How To Set Boundaries For Your Wellbeing
Setting boundaries as the expert on YOU!
Boundaries, a word we hear all the time. Maybe in the form of, “Take more time off”, “Just say No”, or “Communicate what you need”. Well, they’re all much easier said than done, we know!
But all declarations aside, understanding and setting boundaries is one of the best things we can learn to support our mental health and for long-term change. Boundaries help us protect our mental, physical, and emotional well-being and allow us to create healthier relationships at work, at home, and in social circles. So what are Boundaries, how do you identify your own and most importantly how do you communicate and reinforce them to others?
Don’t worry, we got you!
What Are Boundaries?
When we think about boundaries it can feel harsh, cold, or unsympathetic. Let’s change that thinking, when you set boundaries you actually give others the opportunities to communicate and interact with you more effectively and in more meaningful ways. When you don’t set boundaries, relationships become strained and can deteriorate over time.
Boundaries are the limits you identify around your time, emotions, body, and mental health to help you remain resilient, confident, and happy with who you are. You may be the first person in your social circle, work environment or family to enforce boundaries and that will likely be uncomfortable. Keep one thing in mind, it’s a short-term sacrifice for a long-term gain and your relationships will be more clearly defined and fruitful for it.
How do I know my Boundaries?
When thinking about your boundaries, there are really no limits. You’re the expert on yourself and your happiness! So take a few minutes now to think about different situations in your life that make you feel stressed, frustrated or drained. This might be related to your:
Time and Flexibility
Morals and ethics
Material possessions and finances
Remember, think about all the relationships in your life. Boundaries can be set with:
Now let’s do an exercise - this is called the boundary circle. On a blank sheet of paper or in a note on your phone, draw a big circle (if you’re on your phone start a list). Inside the circle or on your first list, write down the things you need in order to be seen, supported and heard. Outside of the circle or on your second list, list anything that distracts you from receiving those things. The items outside of your circle or on your second list are a great place to start thinking about what boundaries can be communicated to limit their impact.
Communicating My Boundaries
Alright, you’ve identified what makes you feel good - way to go!! Remember, you’re the expert of you so you shouldn’t feel guilty about identifying the things that make you feel seen, loved, heard and supported and acknowledging the actions that keep you from that.
Communicating our boundaries can be really hard and may take time and persistence. But people who set solid boundaries tend to have lower levels of stress and higher self-esteem because they prioritize their well-being. Here are a few reminders to help guide you when you’re ready to start communicating your boundaries:
What do you need/want to accomplish by setting this boundary? - Give yourself time for reflection on this one or talk through it with a trusted friend. Verbalizing and naming emotions allows others to better understand your perspectives and makes your request appear more like a request rather than a criticism.
Apply your personal values as a guide. - We can make clearer requests of others when we are mindful of what our values are, and prioritize what brings us contentment, fulfillment, and joy.
Different relationships require different boundaries. - It’s okay to uphold different boundaries with different people or in different settings depending on your needs. Your limits may and should look different at work, with your family, or with a romantic partner. Evaluate your relationships separately and honor the specifics of the relationship and setting.
It takes practice and patience, that’s OK! - Setting boundaries can trigger anxiety (remember short-term sacrifice, long-term gain). Setting boundaries may feel unsettling until it becomes natural. Practice stating your truth with dignity, courage, and respect. Remember, you’re worth it.
Speak up respectfully and hold your ground. - Once you’ve identified your boundaries, start taking steps towards implementing them. This might look like asking someone for clarity, respectfully correcting someone, or expressing discomfort with someone's behavior. As you embark on this journey, individuals that are used to old ways may not respect your boundaries or may become upset. It’s ok that it might cause discomfort and it’s also ok to walk away from relationships. As you move forward, other people will be supportive of your healthy new boundaries.
Here are a few more examples of ways to communicate your boundaries.
Time Boundary - “I can only stay for an hour” or “If you’re going to be late, please let me know ahead of time.”
Energy Boundary - “I don’t have the energy to help you with [their request] right now, can we reschedule for a different time or can I support you in a different way?”
Emotional Boundary - “I understand you’re having a hard time and I want to be there for you, but I don’t have the emotional capacity to support you in the way I’d like to right now.”
Personal Space Boundary - “I feel uncomfortable when you [touch or action]. If you can’t respect my space, I’ll have to leave.”
Conversational Boundary - “This isn’t a topic I’m willing to discuss right now.”
Comment Boundary - “I don’t find those types of comments funny.” or “I’m not going to attend dinner if you’re going to comment on my [topic of comment].”
Mental Boundary - “I understand we see things differently and I respect your opinion, but please don’t force yours on me.”
Material Boundary - “Please ask me first before borrowing my [possession]” or “I would appreciate it if you didn’t touch my [material thing].”
Social Media Boundary - “I don’t feel comfortable with you posting that.”
be Morr is a culturally affirming therapeutic community in New York City where Women of Color receive Mental Health services by WOC individually and in community. To learn more about our services, please visit www.bemorrcounseling.com
Book: Set Boundaries, Find Peace