Essential Boundaries for HSPs and Empaths: Keeping track of our own well-being

For both Highly Sensitive People and empaths, one of the most difficult things to do is to say NO to people who need help or plain want our attention. And so, for a while, we don’t say no. That is, until we start to notice how negatively that is affecting us.

By claiming our space we restore our health, and our sanity.

One of the best ways to improve space-claiming skills and awareness is by paying attention to different ways in which our space is taken up and affected somehow. (it’s not all about other people!)

Here are 12 suggestions on claiming space that I find helpful. I’ll take one of these every now and again to evaluate how and where I can create more space in my life. Because, well, space has a tendency to fill up!

1. Practice keeping track of what you need in each moment while you are interacting with others.

2. Practice voicing your needs. If you are used to intuitively knowing what others need then you can forget that this is a special gift that most people don’t have!

3. Practice taking up space 1. Notice how much space you are allowing your body to take up. Are you trying to shrink away or are you standing tall? Are your arms glued to your body or are they loose and relaxed?

4. Practice taking up space 2. Notice how much space you take up in your home, office and with others. Are you squeezed into a corner? Is all your furniture lined up against the wall? Is someone else’s stuff on your desk? Practice claiming your territory! It helps to generate a feeling of safety and well-being.

5. Place yourself way up in the pecking-order of “people and devices clamoring for your attention”. A ringing phone is NOT an order to pick up. Having e-mail does not make you available 24/7 and a cell phone is not a tracking device that MUST be kept on your body at all times. Modern technology is great, except when it starts to run your life and enable an endless stream of interruptions and distractions. Don’t let it.

6 Communication at work: For a while I made the mistake of responding to people instantly and making time for unexpected meetings. I thought I was just being service-oriented…The result? I was giving off the message that I had oodles of time, and hence, few people respected my time. That taught me! So, I started weeding out the essential from the non-essential e-mails by NOT responding immediately (some people only contact you IF you respond right away), I started having limited office hours and sign-up lists for students who required feedback (not signed up = no feed-back!). I responded to e-mail once a day and started claiming my luch-hour no matter what. Amp up a little on your own celebrity status!

7. Zen and the art of cleaning: I’m a wizard at collecting things. Give me a topic and I’ll have a collection of books and tools and whatever you need in no time. Guess what that does to my house if the skill goes unchecked? So, now, when stuff comes in, other stuff goes out. I regularly go through my things to check for any items that I no longer use, like or need. And, for new purchases I have a simple but very strict rule: I need to Love it and Use it. Mistakes are allowed, in which case, the item just joins the outflow of stuff. (Stuff you own also clamours for your attention!)

8. Practice recognizing the creepy people who love taking advantage of others. While no one is 100% “bad” I’d vouch for staying away from anyone who is more than “half-bad”. Chances are, they need a bigger shove than you can give them before they decide to take the high-road on their own. So spot them and disconnect from them.

9. Take time to do nothing. Nothing at all. (If you can’t, then this is THE thing to get started with. Space is nothingness. If you don’t ‘want’ nothingness, then how can you achieve more space?)

10. Manage the in-coming flow of information. Do you really need to receive all those newsletters? Do you enjoy that stack of promotional material? When I just moved into my home, I took the time to return and reply to all the unwanted promotional material I received: ‘unwanted mail, remove me from your list’. It took a while, but now my snail-mail box is almost completely spam free.

11. Take a break from the news. Will society fall apart when you’re not up-to-date on the latest scare-blare called “news”? Of course not! Allow yourself to create a peaceful and loving environment that is not disrupted by reports on atrocities that you are powerless to influence. Hey, if something CRUCIAL happens, you’ll find out anyway.

12. Celeb performers have a rider. It’s a document describing what they need to perform well. Get your rider together: What do you need to perform well?

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1 organic chick December 15, 2011

This is GREAT advice!

2 Pat Novak December 15, 2011

Great suggestions and so true! The only boundary I had learned was how to isolate myself. It is so important that we learn healthy boundaries so we can be out in the world. These are wonderful. Thank you.

3 Susan Putman December 15, 2011

Thanks I needed that. Better boundaries = better me.

4 MisMolly December 15, 2011

Thank you. Definitely have to work on more time "doing nothing."

5 Sheri December 15, 2011

#12 is brilliant! So glad to have found you! :)

6 Caroline van Kimmenade December 15, 2011

O.C. I'm really glad it's helpful! Thanks for sharing that.

Pat, that is so true. And then it feels like that is the only option we have, also because we're so focused on others that we forget about ourselves completely and then need to draw back completely to recover. (lovely site btw!)

Susan. better boundaries = better me, I like that!

MisMolly. It is so good to hear that said! You start doing nothing…doors will start to open!

Sheri, :) & I love your concept of the portable heart space (on your site). that is such a lovely way to put it.

Thank you all for posting! It feeds my writer's energy to know this is helpful :)

7 Peter Nathaniel Lee November 8, 2014

Hello, I just wanted to pass my regards on to you for putting together this wonderful site. There is so much useful and supportive information on here. (I am not normally one to post like this ) I was told I was an Empath five years ago, and since then it has been a challenging, intriguing and blessed journey of self discovery. I am currently busy with other projects at the moment, however Ill be keeping an eye on the site and potentially interesting in taking part in the course. I just wanted to say thanks because for many years, I was unable to find any information that seemed intuitive and beneficial, ( not just shielding) and it got a little lonely for a time out there! Thanks again and best wishes. Pete

8 Caroline van Kimmenade November 9, 2014

Hi Pete,

You’re welcome :) Yes – the shielding club tends to have many more members. I saw on your site that you’re also literally traveling. New Zealand is on my bucket list. Yay, nature! :)

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