Boundaries are statements of intent that you put in place to protect you from the conflicting demands of daily life. Many of us are pushed and pulled in so many directions that our days are a whirlwind of too many things to do and too many decisions to make. Take the pressure off yourself, check out this post on some simple steps to help you focus on what’s important to you and why setting boundaries is the ultimate self-care.
JUST BEFORE WE START
The idea of this post is not to say what boundaries you should and shouldn’t put in place. What works for me and my life might not work for yours. My hope is that by giving you some examples and posing you some questions, you’ll be able to start thinking about what boundaries might be helpful in your life and how to implement them.
There are no right or wrong answers here so just keep an open mind and pick and choose what works for you best right now!
WHY SETTING BOUNDARIES IS THE ULTIMATE SELF-CARE
Boundaries are like an invisible force field that protect you from the choppy waters of life. They are a set of strategies or intentional decisions that you make about your life, what you let in and what you push out.
If someone asks you to do something that you don’t feel comfortable with, with positive, helpful boundaries in place you’ll find a kind way to say no. You won’t feel forced to say yes against your better judgement and end up wishing you’d hadn’t agreed, wasting your time, getting upset, angry or frustrated with yourself because you could be spending that time doing something else.
There are lots of boundaries you could set and we’ll look at a few more later on (both big and small), but I’m sure many of us can relate to the example I’ve just given!
WHY ARE BOUNDARIES IMPORTANT?
Boundaries are important because they stop you saying yes when you’d rather say no. They allow you to focus on the important things to you in your life and not get distracted by things that aren’t that important after all. Of course, we all have to do things we don’t want to do from time to time, that’s just life. But boundaries help you keep on track generally.
They take away some of the stress of decision-making. Instead of getting caught up in making micro-decisions throughout the day, having general boundaries in place will help you make broad decisions about what you do and don’t do.
For example, you might say that one of your boundaries is to only spend money intentionally and if you really need to. So, if you find yourself browsing your favourite internet shopping site, you might hop off it straightway if you have that boundary set because you know there’s nothing you REALLY need. Without that boundary, you might spend a while longer checking out the latest offers, only at the end to ask yourself do you really need to buy that item? Having broad boundaries about where and how you spend your money (not mindlessly scrolling shopping sites) will have saved you time and potentially money.
Boundaries set your expectations for yourself as much as what you expect from other people.
Setting boundaries is an important part of your own self care and can help you honour and respect your own emotional, psychological and physical needs.
HOW DO YOU SET BOUNDARIES?
Different ways work for different people but I find that keeping things simple is always best. It’s more likely you’ll remember them and put them into practice!
Perhaps think about the things in life that are most important to you. It might be family, home, leisure time, work, money, hobbies, personal development, and travel and so on.
Write down some broad boundaries for each of these areas.
Here’s an example related to my internet shopping above…
I want to spend money intentionally on things that I really need or love so that I can save more, get out of debt and spend what money I do have on experiences rather than more stuff.
I think boundaries should be specific, start with a positive statement of intent (I want, I will, I can…) and have some indication of the result.
In the above example I said that I wanted to save more, get out of debt and spend money on experiences. There has to be a point to the boundary otherwise you’re telling yourself to do or not do something without the why behind it.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO NOTE ABOUT SETTING BOUNDARIES
Boundaries aren’t set in stone – They need to fit around you, your family and your lifestyle as it changes over time.
Boundaries should be flexible – They are broad statements of intent which save you time and energy in making lots of mini decisions about your daily life but, of course, they can be broken too! So, if you need to make an exception to the rule every now and then, go and do it! Boundaries should support you, not hinder you!
Boundaries are different for different people – There’s no one-size-fits-all and just because one person has a set of clearly defined boundaries for a particular area of their life, it doesn’t mean that you should too. Choose your own boundaries that reflect what you want out of life and what you consider most important.
Boundaries don’t have to be big – They can be broad statements of value or intent about your life, but smaller, specific boundaries can be just as effective. Keep reading for some examples of smaller boundaries you can try today! Don’t forget to download your worksheet too further down the post!
Boundaries shouldn’t make you feel guilty – Remember that they’re designed to protect you so there’s good reason to have them. Just because you say no to something now, it doesn’t mean no in the future. It just means not right now.
Boundaries take practice – It may take a while for your boundaries to be effective. The more you use and practice them, the better they’ll work for you.
TYPES OF BOUNDARIES
Here are some examples of boundaries which you might like to try…
Healthy relationships are mutually supportive and both sides should feel the benefit. Of course we all go through some tough times when we need a little more support than normal from family and friends. Relationships that over the longer term are too needy or make us feel bad are unhealthy. Protect yourself from these relationships by putting in place boundaries. Decide to invest your time, love and energy into positive relationships that support you and find a way to remove yourself from unhealthy relationships that no longer work for you.
Examples of some simple boundaries you could put in place for your relationships:
- Setting aside time for date night with your partner once a week/month
- Deciding to prioritise and develop your friendships with a few close friends rather than surface friendships with lots of people you just happen to know
Time is the one thing that we can’t get back. Every time you say yes to one thing you’re saying no to another. Guard your time wisely by setting boundaries for what you choose (and choose not) to do with your time. Decide to prioritise free time and decide to say no to things which don’t feel right or you don’t want to do. Be firm that you’re not going to allow yourself to feel pulled in lots of different directions.
Examples of other smaller boundaries you could put in place to protect your time are:
- Turning off non-essential notifications on your phone
- Not answering your phone (unless in an emergency) after a certain time each evening
Establish boundaries for looking after yourself by deciding what self-care looks like to you and how you’re going to find the time to make it happen. Boundaries will help you make sure that self-care doesn’t slip to the bottom of the priority list without you having to constantly think about how and why you’re going to squeeze it in amongst everything else.
Examples of self-care boundaries could be:
- Signing up to a weekly yoga class and putting that first above other commitments (unless there’s an emergency!)
- Changing your morning routine so that you have time to read a chapter of your book before you need to get showered and dressed
Boundaries for how you manage your money can help you save more, invest wisely, stop spending unnecessarily and remove temptation! Decide, in broad terms, what you want from your money and these boundaries will help you set up systems to help you manage, spend and save it.
Examples of boundaries for your money might be:
- Deciding not to use credit cards and instead spend only what you have already
- Putting aside a percentage of your monthly income into your savings account as soon as you’re paid
CHECKING IN WITH YOURSELF
These are some examples of boundaries which might help in everyday life.
It’s important to evaluate them regularly, change them when you need or put new ones in place as your life and circumstances evolve.
YOUR NEXT STEPS…
Have a think about some boundaries that might work for you and try putting one or more of them into action this week.
The important thing about boundaries is that they’ll make your life simpler by reducing the need for you to make lots of small daily decisions about what you do (and don’t do).
By working out your own boundaries that broadly govern how you live your life, what you let in and what you don’t, you’ll free up mental space and energy for other things. That’s why setting boundaries is the ultimate self-care!
Let me know how you get on in the comments and which boundaries you’ve set that have worked best for you!