One of the best ways we can care for ourselves is to set boundaries—whether it’s with our loved ones; with our colleagues, clients, and supervisors; or even with ourselves. We can think of boundaries as a kind of manual or collection of guidelines we create, which spell out how we’d like others to treat us (and how we’d like to treat ourselves).
When setting your boundaries, it can help to sit down and reflect on what’s important to you; what energizes and depletes you; how you feel about your relationships and how you feel about how others talk and interact with you. (You can find more questions for identifying your boundaries here.)
Boundaries come in all different shapes, sizes, and stripes. The key is to set boundaries that honor your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.
Below are some examples of boundaries you might establish:
- spending less time (or no time) with a judgmental friend.
- telling your boss you’re unable to respond to calls, texts, and email after hours.
- telling your partner you need 20 minutes to yourself when you get home from work.
- telling a close friend that if they keep pressuring you to drink—after you’ve told them repeatedly that you’ve quit alcohol—you’ll no longer be going out with them.
- going to bed at a specific time on most nights.
- politely declining an invitation to an event you don’t want to attend (which opens up time to do something you do want to do).
- expressing your opinion on a topic.
- noticing when you’re starting to feel burnt out, and including more nourishing breaks into your day.
- leaving the room when someone is yelling at you.
- saying no to any commitments that fall on the days you attend synagogue or church.
- telling your parents you’d like them to call before they come over.
- telling your kids they need to knock before entering your bedroom.
- waking up at 6 a.m. on most days so you can work on your novel, short story, poetry project, painting series, sewing skills, website update, bread baking, or yoga practice.
- putting your phone in another room when you’re working or having dinner with your family.
- not having social media apps on your phone.
- not joining your friends in gossiping about someone.
- setting your phone to “Do Not Disturb” between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.
I really like how Psych Central contributor and clinician Sharon Martin, LCSW, thinks of boundaries: “We should set boundaries as a statement of who we are and what we need. Your boundaries say, ‘I matter. My feelings matter. My ideas matter. My health matters. My dreams matter. My needs matter.’”
What specific boundaries can you set that convey and communicate (both to others and to yourself) that you matter? Really matter?