What are boundaries? Why are they important? Boundaries look different for all of us. But first we should define what boundaries are. Boundaries are expectations or needs that we have for ourselves that helps us feel safe and comfortable in our relationships and activities. Boundaries are essential for our health.
Sometimes setting boundaries can feel like we are building a wall around ourselves, but really, the boundaries we set in our lives allow us to better care for ourselves so we can care for those around us the best we can. Many times they are empowering and help us become more aware of what we need to function well on a daily basis. Strong boundaries can help decrease burnout and create healthier relationships with ourselves and others. They allow us to set limits and create expectations for how we want to life, feel and be treated.
Boundaries help us figure out when to say no and when to say yes to someone or something. This is followed up by an action or behavior that either upholds a boundary or doesn't. And we aren't always going to be good at holding our boundaries. Some days will be better and easier than others. When we have a challenging day and feel like we could have done a better job holding a boundary, that is when we learn and grow. Which is the goal : )
When we lack boundaries, or struggle to set or hold our boundaries, there are consequences. Burnout is a big one. Giving more to others than we are giving to ourselves leaves us feeling run down, exhausted and depleted. It can have a negative impact on our mental health, including increased anxiety and depression.
We may have good boundaries in one area of our life, but not in others. Acknowledging and then addressing the areas of our life that need better boundaries, as well as how this lack of boundaries is making us feel, is the first step in boundary setting.
Signs that you may need boundaries...
With friends and family...
Questioning your decisions or agreeing to things out of obligation
Gossiping about others
Enmeshed relationships or codependency
Oversharing personal information
Competing with others
Feeling emotionally drained after connecting with family or friends
Feeling anger or stress in our current role
Doing work for others or saying yes to tasks that we can't reasonably meet
Not delegating tasks that can be completed by others
Not taking time off
Taking on too much
With social media...
Constant checking and scrolling
Excessive time spent on social media, especially consuming things that bring you down or contribute to a negative mindset
Getting pulled from other tasks to check social media
Impacting your ability to function in a healthy way in other areas of your life
Boundary setting tips...
Setting personal boundaries….
Start to notice signs of the need for boundaries that are more clear. These feelings can include feelings of resentment, sadness, anger, avoidance, behaviors that are unhealthy or that don’t align with who you are and burnout.
Start small. Maybe delegate a task to someone, say “no” to an invitation that doesn’t fill you up or feel necessary and take some time off.
Offer other resources instead of over-extending yourself. We can’t and shouldn’t try to be or do everything for everybody.
Communicate your boundaries and follow through when one is crossed. It’s important that we speak up and name it, recognize how it makes us feel and then change our behavior to prevent it from happening again.
Tips for setting screen boundaries…
Establish a “no screens” room or zone in your home.
Go screen-free for a defined number of hours each day or night.
Instead of using your phone as an alarm clock, use a regular alarm clock so you’re not tempted to check your phone first thing in the morning.
Creating boundaries between work and off-work modes…
Be intentional and make it a conscious process. Talk to yourself as you switch from work mode to off work mode and vice versa. This can be especially helpful when working from home.
Develop rituals that help you switch as you start and stop work. For me, listening to a podcast on my way to work is one way I transition to work mode and is part of my daily ritual as I drive to work.
Breathe slowly and deeply to calm yourself when starting a difficult task or job.
Remember, boundaries aren't meant to be set once and then forgotten about. The are fluid. They are stronger and more effective at some times, but may not be so strong or work well at other times. Boundaries will change over time based on where we're at and what we're doing. Boundary setting is a practice and we must continually reassess them and give them attention. Healthy boundaries are meant to keep us safe and protect our energy, peace and mental well being. People may not always agree or like the boundaries that you set for yourself or your family, but it’s important to remember that the boundary is specific to you and your life, and their issue with it is likely more about them, than it is about you.