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Improve your life by setting and maintaining personal boundaries

The following guest column was submitted by Meaghan Heighway.

As a native of Springville, I have known a lot of hunters. These men and women share some common traits. They like hunting for the sport, the knowledge that they can provide food for their families and the joy of being out in nature.

One thing I’m sure every hunter has seen is a “no trespassing” sign, in certain parts of woods or fields. This reminds anyone who sees it that he or she is about to cross over, into someone else’s property, without permission.

The sign delineates what is technically a permeable boundary, right? That is, it’s just a sign, something we could ignore and go right on by, if we wanted to. This is not always true, obviously; some “no trespassing” signs are accompanied by reinforcements like fences, barbed wire or the like.

If we choose to ignore that permeable boundary, we are setting ourselves up for trouble, if we are caught by the owner of that sign. Chances are, our presence will not be welcome.

A “no trespassing” sign is a line that defines where someone’s property ends and someone else’s begins. Similar physical boundaries include fences, posts, foliage or roads.

While physical boundaries can be relatively easy to spot and adhere to, personal and inter-relational boundaries are not so easy to work with. What can be extremely frustrating is that we are not born knowing how to deal with the idea of boundaries. This is something we have to learn and, often, we are not even aware that this is something we struggle with.

Some common signs that indicate a boundary issue include repeated relationship difficulties (always dating the same kind of person and being repeatedly asked to loan money or resources to people), recurring health and food issues (yo-yo dieting or not having a consistent exercise or food routine), not knowing how to effectively manage stress (not delegating jobs and never saying no) or feeling short-tempered or emotionally ragged (feeling as though anything could set us over the edge and having outbursts, directed at ourselves or others).

These are just some of the symptoms of having weak or permeable boundaries in our lives. Once we become aware of the fact that our personal boundaries are weak or easily penetrable, we can make changes. Becoming aware of an issue in our lives allows us to make effective and lasting changes.

Making changes can be very overwhelming. We are faced with the daunting question, “Where do I start?”

Identify the area that you feel needs the most work. For instance, this could be insomnia, overeating or failed romantic relationships. Decide that this primary target area will be what you focus on first, and then find ways to break that goal into concrete, manageable goals.

If you suffer from insomnia (and your doctor has said that this is not indicative of a greater health problem), ask, “How does my daily life contribute to my problem with falling or staying asleep?” By assessing what contributes to your lack of sleep, you can plan your next step.

Do you drink too many caffeinated beverages? Do you spend extra time unwinding in front of the computer screen, before you call it a day? Extended exposure to light from a computer monitor can disrupt the going-to-sleep response of your brain.

If you have kids, do you allow them to stay up until you go to bed, or do they have a set routine, going to bed before you do, so you have adequate time to unwind?

All of these life choices can contribute to a pattern of insomnia, and these choices reflect boundary patterns in our lives that need to be worked on.

Choose to empower yourself. You can decide whether or not to give something the power to influence how you live your daily life. Greater self control goes hand-in-hand with better boundaries.

In the case of insomnia, greater self control would be seen by saying the following: “I am going to get ready for bed at 11 p.m. I will brush my teeth, wash my face, change into my pajamas and read for 15 minutes, before I turn the lights off at 11:30.”

Earlier in the day, make changes, so that you know this promise to yourself will occur. Limit your caffeine intake, get things ready for tomorrow finished, by 10:30 p.m. and write a worry list, if your anxiety is keeping you awake. The choices are endless and up to you, but you must make a new habit to help get more sleep. Then, you must enforce that habit, by having the right boundaries, which come from making right decisions, earlier.

Boundaries allow us to protect ourselves and others, by having clear lines that show what we truly want out of life. By having boundaries, we not only empower ourselves, but we also help others, by demonstrating appropriate behaviors, toward and with them.

This is not a change people make overnight and it is something that you may have found has stretched over multiple areas. That is very normal, but you must realize that there is a problem, make changes to fix it and move toward growth.

Pursuing a better life, even if it is not fast, is all we can really ask for.

Contact Heighway at or call her at 380 – 1750.

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