It becomes too easy for some people to say “yes” to too many things. That is because setting boundaries for yourself can be hard, especially if you are a people pleaser. It is important to set healthy boundaries though or else you risk becoming burned out and no good to anyone, especially yourself. Boundaries help you define what is important to you and help reduce your stress and anxiety. If you find yourself having a hard time setting boundaries, take note of these five important tips to help bring balance to your life.
Defining Healthy Boundaries
First and foremost, it is essential to know what it means to set healthy boundaries. Healthy boundaries are the limits you place on things in order to stay happy. Boundaries establish what you are willing to accept from other people as well as what other people can expect from you. You can set boundaries around your time, personal space, emotional energy, beliefs, sexuality, or anything else that needs them.
Setting boundaries is important for preserving your identity as well as protecting your well-being. Boundaries keep other people from changing who you are at your core. They set limits for what you are willing to accept from other people. They are so important because they help protect you from being stressed, drained, and even manipulated by other people.
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Depending on the situation your boundaries might look different. For instance, at work, you might have strict boundaries about sparing your personal life with coworkers, but with your friends, you are an open book. You may be uncomfortable with affection in public, but enjoy being very affectionate in the privacy of your home.
Sometimes it can be hard to set boundaries around certain things, especially things that are not concrete like setting emotional boundaries. In these cases, sometimes you may find yourself setting boundaries after you have experienced a situation that left you uncomfortable or drained. For example, you might leave a conversation with friends where you feel drained or anxious. One instance like this might not set off any alarms in your brain. However, if you realize you are feeling this way every time you spend time with or talk to a certain friend or group of people, it is time to examine why that is and consider setting boundaries that keep you from feeling that way.
5 Tips for Setting Boundaries
1. Do Some Self-Reflection
In order to be able to start setting boundaries, you first need to define them for yourself. Whether you are a people pleaser, an overachiever, or just someone who has never been good at setting boundaries, you need to sit down and do some self-reflection about what you need. What is important to you? What brings value to your life? What causes you stress or anxiety? What makes you feel safe and supported? What makes your life harder/easier?
Once you have answers to those questions, you can decide what boundaries you need to set in order to keep the important and valued things. Specifically, look for ways you can define boundaries to prevent the things in your life that cause you stress and worry. Maybe that looks like keeping your personal life separate from work, banning phone use after a certain time at night, deleting social media, or limiting the interactions you have with certain people.
In addition, the consequences that you set for each of these boundaries have to be something both feasible and something you are willing to follow through on. That means you cannot make the consequence for taking work home on a weekend that you will quit your job (unless that is something you could actually do) or you cannot say that you are going to cut a certain person out of your life if they continue to be a drain on your emotional energy unless you are actually willing to go through with that. This is important because without follow through, your boundaries are simply empty threats.
Another tip to consider is that your boundaries do not have to stay the same forever. If you realize that you need to create or adjust your boundaries, there is no rule against that. Remember, that these are your boundaries and the whole point of setting boundaries is to make your life better. Say that you start to realize that work is bleeding over into your life. Find a way to set a boundary to help with that. Maybe that ends up looking like you no longer take work home on a Friday or you set a hard stop at a certain time at the end of every day. Whatever works best for you and for the circumstances.
2. Use Clear Communication
The most important thing you need to do when setting boundaries is to be clear when communicating them to other people. The clearer you can express your boundaries, the more likely they will be respected. You cannot expect someone to figure out your boundaries on their own. You have to be explicit about your expectations.
Do not be afraid to repeat yourself if you need to. This does not have to be confrontational, and there is no need to apologize or give an explanation for your boundaries. Simply explain your expectations as clearly as possible. Repeat it if someone oversteps. And stick to your needs.
Be sure to also clearly state the consequences: “I can’t keep being friends with you if I’m the one who always has to be the one to call you and I’m always the one who has to make all the plans.”
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3. Be Consistent
Prioritize yourself by consistently setting boundaries across situations. This is an especially important tip if you are someone who likes to please people or who hates to say no. Even once you have started setting boundaries, you may be tempted to make exceptions in certain circumstances or for certain people. It is important to be consistent because 1) It feeds into the idea of clear communication and helps the people around you better know and understand what you need and makes you comfortable, and 2) Consistency is key to your healthy well-being.
If you flip flop and let certain situations circumvent your boundaries, what you are really doing is giving up on your boundaries and saying that they (and the reasons you made them) are not important. The same goes for the consequences of those boundaries. If you tell your partner that they need to be respectful of your family or of your job or else your relationship is not going to work out, you have to be willing to follow through on that and end the relationship. Otherwise, your boundaries are hollow.
4. Focus on Yourself
When you start setting boundaries, be sure to focus on yourself. You should know why these are important for and to you. On top of that, when you are establishing your boundaries with other people it is essential to focus on yourself rather than on them. When your mother texts and calls you incessantly during your workday, rather than saying, “You need to stop calling me at work,” you should say something like, “When I’m at work, I need to focus on work and can’t answer your calls. I need to wait until after work to talk to you or else I could get in trouble/not meet my deadlines/etc.”
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5. Start Saying No
Finally and importantly, do not be afraid to say “no” or to cut things out of your life that cause you unnecessary stress and worry. Things in life get stressful and that is just the way it is sometimes, but if there are things (or people!) in your life that only cause stress, worry, and/or anxiety, it is time to examine why those things are in your life.
Say no to that additional extracurricular activity or committee. Stop hanging out with people who drain you because they demand too much from you emotionally and never offer anything back that helps to replenish you. Say goodbye to toxic relationships, regardless of who those people are. If something pushes your boundaries in an unhealthy way, it is time to say “no” to it.
Setting boundaries can be hard, and even scary for some people in certain situations. But it shouldn’t be. You should not have to be afraid to say what you need from a situation or relationship in order to be happy and free from stress. While it can be hard for others to deal with your boundaries, especially if they are someone who is used to taking advantage of you or sucking all your energy, they need to get with the program or deal with you potentially pulling away from them. Setting boundaries is all about you…and there is nothing wrong with prioritizing your needs.
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Sources: How to Set Boundaries: 5 Ways to Draw the Line Politely
Photo Credits: unsplash.com