Even those in healthy relationships with family and friends may struggle with setting healthy boundaries. This is especially difficult for those who are people pleasers or who identify strongly with the emotions of other people.
However, without setting healthy boundaries, and maintaining them, it is easy to start feeling emotionally drained. Some may find that without healthy boundaries their relationship suffers.
To protect your own emotional state it is important to know how to set healthy boundaries. Ensuring that others respect your boundaries is a form of self-care. It's also a step towards maintaining healthy relationships that are emotionally stable for the long term.
Therapist Alex Greenwald (MHC-LP) of Empower Your Mind Therapy shares five ways to set, and maintain healthy boundaries.
If you struggle with figuring out where your boundaries should be, keep a log of what you do throughout your day for a few days. What absolutely must get done? What can you let go of? Commit to the things you need to get done, the things you enjoy, and that are emotionally healthy. Set good boundaries by saying "no" to the things that cause you anxiety or that leave you feeling depleted. This can be hard if you are used to people-pleasing but will lead to better emotional experiences and relationships in the long run. You don't have to have rigid boundaries, but they should be strong boundaries that take your own needs into consideration. You don't have to be a perfectionist when it comes to setting boundaries but be accountable to yourself.
Is there a problem you’re trying to solve? Does everyone come to you with their problems? Ask yourself, ‘is it my responsibility to solve this?’ If the answer is yes, then take the time to work fix the problem. If not, learn to let other people step up and manage. Offer advice if you have a spare moment, but don’t take it on for yourself. This will allow you to be helpful while respecting the good boundaries you set for yourself. This will create emotional space for you to stay healthy. With consistent boundary-setting, others will start respecting your boundaries. This will lead to better behavior on the part of others. In turn, these clear boundaries will enable you to be a healthy person. Whether your brother-in-law, aunt, coworker business consultant, or pre-teen is asking you to take on their responsibility say no!
Before your schedule fills up, schedule time that is just for you. Treat this self-care care time as non-negotiable and as an important part of your personal boundaries. Write this self-care time down on your calendar and treat this time with yourself just as you would an important meeting. Use this time to check in with yourself without guilt or doubt so you can regroup and prioritize. By preserving energy and prioritizing your well-being you are allowing yourself to have better, stronger relationships later. Exhaustion does no one any good. Even scheduling a coffee break a couple of times a week can do wonders.
Just as learning any new skill, it will take time to build confidence and assert yourself and grow into a healthy person with relationships that respect boundaries. Try working on setting small boundaries and increase to challenging topics when you feel comfortable. This may mean first saying no to doing things you do not want to do to set physical boundaries. Later, work on setting emotional boundaries where you protect yourself from getting involved in situations that drain your emotions. This will help you identify toxic people and establish strong healthy personal boundaries. Learning how to change poor (or non-existent) boundaries and to be assertive takes time. Be patient. The important thing is that you get there eventually. With practice, your relationships will be better and those who care for you with respect your emotional boundaries and other limits.
To maintain a stable, healthy relationship it is important to communicate your boundaries. It is also important to let others know when they have violated your boundaries and how you are feeling. No person can read your mind! If the other person asks you to do something that will be a burden say, “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. I need some time to rest and recharge. Let’s get together another time.” Being clear and direct will help others understand the importance of your boundaries. Candor is key!
It is difficult when someone pushes your boundaries. No matter how clear you have been about your limits, some will still push them. This is especially true if someone lacks emotional intelligence or is a narcissist. When you protect your emotional boundaries and physical space you preserve your feelings and energy. You prioritize your own mental health. In other words, by setting boundaries you take care of yourself first. This will lead to better self-esteem and better relationships. You will be more present and higher functioning in all areas of your life. You will start feeling better and building stronger relationships once your behavior changes and you are in a better emotional state. If you can identify people with boundary issues who constantly violate your boundaries you may need to consider whether it is a relationship worth having.
During times of change, such as motherhood, dealing with an infant or toddler throwing tantrums, or starting a new job, it might be time to reassess boundaries. If you find yourself getting angry and unable to calm down when certain demands are being made, it is time to set additional boundaries.
If you need more help setting boundaries or you find that no matter what you do others do not respect your boundaries consider seeing a psychologist or online therapy. This can help you identify the signs of codependency, feelings of being overwhelmed, and other red flags. Once you can identify poor boundaries and unhealthy boundaries you will feel more confident. If you hit a roadblock don't quit!
Give setting boundaries time and soon others will start respecting them and you will have a strong emotional state. By ensuring that others respect your boundaries you will be ready for more emotional intimacy, feel happier, and have better relationships. Recognize your self-worth, have a sense of responsibility towards yourself, and don't get discouraged! Develop an affirmation you tell yourself whenever you see resentment and anger creeping in. This will help you with accountability to yourself!