Boundaries: what are they and how do you set them?

Boundaries are an important part of practicing self-care and maintaining healthy relationships. I have already written an article on self-care that I hope you have read and enjoyed! Boundaries are often discussed in close relation to codependency. Don't worry, I'll get to that in a later blog post.

A boundary is quite literally "a line that marks the limits of an area." A personal boundary is a limit that you create in order to identify reasonable, comfortable and safe ways for others to behave towards you, and thus how you will respond to others when they pass those limits. Setting boundaries is actually saying "yes" to yourself, your personal space and your well-being. Being able to say "no" to others, and in turn say "yes" to yourself, is necessary to healthy living and creating BALANCE.

Some simple ways to set boundaries to help improve your well-being and relationships:

1. Schedule alone time.

  • Setting time for yourself throughout the week in the midst of your busy schedule is important. It is okay to say no to plans if it is interfering with completing an important task, getting adequate rest, or if it would bring more irritation, rather than happiness to your day. You do not have to say yes to everything you are invited to.

  • This is different than isolation. If you are feeling depressed and find that you are purposely staying at home by yourself to avoid others or the outside world, this is actually the time to reach out to a close friend or confidant.

2. Create space from negativity.

  • Newsflash! You do not have to be friends with everybody. If you find that there is consistent negativity in your workplace or another area of your life, take space from it. Spend limited time with people or in environments that are toxic and potentially bringing you down.

  • This includes social media. Make sure you are taking breaks from the negativity that often ensues through social media outlets and posts. Delete the apps from your phone, go on a social media freeze, or turn your phone off for the night.

3. Be honest.

  • It is important to openly and honestly express our feelings to our loved ones. They cannot read our minds. If you are feeling hurt, practice openly expressing your feelings to your loved one (i.e., friend, partner, parent, etc.) in order to set the boundary sooner rather than later.

  • Example of effective communication: "When you do/say, I feel..."

  • Keep the focus on yourself.

  • This also includes letting someone know if there is an aspect of your relationship or something that he/she is doing that is upsetting you. It is okay to no longer accept unacceptable behavior.

4. Don't take on more than you can handle.

  • Another newsflash! It is OKAY not to be Superman or Wonder Woman. It is impossible to be either. Therefore, whether it be at work, school or in your personal life, be realistic about what you can accomplish (work, deadlines, events, plans, etc.) in a set amount of time.

  • Be upfront with your boss (or whomever) about this. For example, if you cannot complete a set of projects by a certain deadline or take on the responsibility of planning an event, clearly communicate that.

5. Don't overexplain.

  • Say "no" simply and firmly.

  • Whether it be an emotional or physical boundary that you are setting, do not feel the need to overexplain. This will help set the boundary with the other person clearly, as well as help you feel more confident in setting it.

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