Creating healthy boundaries is an essential skill to balancing your needs while building productive relationships. For many of us, setting boundaries is a process we aren’t ever taught. We learn that we should go above and beyond in every aspect of our lives. Research tells us that healthy boundaries are a crucial component of self-care, while poor boundaries can lead to increased stress, lack of energy, co-dependency, resentment, anger, and burnout.
Therapist Alex Greenwald (MHC-LP) of Empower Your Mind Therapy shares five ways to set healthy boundaries:
- Learn to prioritize: If you’re struggling to figure out where your boundaries should be, keep a log of what you do throughout your day for a few days. What can be dropped off your plate? Commit to the things you NEED to get done and try to add in rest time for yourself to recharge.
- Ask yourself ‘Is this my responsibility?’: Is there a problem you’re trying to solve? Does everyone come to you with a problem? When your schedule is full and a new problem arises, ask yourself ‘is it my responsibility to solve this?’ If the answer is yes, then take the time to work on it. If not, learn to let others step up and manage without you taking over. Offer advice if you have a spare moment, but don’t take it on for yourself.
- Give yourself permission: Before your schedule fills up, block off time that’s just for YOU. Put it in your calendar to cement it in your schedule. This gives you the time to check in with yourself without guilt or doubt so you can regroup and prioritize. Remember that boundaries help us preserve energy. By prioritizing well-being now, you are allowing yourself to be a better friend, spouse, coworker later.
- Start small: When practicing any skill, it takes time to build confidence and assert yourself. Try working on small boundaries and increase to challenging topics when you feel comfortable.
- Communicate: It’s important to let others know when a boundary is violated. We sometimes forget that what we may be feel or thinking others can understand without us even communicating. No one is a mind reader! Say “I want to help, but I don’t have space in my schedule for anything else.” Or “I’d love to see you, but this week has worn me out and I need some time to rest and recharge. Let’s schedule another time to get together.” Being clear and direct will help others understand the importance of your boundaries.
The difficult part is when someone pushes our boundaries and we have to learn to really enforce them. When we do, we protect our energy, prioritize our mental health, and are more present and higher functioning in all areas of our lives.