Let’s be honest –– you can’t do everything for everyone. It may be difficult to say “no” and just please people, but that can lead to stress and burnout. In order to foster healthy relationships with others, it’s important that you set boundaries, even though it may not be easy to do.
Boundaries deepen connections, as they provide a set of rules for both personal and professional relationships, Dr. Regine Muradian, PsyD, a clinical psychologist, says. They are also a way to take care of yourself. When you understand how to practice healthy boundaries, you can avoid the feelings of sadness, frustration, disappointment, and anger that build up when personal limits have been crossed.
Not sure how to set boundaries? We spoke to Alex Greenwald, MHC-LP, a therapist at Empower Your Mind Therapy, who shared five ways to set healthy boundaries. Here’s what you need to know:
- 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, Greenwalk says. “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?’
If people always come to you with a problem, understand that you may not be able to help or guide them, even if you want to. “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,” Greenwald says. Remember to offer advice if you have the bandwidth, but don’t take too much on 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 into 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, and coworker later,” Greenwald says. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, make sure to take time for self care!
- 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,” Greenwald says.
If someone crosses a boundary that both of you agreed upon, it’s crucial to let them know. “We sometimes forget that what we may be feeling or thinking, others can understand without us even communicating. No one is a mind reader!,” Greenwald says. She recommends saying, ”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.” or “Let’s schedule another time to get together.” Being clear and direct will help others understand the importance of your boundaries.