How to Improve Your Boundaries After Trauma [VIDEO]

After a lifetime of not knowing how to enforce my boundaries (or even what they were in the first place), one of the toughest things I had to learn after leaving an abusive marriage was how I expected to be treated and how I communicated that to other people. 

Boundaries can feel scary when you’ve never had them before. In the past, maybe standing up for yourself felt dangerous. 

A New Approach to Boundaries

When I was starting a D&D campaign a few months ago, I realized I loved making the character more than I actually liked playing.

I could make my character strong in ways I aspired to be. Which is how I made this course – we treat your brain like a character, and you fill that character up with strengths and defenses and skills that help you rethink how you approach traumatic moments. 

So I turned this idea into a workshop that I taught at Midwinter Gaming Convention in Milwaukee this January, and spent the next couple months adapting it into a six week online coaching course to teach the framework to other people.

The video below introduces the Level Up framework we’ll use to build stronger boundaries, honor your strengths and inherent skills, and make a plan to continue improving for the future.

If you just want the basics on the course, the first half covers everything you need to know! The second half of the video has grounding techniques we use during the course in case the conversation gets heavy.

 

Six Weeks to Better Boundaries

Here’s the basics of the course and what you can expect from participating. 

  • Level Up provides a new way to look at trauma that interrupts the negative feedback loop in your brain
  • By the end of the course, you will have a concrete list of your resources for a “leveled up” approach to your own trauma, triggers, and boundaries
  • Level Up is a six week course, and you should expect to devote about 2-3 hours a week to lessons, assignments/journaling, and video calls
  • Video calls will be followed by a debrief to make sure any negative feelings are worked through and safely grounded
  • This is not a clinical therapy and you may want to work through what you learn here with your regular therapist

Want to get started? I still have a few reserved spots for the session starting April 13 at 50% off list price. Email me to reserve a spot!

The Holiday Obligation Bill of Rights

christmas catIt’s that time of year again. It’s only the first week of December but the flames on your holiday stress fire have been getting hotter since mid November. I’m prone to seasonal affective disorder, which starts as soon as the time change happens and the clocks roll back an hour. Suddenly it’s pitch black when I’m driving home from work, everything is gray and overcast, and the deadlines are rushing at me like something out of a Final Destination movie.

Personally, I’ve got a book deadline, three blog commitments (I have a new website and I’ve started publishing on Medium, though I may adjust the frequency so I’m not tripling my workload with a weekly piece on each platform), and social plans all vying for my attention. Luckily, the whimsy of the season and the thrill of shopping for the perfect gifts for my loved ones gets me through the first couple months of fall/winter, but after the new year starts, it’s just three more months of slush and snow and darkness and existential angst.

As I’ve been working toward a lower impact life (both physically and mentally), I’ve found that I naturally have created guidelines for how to spend my time. Ever the minimalist at heart, it’s important for me to remember that minimalism isn’t just about physical stuff and clutter. It’s also about a healthy schedule and mental clutter so that I make time for the priorities.

Since the holiday season is usually stuffed to the brim like an overfilled stocking with social and family obligations, I want to remind everyone that boundaries and taking care of yourself are still important and valid, even when it feels like your time is more necessary elsewhere.

Here are ten rights you have this holiday season.

  1. You have the right to stay home. Seriously. Even if it’s Christmas at your mom’s house. Even if you haven’t seen your second cousins in fifteen years. Only accept plans you WANT to do and have the ABILITY to do.
  2. You have the right to limit your budget. While “gift giving” is one of the five major love languages, the price tag is not a defining characteristic. Don’t go broke (or into debt) in an attempt to show people how much you care. If you’re close to your budget limits and still want to give more, consider handmade gifts or writing heartfelt notes, especially if the recipient is a “words of affirmation” love language person.
  3. You have the right to leave early. If you’re at a holiday party or family gathering and you’re tired, uncomfortable, or otherwise just don’t want to be there, it’s okay to say your goodbyes and head home early.
  4. You have the right to eat what you want. Love your body, eat a cookie, don’t punish yourself.
  5. You have the right to ask for what you really want. Nobody has to give it to you, but you have the right to create a wish list and be clear about what you want. One year, my sister asked for cash to help fund an alternative break trip she was taking with a group in college, and family members deemed it inappropriate to ask for cash. Unless it hurts somebody, it’s okay to ask for what you want.
  6. You have the right to reschedule social plans. Some of my closest humans probably won’t be able to get together until after Yule and Christmas have actually passed. It’ll still be a great time. You can literally reschedule your holiday festivities to a later date, or celebrate early!
  7. You have the right to call it whatever you want. Celebrate Yule, Christmas, Hannukah, or any other of the myriad winter holidays happening within this timeframe? Rock on and celebrate it your way. Pay no attention to the grumps arguing about the war on Christmas. That’s not a thing.
  8. You have the right to not call people you don’t want to talk to. I am estranged from my parents, and the holidays are one of the toughest times to be estranged. I still feel a little tug that says I should call or reach out. Nope. I do not have to open myself up to emotional abuse, and neither do you.
  9. You have the right to return or re-gift. If you receive a gift that isn’t up your alley for any reason, you are under no obligation to keep it. Don’t stress out by finding a place for it or worrying about what Great Aunt Edna will think if she never sees that sweater in your selfies.
  10. You have the right to not hug people. Neither children nor adults are obligated to hug or otherwise show affection to anyone if they don’t want to. This is especially important to impart to children, who are learning about bodily autonomy. If a little kid doesn’t want to hug and kiss grandma, make it clear to everyone that it’s not okay to force it.
  11. BONUS: You have the right to decorate as much or as little as you want. I hung my favorite ornaments on a potted palm tree. You make the rules!