Setting boundaries is one of the most important factors in a healthy relationship and good mental health. But what does it actually mean to set a boundary? Sometimes it is, simply, just about saying, “no”. However, there might be steps along the way that lead us to this end result. Here are some areas that setting boundaries may have positive benefits and help you reach your personal, emotional, and relationship goals.
- Set a work a schedule, and don’t deviate from it. Use your phone calendar, or a planner, and write out everything you need to do to be successful in the day. Start with waking up, eating breakfast or working out (whatever it is for you). Then block out your work or family schedule. Draw literal boundaries or boxes around the most important events of the day, and don’t let anything prevent you from getting those things done.
- Identify your limits and communicate them. We don’t always know when to say, “no”. Sometimes we look back and ask ourselves, “How did I get in this position?” Try to look ahead at your day, week, month, and year. Identify where you need to set a boundary. Maybe this Holiday season you need to spend it in a quiet space, or this summer you can’t travel because of work deadlines.
- Create a safe space. In your home and in your head, create a place that you can go to contemplate the emotional challenges you are faced with. Give yourself permission to pause and reflect on what you need. This boundary is protecting you from reacting and allowing you to respond intentionally.
- Identify what harms you and what helps you. Ask yourself questions about the environment you exist in. Do you feel safe here? What do you need to feel safe? Are the people you surround yourself with helping you grow? What is preventing you from feeling joy and comfort? What can you do to protect yourself from these harmful things?
- Put yourself first. How often do we concern ourselves with the feelings of others before we concern ourselves with our own feelings. Good intentions often harm us. We want to be kind and generous people, we want to feel accepted, we want to be “appropriate”. There is a way to have integrity and still set a boundary. Be intentional, know why you’re setting the boundary, and communicate that. It might sound like, “I cannot participate in that event, but thank you for thinking of me”. Or maybe, “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but the answer is no for me”. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but the outcome will create a healthier environment for you, and healthier relationships with the people around you.
- Blood is simply just blood. Falling into the trap that we must continue family relationships, even when we are fully aware they cause us harm, is a time of the past. Give yourself permission to say, “NO” to family requests that foster pain, discomfort, and resentment.