5 Tips for Setting Boundaries While Quitting

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In my personal and professional life, it is not uncommon to hear about tension between those trying to quit tobacco and others in their lives. Friends and family can serve as a great support system, but they can also unintentionally become a barrier to quitting. It can be difficult to navigate your reduction journey when those around you continue to smoke or be unsupportive. Common advice, such as ‘get new friends’ or ‘just avoid smokers’, tends falls flat for folks who have deeper relationships with people who are unable to support them on their quit journey. So how do you balance quitting tobacco while maintaining relationships with others?

Having and learning to set boundaries allows you to keep a healthy connection with friends and family. The term ‘boundary’ has become a buzz word recently, but what exactly does it mean? A boundary refers to that imaginary line between you and others; it separates your physical and emotional needs, feelings, and responsibilities from others. Boundaries exist in every aspect of our lives, whether it is needing privacy from roommates, being uncomfortable with certain sexual activities, or refusing to do certain tasks at work. Everyone has boundaries, but it takes time and practice to learn what yours are and how to express them.

Boundaries are a powerful tool for those attempting to reduce or quit tobacco. Your boundaries might look like refusing to buy cigarettes for others, being able to walk away from people who are smoking, or any other limits you have to maintain your quit. Setting boundaries is easier said than done, but with practice they are a great way to protect your needs and your relationships with others. So how do you actually use boundaries in real life?

1. Focus on what you can control

Setting boundaries allows you to express what you need from others. However, you can not control others’ behavior. When setting boundaries, it is important to focus on what you can control: yourself and your actions. Boundaries are a reflection of your own needs, values, and comfort. Though it can be difficult at first, it is up to you to learn what your boundaries are, how to communicate them to others, and how you can respond to them being crossed.

2. Set boundaries before they are crossed

Once you’ve realized the boundaries you need to set, it can be helpful to communicate them to others before they get crossed. Communicating what you need before you’re in a tough situation can allow you to express yourself with a clear mind and avoid resentment in your relationships. For example, you might consider letting friends know you’re working towards quitting and are currently uncomfortable being around others while they smoke. Communicating ahead of time can help you avoid triggering situations, whether that means your friends going outside to smoke or them knowing why you may need to walk away when they smoke.

3. Don’t assume others’ intentions

When others are unable to respect our boundaries, it is natural to feel frustrated and hurt. Boundaries exist to keep us emotionally and physically safe, and it is important to build relationships where you can respect each other’s boundaries. However, we also don’t know others’ intentions when they can’t respect our boundaries. Someone who continues to offer you cigarettes, doubt your ability to quit, or be unsupportive in other ways may be unaware of how hurtful their actions are. Their behavior is more likely a reflection of their beliefs and values; they may view smoking as a way to connect or might not understand how important quitting is. This does not excuse their actions, but being able to take a step back and avoid assumptions can help us avoid resentment.

4. Boundaries help save relationships

At first, having boundaries can seem like a wall between you and others. Setting boundaries can be uncomfortable and may change the dynamics of your personal relationships. However, everyone has personal boundaries and expressing them can actually strengthen relationships. Having relationships where you both can comfortably express what you need from one another can help create safety and respect between each other.

5. Learn how to respond when boundaries are crossed

After setting a boundary, it is your responsibility to stand firm in what you need and learn how to set consequences when others can’t respect that. Boundaries are an opportunity to teach others how to treat you. If someone continues to cross your boundaries, it is time to determine how to distance yourself from harmful situations. This might look like walking away from or refusing to be in situations where your boundaries to be crossed, but it can also be a chance to create spaces where your boundaries will be honored.

If you would like to learn more about tobacco reduction and cessation, please contact our team:

Melissa Small – Ypsilanti/Jackson Tobacco Treatment Specialist

(734) 329-9223

Monica Allen – Detroit Tobacco Treatment Specialist

(313) 949-2938

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