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This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 215.
Welcome back, everybody. It is the final episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit for the year 2021. I will not be putting out a podcast next week because it falls right on the holidays, and I really wanted to make sure I give you all time to be with your family instead of listening to my voice. If you are in the holiday season and you want to listen to my voice, there are so many, in fact, there are 214 episodes. You can go back and listen to. I just want to be with my family, and I want you to be with the people you love.
Speaking of people you love, today we’re talking about setting boundaries with loved ones or managing our relationship during the holidays. However, I did a whole episode about this last week. You can go back. It’s episode 214, where we talk about holiday anxiety. We did discuss some of this there as well. So, you can go back and listen there. But for right now, I want us to talk about managing relationships, specifically during the holidays, but this episode can be applied to any old day of the week.
Now, before we get started, we always do the “I did a hard thing.” This one is from Rachel. We do an “I did a hard thing” to motivate you, to remind you that there are more people out there going through what you’re going through. You’re not alone. Rachel shared with us today:
“I have somatic OCD.” For those of you who don’t know what that means, it means that you have OCD about specific sensations that show up in your body. You sometimes feel like you can’t stop noticing them or you’re afraid you will never stop noticing them. Sometimes you’re afraid that the feeling will never go away and it can feel really disorienting.
So, Rachel says: “I have somatic OCD, and I always need to distract myself not to notice them. I’ve been able to drive without the radio or calling anyone and it feels so good.”
Rachel, this is so good. You’re doing what we talk about in ERP School. ERP School is our online course that teaches how to expose ourselves to fears, specifically obsessions for people with OCD, health anxiety, and these types of OCD, like somatic OCD, on how to practice facing our fear. In this case, it was her driving, that without using safety behavior or compulsions. So, in this case, the compulsion would be to have the radio on or calling someone to distract her on her somatic obsession or her sensation. So, Rachel, amazing job, you’re doing the work. You’re doing the exposure and the response prevention.
One thing I want to mention to everybody, if you have OCD or an anxiety disorder, is we must do both. We must face our fears and not do the safety behaviors to reduce or remove that discomfort that we feel when we face our fear. So, you’ve explained this perfectly. Congratulations. I am so proud of you. Love getting the “I did a hard thing’s” from you guys. And so, just so thrilled to get that message from you.
All right, let’s go over to the episode.
It’s the holidays. You’re anticipating the gifts and the food and the time and the travel and all the things, but what’s worse than that is anticipation of the interactions that you’re going to have with certain family members. Now, if you’re listening to this and it’s not the holidays, it’s the same. You’re anticipating going to work, but you’re dreading the interactions. You’re dreading how messy things get. You’re going to school, and you’re dreading how messy things get with the people you have in your life – your students, your classmates, your teacher, your friends, whoever it may be.
I want you to think about your responsibilities. And I talk a lot with my patients and clients about responsibility because it’s a really important part of recovery. When we think about the holidays, we think about a certain event that’s coming up. I’ll often explain to my patients that really all you need to do is you need to focus on your lane. So, I’ve talked about this before on the podcast, but I want you to imagine you’re driving on the highway, you’re in your car, and the only thing you’re responsible for is to not run into other people in their lane and to stay in your lane and to go at a pace that’s right for you and a speed that’s right for you and in a car that’s right for you.
Now, that metaphor is exactly how you’re going to get through the holidays or get through this event that you’ve got coming up. Your job is to take responsibility for you and your lane. Now, sometimes people in the lane next to us come on over into our lane and they want to tell us how to act, and they want to tell us what to do, and they want to impose on you their beliefs. Now, our job is to remind them and set boundaries that that’s not your lane, that’s their lane. And their job is to stay in their lane. And our job is to stay in our lane.
Now, in addition, we have to be careful that we are not popping on over into their lane and telling them how they should be, and telling them how they should act, and trying to take responsibility for their feelings, and trying to prevent them from judging you because that’s their lane. We talked about this in the last episode. Go back and listen to that. But that’s not your job either. It’s not your job to get their approval because that’s their responsibility. How they feel is their responsibility. We can’t control that.
And so, first, before we even talk about setting boundaries, we have to be really clear on what’s in your lane. So, an example for me is, as I go into the holidays, I am going to be really aware of what is my responsibility, how do I want to show up? And then it’s my responsibility to show up in my lane doing so. But it’s also important to catch when I’m-- often we do this. It’s like, “Well, I’m going to do X, Y, and Z because I really want A, B and C to like me.” But that’s your lane. It’s not your responsibility. It’s not your job to get them to approve of you because we don’t have any control of that. And as we talked about last week, their judgment of us is their responsibility. It’s a reflection of them. It’s not a reflection of us.
So, we have to be really careful of really getting clear on how we want to show up and only trying to control us, because we can’t control our family members. They’re going to do what they do. They’re going to act out. They’re going to be up in your lane.
From there, we can set a boundary to protect ourselves from them coming into your lane. So, when we set boundaries, we usually set boundaries when somebody is imposing their stuff onto us. Imagine if someone came into your house and walked in with their shoes on and put dirt all over the carpet, you might say, “Excuse me, please would you take your shoes off?” There’s like a boundary violation. If they come into my house and they start smoking cigarettes, no disrespect or judgment on people who do smoke cigarettes, but I’m going to say, “I’m really sorry, we actually don’t smoke in this house. Can you please put your cigarette out and go out to the back?” And so, that would be me setting a boundary.
Now, a lot of you brought in and you asked questions about this. Last week we addressed a lot of the questions. So, an example, somebody said, “How can I communicate with my family about my OCD and keep my boundaries?” So, what you might do is first ask yourself. If I was going to communicate about my OCD or my anxiety or my depression or my eating disorder or whatever you may have, panic, is ask yourself, are you communicating with it so that they change the way they act because that’s their lane? The only reason we would need to communicate about our stuff is so that we can set a boundary.
Let’s say a really big one that I have had to practice is when family members comment about weight. I had a couple of family members in my childhood who every Christmas would, “Have Merry Christmas, Kimberley, your weight is blank. You’re up a bit. You’re down a bit. You’re bigger, you’re smaller, whatever.” And it was so incredibly painful and so incredibly unhealthy for me. And so, the boundary here would be to say, “I would really prefer that you don’t comment on my way. And if you do, I’m going to remove myself from this interaction.” So, that’s a boundary and it’s respectful and it’s compassionate, and I’m not doing it to harm them or discipline them or pay them back. I’m doing it because it’s a boundary violation, and it’s in my lane. When I’m in my lane, I want to have a really positive idea about my food and my body.
If a family member is telling you how you should act, you might say to them, “Thank you so much for your thoughts. I am going to choose to do it this way. And I would really appreciate if you didn’t comment. if you’re unable to hold that boundary, I’m going to have to leave,” or you can say whatever you want. You can just set the limit. Sometimes you don’t even need to tell them your boundary. You might just keep it to yourself. Like, “Oh, if they’re going--” if a family member says, “I’m so OCD about stuffing,” or whatever they say, “I’m so OCD about my cooking,” you might just not even need to express the boundary with them. You might gently just get yourself up and walk away. That’s a boundary. Sometimes we don’t have to verbally express boundaries because we can just remove ourselves from the situation and stay in our lane.
Somebody said, “How to say no to things?” So, you’ve decided you don’t want to do something. We talked about this last week in Episode 214. You’ve decided you don’t want to do something. And so, you say to them, “I’m going to bring baked goods. I’m not going to bake them myself. I will buy them at the bakery. No, I’m not going to hand bake them.” Or you might say, “No, I’m not going to go to that Christmas party,” or “No, I am not going to buy gifts this year.” Okay?
Now, that’s you holding your own boundary. Then your job, and again, this is why I shared about the lanes, is your job is to let them have their feelings about it. They’re allowed to have their feelings. They’re even allowed to act out. If they act out and they say something unkind, you may set a boundary with them. But we can’t hold everybody to our standards. Some people are going to act out. They may not have the skills you have. They may be triggered. They may have expectations of you. And that’s okay. They’re allowed to have expectations, but it doesn’t mean you have to do it. You may choose to follow their expectations. We talked about that again last week. But that’s your decision. You have to be responsible for you and saying yes to what matters to you and saying no to what doesn’t matter to you.
Any time you notice resent, show up, that’s usually because you violated your own boundary. You did something you didn’t want to do and you should have said no to. It’s okay. I’m going to keep saying this to you guys. It’s okay to disappoint people. We will disappoint them. It’s either they get disappointed, or you do the thing they want you to do, and then you’re disappointed. And you have to choose. It’s your responsibility to choose. And we do this responsibility work compassionately.
I speak a lot in my book, The Self-Compassion Workbook for OCD, about compassionate responsibility. That’s saying: “I am responsible for me,” but not in a disciplinarian, like you’re responsible for yourself, you’re alone, you’re on your own kind of way. It’s a compassionate act of, “Yes, I get to take responsibility for myself. I get to take care of myself. I get to say no, I get to say yes. I get to make those choices and I’ll do them kindly.”
Somebody asked a question about managing irritability. This is a great one, because our family members and our friends and our loved ones and the people at our Christmas party or our Hanukkah party, our Kwanzaa, they may irritate us. Yeah, it’s okay to feel irritated by our family members. My husband and I always-- we learned this maybe five years ago. We get caught up in it. I’ll be like, “Why are you acting that way?” And he’ll say gently to me, “Kimberley, I’m allowed to feel this way.” And I’m like, “Oh crap, you’re right. I keep forgetting that you’re allowed to feel what you want to feel.” Or he’ll be upset and he’ll be like, “What’s wrong? Why are you being this way?” And I’ll be like, “I’m allowed to feel this way.” And he’s like, “Oh crap, you’re right.”
You’re allowed to be irritable. You’re not allowed to be unkind. I mean, you are, but you have responsibility, There’s consequences. But ideally, let yourself be irritable. Be compassionate with your irritability. Like say, “Yeah, it makes complete sense that I’m irritable. This is hard. It makes complete sense that I’m annoyed. They’ve said something that annoyed me.” Again, they’re allowed to say annoying things. We get to remove ourselves if it doesn’t feel right or we get to express ourselves.” That really hurt my feelings. That made me upset.” This is why you’re allowed to share.
Let’s see. Someone said dealing with a toxic parent. Well, it depends. My answer to that is it depends on whether you’re a minor or an adult. If you’re a minor, it’s hard to remove yourself from a toxic parent. They are your guardian. You’re legally under their care. But you can remove yourself from them physically in terms of going to another room. You can try and share with them. “That was really painful for me to hear that. If you do that again, I’m going to leave the room.” Or you get to make your own boundaries. They may be physical boundaries where you leave. They may be emotional boundaries where you don’t go to them and you don’t share with them if they can’t hold space for you compassionately and respectfully.
If you’re an adult, you can choose to set as many boundaries as hard or as strong, as light as you need. Some people set boundaries with their family members. Like, “You can’t come here without announcing yourself. You must let us know first. You can’t say those things about me or I’m going to leave.” Or you may, again, you don’t even have to say them out loud. If they’re really toxic, you may say to them, “I’m not going to see you anymore if you keep acting like this towards me and my family. I can no longer put myself through that.” You get permission. We don’t get to choose our family, but you don’t have to see them either if they’re really unhealthy for you. You may want to get some therapy around it and have the help of a clinician to help you navigate what’s a right boundary for you. Everybody’s different.
Someone said, “I get really bad depression during the holidays and people have expectations for me to be happy.” Well, that’s their lane. You don’t have to act or be any way. Be kind, be compassionate, but do the best you can. It’s your lane. You got to just do the best you can with what you have.
So, again, I think that’s a really big part of this, is really take care of you because that’s your job. One thing actually, before we finish up, let me mention, it’s no one else’s job to make us feel better either. I know a lot of this today is going to feel like a lot of hard truths, but I promise you, there is so much liberation that comes from this. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s still a really, really good pill. It’s a good pill. It’s a helpful pill. And so, it’s not other people’s job to make us joyful on Christmas either. That’s our job.
I’ll tell you a story, when I was really a young adult, I think it was quite shocking to me that when you’re a kid, everyone throws you a big party. And when you’re an adult, it’s not as big of a deal. And I used to get really offended that people didn’t throw me a massive party until I was like, “Wait, it’s really not their job.” And so, I started doing it for myself, and I have no shame about it. If I know I want to feel special on my birthday, I always organize something really special for myself. For the last three years, except for the year of COVID, I always rent-- you guys, probably know this. I rent an RV and I invite my three best girlfriends and I have a party for myself, and I’m not ashamed about it. I’m happy to celebrate myself. A
If you are feeling like other people’s job is to bring you joy on Christmas, I would say, no, bring yourself joy. Buy yourself a gift. Make your special meal you want to have. Treat yourself and shower yourself with the joy that you want to feel. That’s a huge liberation, a huge freedom. Such a gift.
Okay. So, that’s it. That’s how you set boundaries. You get to set them. It’s your lane. You get to decide. But other people are allowed to have their feelings about it. And that’s okay. That doesn’t mean you’re bad. They can even tell you you’re bad, and that doesn’t mean you’re bad. They can say, “I don’t like you,” and you don’t think you’re doing the right thing and they get to have their opinion, it doesn’t make it a fact.
This is hard work. I am not going to lie, I am still working on this. I’m still learning from this. I still have to practice it every single day. So, be gentle and remind yourself, this is a journey. This is not a destination that you’re like, “Yay, I’m great with boundaries.” It will be something you’ll have to keep practicing. But the holidays are the perfect time to practice them. It’s so important.
My loves, you probably have lots of questions about this. Do go over to social media. I’ll leave links in the bio. If you want to send me questions, I do a live Q and A every second and fourth Monday of the month at 12 o’clock Pacific Standard Time. So, I’m happy to answer your questions there.
Have a beautiful day. Happy 2021. I will be seeing you in 2022, holy macaroni, but I can’t wait. I’m actually really pumped about Your Anxiety Toolkit next year. I’m going to put a ton more effort into it. That’s where I want my attention to be next year.
So, sending you love. Have a wonderful day, and I’ll talk to you soon.
Oh no, wait. Before we finish up, what was I thinking? It is time for the review of the week. This is from IsaacRThorne, and they said:
“Love this show and I look forward to it every Friday.” Sorry, Isaac, I nearly missed you here. “No matter what you struggle with, there’s more than one episode where your mouth will drop open, your eyes will grow wide, and you’ll shout: “That’s totally me!”
Isaac, this is the best review ever. It just brings me so much joy. “Your mouth will drop open, your eyes will grow wide, and you’ll shout, “That’s totally me!” So, I hope this episode was that for you. Thank you so much for your wonderful review.
Please, if you don’t want to give me any gift of the world, it would be to leave me a review on the iTunes app. Thank you so much for your reviews. They bring me joy, but they also help us reach more people. So, thank you, thank you, thank you so much. We are going to give a free pair of Beats headphones to one lucky reviewer when we hit a thousand reviews. We’re on our way. Please go and leave a review. It would be the best, best, best gift you could give me.
Have a wonderful day, everybody. And now I officially say, have a wonderful day and I will see you in the New Year.