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The Importance of Healthy Boundaries and How to Set Them

You’re probably familiar with the idea of having good boundaries, and you know they can benefit your relationships and your mental health. Boundaries can keep us from feeling taken advantage of or resentful of others and can boost our self-confidence and sense of self-worth. They can also prevent us from taking on the problems and negative emotions of other people.

However, there is often confusion about what setting boundaries really looks like, and how you can set them effectively. There are also several reasons that people find it difficult to set strong boundaries.

So, you know that boundaries are important, but do you know how to actually set them? Do you know why you might have difficulty doing it, and what might help? 

Let’s dive into some of those answers so you can start developing better boundaries in your life.

What Makes It Hard To Set Boundaries

There are several reasons why you may have difficulty setting boundaries with others. A common reason is the fear of disappointing another person or making another person angry. It can feel risky to say what you need or want, or place a limit on what you are willing to do. In that situation, another person might be disappointed, angry, or have some other kind of negative reaction. Although their reaction may be difficult to deal with, the alternative is that you do not get your own needs met or that you end up taking things on that leave you overwhelmed or resentful.

So, you’re left with a choice. It is important to know that it is common to predict that someone will react negatively to a boundary being set, and then when it happens, the experience goes much more positively than anticipated.

It is also common for people who have a history of trauma to have difficulty setting boundaries with others. When you have experienced trauma, especially multiple times, your boundaries have been violated over and over again. This can leave you unsure of what your boundaries should even be. It can be a process to learn how to identify your own wants, needs, and limits so that you can start to communicate these to others.

How Can You Set Boundaries Effectively? 

When you are thinking about seeing boundaries, there are both physical and mental/emotional boundaries to consider. Physical boundaries tend to be more obvious. You have to decide what you’re comfortable with and what you don’t want to allow. It’s important to make those boundaries as clear as possible. Mental/emotional boundaries can be more complicated to explain to other people. These include your needs, wants, beliefs, feelings, and even the time you need to be alone. 

When you’re communicating your boundaries with others, be clear and concise. You don’t have to go into a lot of detail explaining yourself, and it’s okay to simply express that you need to set certain boundaries right now in order to feel comfortable. The people who care about you will understand that. If you are nervous, you can remind yourself of what was mentioned above: the experience usually goes better than people predict it will. You also will want to remind yourself of all of the reasons you want to set the boundary. It can also help to do a breathing exercise for anxiety before having the conversation.

If People React Negatively

There may be some people who don’t necessarily react well when you set a boundary. If someone reacts negatively, you can acknowledge that they are upset or frustrated, but that you still have your need/want/limit. If they start to go off topic, or continue to become angry, you can choose to end the conversation (another way of setting a boundary). If over time they continue to not respect what you are asking for, you will have to evaluate whether you want to continue in the relationship with this person. This of course will depend on what kind of boundary you are trying to set, and what your relationship is with this person.

Setting boundaries can be complicated since it impacts your relationships. Although it may be difficult, the payoff of having strong boundaries is definitely worth it. You are likely to notice increased self-confidence and less resentment in your relationships, along with other mental health benefits.

If you are struggling to set boundaries with the people in your life, and you’d like some help figuring out how to navigate this, feel free to contact me for more information or to set up a free consultation or an appointment. I’m happy to help so that you can experience the benefits of stronger boundaries within your relationships.

Box Breathing: A Simple Exercise To Help Ease Your Anxiety

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition across the globe. There are many causes for it, and different triggers for everyone. Unfortunately, it’s also something that doesn’t just go away on its own. 

Managing anxiety involves getting to the very core of the problem. Talking to a mental health professional is one of the best ways to work through it and eventually find freedom from your fear. 

In addition to getting professional help, there are things you can do on your own to ease your anxiety, especially if it feels overwhelming. 

One of the easiest techniques to help manage anxiety and feelings of panic is called box breathing (also referred to as four-square breathing). This exercise can help ease your anxiety and provide you with a sense of calm when those fearful thoughts creep in. 

What is Box Breathing?

Deep breathing exercises to calm your anxiety are nothing new. Box breathing is unique because it focuses on four “corners” of your breath. The pattern for box breathing focuses on four aspects: 

  • Inhale
  • Hold
  • Exhale
  • Hold

By focusing on that breathing pattern and actually picturing a box or square, your body has more control over the air you’re breathing. This allows you to focus on that pattern and your control over your breath, which can help to reduce feelings of anxiety. Not only does it serve as a distraction away from anxious thoughts, but it helps you feel you have control over something. 

Four-square breathing is so effective and so easy to do, that it’s a technique often used by those in high-stress situations, such as nurses and Navy SEALs. 

How to Do it Correctly

Now that you know the benefits of four-square breathing, how can you make sure you’re doing it correctly? 

The good news is it’s very hard to get it “wrong” as long as you keep the imagery of four corners in your mind as you do it. There are only a few simple steps to follow: 

  1. Sit up straight and exhale slowly through your mouth, getting as much oxygen out of your lungs as possible. While you’re doing this, be conscious of the way you’re breathing and how it feels. 
  2. Inhale slowly through your nose as you count to four. Concentrate on the feeling of air filling your lungs. 
  3. Hold your breath for four counts. 
  4. Exhale once again, slowly counting to four as you do. Pay attention to the air leaving your lungs and how that feels. 
  5. Hold your breath once more for four counts. Start at the beginning and repeat the pattern. 

Even if you’re a beginner to deep breathing exercises, this technique is easy enough for anyone to try. So, whether you want to make it a part of your daily routine or to use it when you’re feeling especially anxious, box breathing is one tool that can help you manage your anxiety regularly. 

What Are the Benefits? 

Almost any deep breathing exercise done with intention can be beneficial to your mind and body. Box breathing is especially effective for anxiety because of the slower way you breathe and the way you hold your breath. There is so much strong evidence about the benefits of deep breathing when it comes to your nervous system, and as you continue to box breathe, you can reduce your stress levels, lower your blood pressure, and even improve your mood. It can be used “in the moment” if you feel a bout of anxiety coming on, or as part of your daily routine to keep fearful thoughts under control and manage your stress. Some people choose to do it at night before bed, to calm themselves down before they try to sleep.  

Even if you’re a beginner to deep breathing exercises, this technique is easy enough for anyone to try. So, whether you want to make it a part of your daily routine or to use it when you’re feeling especially anxious, box breathing is one tool that can help you manage your anxiety. 

Is Therapy Right for You? When It’s Time to See a Therapist and How it Can Help

I am often asked by friends and family members if I think they should go to therapy for various concerns they have. My answer is usually, “it depends.” One of the biggest factors that will determine what you get out of therapy is whether you are motivated to work on yourself, including increasing your self-awareness and changing behaviors that are no longer serving you.

There are many different types of therapy available, and many different types of therapists to choose from. Research has found time and time again that the factor that most influences whether you will see good results from therapy is your relationship with your therapist. This means that when you are looking for a therapist it is so important to find someone that seems like a good fit for your personality, and someone that you feel truly comfortable with.

Therapy can be a great option for improving your mood, relationships, and overall functioning at work, school, and home. However, it’s something that you need to be ready to invest the time, money, and energy into.

Sometimes people hold off on going to therapy because they want to try to handle what they are going through on their own. They may also not know the warning signs of different mental health conditions, or they’ve heard stereotypes about therapy over the years that are keeping them away. Sometimes people don’t need therapy in order to deal with what they are going through; however, sometimes it would help make that struggle a lot easier to deal with.

Do You Need Therapy? 

People use therapy for different reasons. Some people go to therapy as an act of self-care and use it in order to maintain a healthy mental state. Others go when they notice emotional or behavioral problems that are causing them distress.

The American Psychological Association suggests that an individual can benefit from therapy when something is causing enough distress in their lives to interfere with the way they live. As you might expect, that looks different for everyone. 

For example, you might have feelings of anxiety sometimes that you try to control and keep inside. You are still able to get through your day, but you’ve noticed the anxiety impacting your life more and more. Therapy can be a good option when: 

  • The things that you are worrying about are on your mind for several hours a day.
  • You want to avoid others (including people you care about) because of the anxiety.
  • You have tried to develop your own coping techniques, but they aren’t working for you anymore.
  • Your quality of life has decreased.

If you feel controlled by your symptoms, therapy is a great option. It can help you take control again and learn how to manage your symptoms in a safe, healthy way. 

A Better Way to Cope

Everyone tries to find ways to deal with uncomfortable emotions when they come up. Some coping mechanisms are helpful. Others are harmful. 

Therapy can take you beyond just trying to cope with the negative feelings. Once you’re able to get to the root of an issue with a therapist, you can learn the skills needed to resolve the problems that are causing the symptoms in the first place.  

As a result, you might start to feel less overwhelmed and less fatigued. Feelings of fear and/or hopelessness may fade. While therapy isn’t some kind of “quick fix” or instant cure for any mental health condition, it puts you back in the driver’s seat of your own mental health. Therapy can be a great strengthening tool to help you work through your symptoms, rather than trying to make them disappear overnight. 

If you’re still on the fence about whether therapy is right for you, feel free to contact me. We can discuss any questions you have about whether therapy might be a good choice for you and your current situation.  

Why Most People Misunderstand Anxiety

Anxiety is one of the most prominent mental health conditions across the globe. In the U.S. alone, it’s estimated that 40 million adults deal with some type of anxiety disorder. 

And yet, anxiety is still incredibly misunderstood. 

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons it’s often misunderstood is because we have belittled it so much. Do you know people who say things like, “I almost had a panic attack when I couldn’t find my keys!” or “I like to keep things neat, I’m so OCD.” Chances are, that situation didn’t actually cause a panic attack and that person who likes to be organized does not actually have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

So, when someone with true anxiety comes forward, it’s easy for people to assume that it doesn’t mean much. Even people with anxiety can misunderstand it. Since it can be confusing, here are some ways you can better understand anxiety.

Understanding the Definition 

Part of the difficulty in understanding what people mean when they say they have anxiety is that there is a difference between having anxiety and having an anxiety disorder. defines anxiety as “distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune.” According to this definition, it would make sense that everyone has experienced the feeling of anxiety at some point in their life. The difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder is that an anxiety disorder is something that is occurring for a substantial period of time and is causing significant impairment in a person’s functioning in different areas of their life.

So if someone were to say to you that they are struggling with anxiety, it can be important to get more information from them in order to fully understand how much the anxiety is impacting them. They could be worried about an upcoming test or a meeting with their boss, and their feelings of anxiety may decrease after that event. On the other hand, they could be having panic attacks everyday whenever they have to leave the house. These two situations are obviously very different, and would require different types of support.

Dealing With an Anxiety Disorder

Another reason some people misunderstand anxiety is because they don’t want to admit they may have a mental health condition. People may feel comfortable acknowledging that they are “stressed” or “worried,” but they often do not go into details about how debilitating the stress or worrying has become. Since stress is something everyone experiences, it is not stigmatized in the same way that an anxiety disorder might be.

However, it is so important to acknowledge what you are actually experiencing, at least to a mental health professional, so that you can get a proper diagnosis. Anxiety disorders are very treatable, but they rarely go away on their own.

If you feel you may have an anxiety disorder, feel free to contact me for more information or to set up a time to talk. This will help you understand more about what you are experiencing, and learn some steps to be able to manage it. 

Postpartum Anxiety: Symptoms and Treatment

Whether you are currently pregnant, already have children, or know someone who does, you have undoubtedly heard of postpartum depression (PPD).

But have you heard of postpartum anxiety (PPA)?

It’s almost as common as postpartum depression but isn’t talked about nearly as much. Both conditions present after giving birth and cause significant distress. And yet, the symptoms are very different.

That’s precisely why it’s essential to know as much as possible about postpartum anxiety, so you can get the help you need or encourage someone else who may be struggling to get treatment.

When Normal Worrying Turns Into Something More

When you’re a new parent, it’s perfectly natural to worry about your baby’s health and safety. You might wonder if they are eating enough, if they are sleeping like other babies do, or if they are developing on schedule. You might also be worried about the state of your own life (i.e., the pile of dishes in the sink or how you’ll possibly juggle all of your new obligations).

These things are natural. A little worrying shows how much you care for and love your baby and want what’s best for him or her. However, these everyday worries can sometimes turn into something more.

If you find that your fears are keeping you awake at night or completely taking over your thoughts, you may be dealing with postpartum anxiety.

What Are the Symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety?

How can you tell when your typical worries have gone too far? Understanding some of the most common signs of postpartum anxiety (PPA) can make you aware of whether you might be struggling with PPA. The most prominent symptoms include:

· Constant worrying or fear that doesn’t go away

· Feelings of dread

· Continually thinking about bad things that could happen

· Sleep that is disrupted by your worries/fears

· Irritability

· Concentration problems

Your symptoms may also present themselves physically. As a new mother, that’s probably the last thing you want to hear. Your body is still recovering, and you might be experiencing some physical issues from giving birth. Some of the physical symptoms to look out for with postpartum anxiety are:

· Fatigue

· Hyperventilation

· Racing heart

· Sweating

· Nausea

· Trembling

Postpartum Panic Attacks

Individuals with PPA may sometimes experience panic attacks. A panic attack can feel like a few moments of extreme fear and dread, along with physical symptoms such as:

· Shortness of breath

· Racing heart

· Dizziness

· Chest pain

· Sweating

· Shaking

· Hot flashes

· Nausea

· Numbness

· Chills

· Fear of “going crazy”

The panic attack may also be accompanied by an overwhelming fear of death, whether you’re thinking about yourself or your baby. The good news is that these attacks don’t last long. However, they can be terrifying to go through.

Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is one type of postpartum anxiety disorder, and it is the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed postpartum condition. If you are struggling with this disorder, you would be experiencing repetitive and intrusive thoughts or images (obsessions) that are often related to the baby and can consist of frightening thoughts about harming the baby in some way. You may be frightened or ashamed to admit to having these thoughts because you are scared of what your doctor or therapist might think. It is important for you to know that if you are struggling with postpartum OCD, you are not likely to act on the thoughts that you are having. You cannot control what comes into your mind, but you can control your behavior, and there is no link between postpartum OCD and harming your child.

In addition to the obsessions, in postpartum OCD you also experience compulsions which are behaviors that you engage in to reduce the anxiety that the obsessions cause. Some common compulsions involve keeping the baby away from dangerous situations (the stairs), cleaning constantly, or checking/counting items. While postpartum OCD is often misunderstood or misdiagnosed, if you see a therapist trained in postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, you can receive the correct treatment, and with treatment your symptoms should improve.

What Can You Do About Postpartum Anxiety?

The first step in getting treatment for postpartum anxiety is getting a proper diagnosis. That’s why it’s essential to recognize the signs and know that PPA is a common problem for many new mothers.

You can talk with your doctor or start looking for a therapist that specializes in postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. Treatment options include individual therapy, support groups, and/or treatment with medication. Often people benefit from a combination of treatment approaches. Reaching out for help can be difficult, but is the first step towards feeling more like yourself again.

More Resources

Postpartum Support International – Anxiety During and After Pregnancy

Women’s Mental Health – Is It Postpartum Depression or Anxiety?

Our Resources Page

If you feel you are dealing with postpartum anxiety and you’re unsure how to handle it, feel free to contact me. Together, we will discuss some of the possible underlying causes and work on ways you can overcome your fears.

Postpartum anxiety, much like PPD, doesn’t last forever. Working through it can help you start to more thoroughly enjoy this exciting stage of life with your newborn. Contact me today if you’re ready to start feeling like yourself again.


2805 Peachtree Industrial Blvd.
Suite 115
Duluth, GA 30097

Appointments available to serve clients in Gwinnett county and in the areas of:

  Alpharetta,   Roswell,
  Johns Creek,   Norcross,
  Duluth,   Lilburn,
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  and Doraville.

Online therapy appointments available in the following states:

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