Know your boundaries. It’s totally OK to say ‘No’!

Connect with yourself first. Listen to your body and mind to understand your natural limits, and learn to say “No”.

BY BO FORBES, Pyschologist & Yoga Teacher 

Sometimes it is very difficult to set your boundaries, but learning how to do it makes you gently say ‘No’ to doing something you don’t want to. It is a simple word that goes a long way in managing stress.

Newsha Rostampour (cq) doing yoga poses at Moss in Denver, Colorado, Monday, March 21, 2016. Photo by Matt Nager

When you “yes” to someone or something and go against what you really wanted to say (a “No”), you feel taken advantage of and burnt out. Energy just leaves you immediately and you feel lost, sad and often disappointed–and in many cases, angry.

That’s not being fair to yourself.

As a psychologist and yoga teacher who helps people set healthy boundaries, I’ve learned that to have true staying power, boundaries need to happen from the innermost layer out. There are three components to this:

Step 1: Regulate your autonomic nervous system (ANS). ANS controls respiration and heart rate, and when it’s out of balance, we become vulnerable to anxiety and depression. When it’s on overdrive, everything seems to trigger a fight-or-flight response, making it difficult to tune into your body’s boundary-related red flags, such as physical discomfort when you’ve mistakenly said “yes”. Effective ways to calm your ANS include nasal breathing with a longer exhale (which slows the heart), restorative poses, and mindfulness.

Step 2: Cultivate embodiment. Once your ANS is settled, you can practice embodiment, or present-moment awareness that’s felt in the body. Emerging research in neuroscience shows that when we practice embodiment, we can turn down the volume on negative narratives and build a more solid sense of self. This body-based mindfulness helps us stay rooted in our own experience, know more quickly when a boundary has been violated, and feel strong enough to honor our truth. The best ways to create embodiment? Meditation that focuses on the body and mindful movement. Just be aware of what’s happening inside you and to you.

Step 3: Develop energy and awareness in your enteric nervous system (ENS). ENS is often called our “second brain”, and it determines what is nourishing and what is causing inflammation. Think of your ENS as the epicenter of your inner boundaries— your “gut check”, literally. Practices that develop core strength, release tight connective tissue, and promote awareness of sensations (e.g., satiety and inflammation) help you connect with your gut intelligence.

Newsha Rostampour (cq) doing yoga poses at Moss in Denver, Colorado, Monday, March 21, 2016. Photo by Matt Nager

As you work through these elements, you’ll feel, and set, your boundaries with greater clarity. And other people in turn will read your inner strength and challenge you less strongly and less often.

Remember, if you really don’t want to do something or don’t want to go somewhere, listen to your gut.
It’s O-K-A-Y to say “No” – Nicely, gently and affirmatively.

Photography: Matthew Nager / Model: Newsha Rostampour, Denver, Colorado

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