Have you ever felt you were giving too much to others? taking on their problems or allowing them to dump their problems on you? Is it hard for you to say no or tell another person how you are feeling without guilt or shame?

These may be signs that your boundaries are fuzzy and could benefit from being worked on. So what are boundaries and how do they help us? How do we start to say no without being afraid of rejection or anger?

A boundary is a dividing invisible line which separates me and 'my stuff' from you and 'your stuff.' Boundaries provide healthy rules in relationships and keep us safe, for example giving permission if we want someone to touch us.

Without boundaries we are vulnerable to being taken advantage of which can lead us to feel angry, resentful and depressed. Having healthy boundaries helps us to avoid violating the boundaries of others' and we are able to take ownership of our behaviour which allows us freedom of expression and emotional honestly.

As an addiction counsellor I often see clients with boundary issues. These may stem from what is learnt in the family of origin. There may be a reluctance to change unhealthy systems of relating to others and the self, moving out of the victim role, and starting to take responsibility.

However it is an essential part of recovery and move away from the chaos of active addiction towards consistency. Similarly when working with families of addicts, boundaries are needed to determine what is and is not acceptable to family members affected by addiction and also what the consequences will be if a boundary is violated. This is sometimes known as detaching with love.

One way of starting to build healthy boundaries is by permitting yourself to acknowledge your feelings, ask yourself what can I do to make this situation healthier for me? Often people with fuzzy boundaries ignore how they really feel, so learning to pay attention and listen to your truth is an important part of self healing.

Similarly pay attention to when you start to feel negatively affected by another person, we may experience this as signal anxiety or anger which indicates that another may be stepping over our boundaries.

Early warning signs such as this can help us to assert our boundaries quickly and avoid stress and resentment build up, for example assertively and respectfully telling another person why their behaviour bothers you.

Another key when setting healing boundaries is to list your limits and write a list of what is and isn't acceptable to you. Boundaries are about self care and not pushing yourself to do things that you don't truly want to.

By owning and respecting your feelings you stop trying to control others and taking responsibility for their feelings, this brings the freedom to be yourself and take care of your needs without guilt.

On a final note, remember good boundaries are the foundation for good relationships with ourselves and others.

Author's Bio: 

Nicole Howes runs Hope to Heal based in Teddington, Middlesex. She offers short and long term therapy to clients.

Nicole has worked in the counselling field since 2008 in both private and public sector agencies. Her primary practise has been in the field of addictions therapy and trauma.

Other expertise includes extensive experience of running theraputic groups and designing and delivering workshops.