Building Emotional Resilience by Establishing Boundaries

I have always advocated that our training as carers sometimes falls short when addressing the emotional resilience required in a placement. ‘She is a difficult client’ downplays the complex nature of a person who has become a product of her internal and external environment and inevitably fails to offer any insight into the onslaught of emotional abuse that follows.

Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity.

The Pain: Not having the ‘full’ picture, not fully understanding the complexity of the situation, not having enough information on the personal history of the client, being thrown in the deep end (literally sink or swim situation)

The Goal: Boundaries and protecting your own energies are critical – can only do that if you know all sides of a client’s personality, we all have our own unique stories – we need better information in advance to prepare and not spend agonizing days trying to figure things out

Life experiences influence and shapes our behaviour.

Knowing the physical conditions is one thing (our training takes care of that) but what is even more important is understanding the background, the history – the reasons why a client is the way they are – such tools are critical to initiating a comfortable, enriching transition for both carer and client and saves a great deal of anguish on both sides – ‘softening’ the experience of handover day!

It is almost like going to the doctor who prescribes you a drug to help with the symptoms of a problem but doesn’t take time to find out why is it that you have a problem in the first place. An intimate historyr is a holistic approach that can help alleviate the masking of symptoms by getting to the root cause. The same applies in the care industry, information that needs to be passed down with the brief to better prepare carers walking into a ‘booby trap’ of unimaginable drama which could have quite easily been avoided-

Carers need to be trained in how to get this information and understand how it can make such a huge difference in their personal well-being and performance – it is ultimately an individual responsibility.

Establishing Internal Boundaries

I think for a placement to be a success we need to establish our internal boundaries (beyond those that govern physical touch and personal space) in order to protect our personal energy from the inception. Critically boundaries separate what you think and feel from the thoughts and feelings of others.

Mental and emotional boundaries are tricky because they are intangible. Mental boundaries apply to your thoughts, values, and opinions. Emotional boundaries distinguish your emotions from someone else’s. A combination of the two offers a strong sense of identity and self-respect, an ability to say no to unreasonable requests and stay upbeat around low vibrational people.

“The ability to not let the emotional contagion of a toxic workplace demoralize you.”

If you are working with a client who has put up walls to protect themselves from appearing vulnerable you often find that this backfires because developing a relationship with them is almost impossible but not entirely unattainable. Communication here is key as healthy boundaries are meant to be mutually beneficial and supportive. Understanding their needs but also being upfront about your own perspective.

Client – “Go and check on the cows in the field and make sure they are okay!”

Me – “I am not going to walk through a muddy field in the rain looking for the cows”

Client – “Well what do you expect – we are on a farm, of course, it’s muddy?”

Me – “yes we are on a farm and my job is to look after you, not the cows” but…

Don’t worry I will walk to higher ground and see if I can see them”

A quick analysis of this short interaction

The client gave an unreasonable request, I pushed back when my boundary was violated, she got angry, and I still managed to salvage the interaction by accommodating her request under my terms

Building boundaries takes time and practice. It may be nerve-wracking at first, but setting self-respecting boundaries are critical to protecting your own energy.

If only we knew the personal stories about our clients before we arrived, and that dark shadow that dims their light, then we would be better equipped to provide them with a safe place so that we can gently infiltrate their pain and offer some relief.