Posts Tagged ‘setting boundaries’

Someone said in class this weekend, “I tell clients that if the only tool in their toolbox is a hammer, they need to add more.” I say she’s right. One cannot build a solid foundation and ultimately a “house” with only a hammer. We need to be prepared and have tools that fit our situations. Imagine trying to position a screw tightly with a hammer… not going to be too easy.

As we venture through our lives, we accumulate things that help us reach the next moment. Many times, these things are unhealthy and can lead to bigger problems. It’s important for each of us to be equipped with coping skills or “tools” that not only get us through, but that help us avoid making the situation worse and/or repeating that situation in the future.

I work a lot with individuals struggling with anger. The saying I hear frequently is that under anger is a whole set of other feelings… Anger is a cover-up feeling. Many times, the response to anger can be quick and may relieve our frustrations temporarily, but we may not always consider the linger effects of such a response. By response I mean the thing(s) we do to get back at the person who angered us or the way in which we handle the source of our anger. For example, if a man finds out his wife is cheating, he may respond by cheating, fighting, yelling, etc. In the end, this could potentially intensify the situation to a point where any remediation is impossible. Another example may be the woman who drinks when she finds out she lost her job.

My toolbox is still being filled, but I wanted to share with you some coping skills that I have used to help me respond to my emotions. I’m guilty of not always responding in the best ways and my history proves that I have had to work through what I was doing to cope in an effort to help me use more than a hammer to build my house.

Skills I’ve used:

1. Positive self-talk – This skill is tough and one I have to work hard to utilize when my mind takes off in a negative direction. Increasing the amount of praise we give to ourselves is one of the best ways to build confidence. Furthermore, positive self-talk can help us think about a situation in a more healthy way without catastrophizing.

2. Distraction – When we are in a place where triggers are lurking and our unhealthy behaviors are calling, it can be best to distract ourselves with a walk, a book, a phone call, etc. This empowers us and helps us realize we don’t always have to give into our urges… no matter what they are.

3. Listen without judging – HUGE for me. I am a terrible listener who, as a counselor trainee, is focused very much on improving this skill. If there is someone yelling at me because they are having a bad day, I am learning to not let myself get angry, too, but listen and process before responding.

4. Reach out – This is a skill I’m not the best at utilizing. I have been very independent and in some ways down-right selfish. I used to think that I could handle everything myself and I didn’t let others in very well. Now I know that when I try handling things solely on my own, I lean toward those things that formerly caused me distress. Therefore, I am attempting to reach out to my boyfriend, my mentor and my therapist more.

5. Journal – See my previous post on the benefits of journaling. I love to write and journaling is a very useful tool when we are experiencing emotions we are uncertain how to express. It’s great because we can write just about anywhere and if we don’t have a pen, we can type something as a memo into our phones. I highly recommend putting this tool in your toolbox.

6. Set boundaries – It is ever so important for us to set clear boundaries with those around us. This not only protects us, but protects others. We have the right to express our limits, what we can handle and what we can’t handle.

7. Identify your goals – What do you want in life? What do you hope to accomplish today? Take a few minutes every night or every morning and identify what desires you have for yourself.

8. Recognize your accomplishments – We all need a little praise once in awhile, but if you’re like me, you struggle to recognize the things you do well. I used to think that if I used one unhealthy behavior during the day and had done fine the rest of the day, the whole thing was a bust and I needed to start all over. Today, I recognize that even when I make mistakes, I have still done something healthy. Every moment is new and living in the mistakes we made will lead to a disintegration of our confidence and hope faster than we can say… well… confidence and hope.

Until next time…


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