Self-care starts with setting healthy boundaries for yourself with strangers and loved ones, as the practice allows you to put your mental and emotional needs first. Although boundary-setting sounds straightforward and beneficial, it may be challenging for you, especially in close relationships. It might make you feel physically uncomfortable to set those boundaries. Taking time to assess how you feel after you set those boundaries that align with your core values is crucial since the body and mind are interconnected to the point where physical feelings reflect your mental state of being.
Somatic therapy can help with this exercise, as it explores how the body expresses harrowing experiences, applying mind-body healing to assist with trauma recovery. According to Very Well Mind, unlike other forms of mental health therapy, such as CBT, which focuses prominently on the mind, somatic therapy incorporates body-oriented methods such as dance, breathwork, and meditation to support mental healing. Additionally, somatic experiencing therapy sessions include talk therapy and mind-body exercises.
But how does somatic therapy intertwine with boundaries? Somatic boundaries are mostly about embodiment versus cognitive boundaries, which are directed by internal processes. To understand how somatic boundaries may appear recently, it’s best to reflect on things that may have upset you to see how your body reacted. Think back to when your friend might’ve let you do it, or family members didn’t support you, or something as simple as being unable to enjoy your favorite dessert; as you think about those events, consider what happens in your body. Take note to observe if you’re tense or unable to breathe due to your chest pains; this is an example of somatic boundaries taking place. Given that the body often reveals how we naturally feel and think about something before the body can catch up, it’s important to acknowledge our physical state.
Setting somatic boundaries is beneficial because it’s a meaningful way to protect yourself from impending trauma, and it’s also a way to support your safety and well-being, especially if you’ve suffered from trauma in the past. While trying to forget traumatic experiences to cope is natural, the body still remembers and reacts accordingly, especially if you are in a similar situation. For this reason alone, somatic boundaries can help protect your mind, body, and spirit, as your thoughts can sometimes be less of a reliable resource for learning how you feel about something, especially if your mind is blocking out a traumatic event, to protect you. Setting time aside to listen and respond to these physical cues makes your body and mind more interconnected. This can lead to true restorative healing and increase your confidence because you can trust your body and mind.
You can use somatic boundaries to protect your mental health by learning what “yes” or “no” physically feel in your body. Ask yourself, ‘How does it feel in my body when I feel violated?’ or ‘How does it feel when I’m pushed to my limits?’ This way, you’ll be able to notice those feelings and respond when they come up. Additionally, this practice is suitable for holding yourself accountable by not continually violating your boundaries. Listening to your physical cues could be a helpful reminder to enforce your boundaries. Similarly, you can leverage this technique to identify and respond to others violating your boundaries. Identifying previous and current physical reactions can help you confidently formulate a clear “no” with confidence.