Do you have healthy boundaries?
Boundaries are important for a number of reasons, but most succinctly: they protect your energy and mental health. They help you communicate to the people in your life (including yourself sometimes!) what your limits are, and how you need those limits respected.
But because we’re often not taught how to set boundaries (more on that here), we might not realize that we don’t have healthy boundaries until we’re starting to feel burned out.
We often don’t even think about how many different areas of our life could benefit from clearly communicated boundaries! These areas can include:
Relationships (family, partners, friends, etc.):
Boundaries in relationships help you let the loved ones in your life know what your various limits are. With family, maybe you know certain topics of conversation will only lead to arguments, so you mutually decide that a boundary for your relationship is to not discuss that one thing. With your friends, maybe a friend likes to text you over and over until you finally answer them. A boundary in that relationship could be letting them know you will always answer them when they message you, but that you are not constantly tied to your phone, so it may not be immediate. If it’s an emergency they could call you, etc.
Do you live on your own or with other people? If you live with other people, do you have rules about what signifies a need for space (a text? a closed door? simply saying “hey, I need some space I’ll be in my room for a while,”?). Are there things you’re willing to share (food, books, clothes) but things you aren’t willing to share?
This one of course can’t always be in your control. You might not have the work environment where you can decide when you will and won’t answer emails, calls, etc. But if you are able to, set clear boundaries with time on the clock and time off the clock. If you can delete the email app off of your phone, you can make sure you’re only checking work emails in the office. Maybe you tell coworkers how quickly they can expect a response from you (“I’ll have more information for you on X date” or “I’ll send along what you need when I have it, hopefully by X.”)
Technology + Internet:
This is an example of boundaries you need to set with yourself. Limiting time spent staring at a screen, setting clear boundaries with what sort of communication you want to have online vs. in person/on the phone. For example: is telling close friends and family big news something you value? A boundary with social media could be to not make any big life announcements until telling those people directly first. Another example could be making a separate account for personal + work, or for following friends + people you know vs. an account just for businesses, artists, influencers etc.
The boundaries you’d set for each one of these categories would of course need to be specific to you, so if the examples above don’t apply to your life + values, that doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t need to examine your boundaries! It just means you need to get specific about what your personal boundaries are.
Signs you need better boundaries can include:
You dread plans with friends/family/loved ones:
dreading events with people you love is a sign that something is off! Most likely, you leave these engagements feeling drained or burned out, which means some boundary is being infringed upon. If there are people you consistently feel drained around, ask yourself what it is about being with them that drains you.
You frequently feel guilty or anxious:
That persistent feeling of “I should be doing more” or “if someone else is upset it’s my fault” is a one way track to feeling overwhelmed by guilt and anxiety. Setting clear boundaries about what is and isn’t your responsibility (recognizing that there are things you can’t control, and someone being upset is one of those things) can help you get rid of that feeling of guilt over not doing enough or not pleasing everyone enough.
You struggle with making decisions:
This is similar to the one above. If you are too worried about letting others down to make decisions, this is a clear sign of a lack of boundaries–with yourself and that relationship. Set boundaries over what you need to consider when making decisions.
You’re burned out:
If you feel like you’re always tired and no matter how much rest you get that feeling doesn’t go away–you’re burned out. That’s one of the main signs of poor boundaries! When we don’t know how to say no firmly and clearly, we take on too much for one person. We push ourselves too far and we don’t give ourselves the rest we need to be able to function.
You’re a little irritated…always:
If you’re constantly annoyed or irritated with the people around you, it’s likely because they are violating a boundary of yours unknowingly. If you feel like everyone is asking too much all the time, it’s possible that you haven’t communicated your capacity for saying yes to others, so you’ve been saying yes when you should have been saying no to avoid upsetting someone else.
If any of these sound like you, it’s time to take a look at the boundaries in your life (or the lack of them!) If you need help learning how to set boundaries with the people in your life, our counselors can help guide you.
Brice N Sanner, LMFT