. It’s simply my way of saying I have boundaries and I need them to be respected. What about you? Have you determined the size of your bubble? If so, is it a big bubble or a little bubble and have you made others aware of this?

Something more to think about…

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I used to joke that I should quit my job as a journalist and become a picture clown because I can make unhappy children smile. Now, I’m not saying I’m a “kid person,” but apparently I have a gift beyond writing.

How do I do it? How do I see distraught children acting out and hear them cry or hear their tragic stories and actually make a difference? I use my silliness and humor at times, of course, but the real answer is simple: I take the time.

I see kids who are upset, crying, throwing fits or whatever and I can give them my “I’m listening” look or say, “What is that about?” and suddenly I find myself with a calm child (even if its temporary). I tend to use a kid-like approach, make silly faces and/or offer a hug and kids respond to this. Even some very challenging kids whom I have seen or worked with (usually minus the hug in the latter situation).

In the counseling setting, there must always be boundaries and with children who have attachment disorders and/or attention-seeking behaviors, a very clear boundary must be set. While we can help those children, we can’t become someone upon whom they are dependent and we can’t become their friends. However, I still find that we can make a difference just by offering a less directive approach, getting on their level and opening our ears to what is going on. If it takes a bit of humor to get the kid to crack, well I don’t see anything ethically wrong with that.

For kids who aren’t clients (the screaming baby beside you in a restaurant; the four year old who insists that his mother buy him a bike, etc) maybe we can all take just a few moments to inquire, pay attention, and soothe.

Just something to think about…

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