Guess what? You’re human, and despite your best intentions, you can’t do everything and be everywhere for everyone that you care about.
Not only is it impossible, it’s also unhealthy. Lindsay Holmes, deputy healthy living editor at the Huffington Post, says that a life without limits means it’s difficult to say “no.” You consider everyone else’s feelings before your own. These people-pleasing habits are exhausting, and they lead to burnout.
Boundaries are essential to living a happy, healthy life, but setting boundaries can be difficult to do. Keeping those boundaries set can be even more difficult.
Here are a few tips on building and maintaining boundaries. Ask yourself:
- What are your limits? In an article for Psych Central, psychologist and coach Dana Gionta, Ph.D, advises that you can’t set good boundaries if you’re unsure of where they should be. In order to find out where you stand, identify your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual limits. Ask yourself what you can tolerate and accept, and figure out what makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed. That is where you draw the line.
- What are your feelings? When someone’s demands on your time make you feel uncomfortable or anxious, chances are they are overstepping some boundaries. Are you feeling extreme discomfort or resentment? Gionta says that resentment usually comes from not feeling appreciated or from being taken advantage of. It’s often a sign that we ignore; we’re pushing ourselves beyond our own limits either because we feel guilty or because someone else is imposing their expectations on us.
- What about me? It’s important to make self-care a priority. It can be difficult to do, but it’s important to work on putting yourself first. When we say to “put yourself first,” that doesn’t mean ignoring friends. It doesn’t mean that you stop caring for your family so that you can spend every night away from home. It means that you don’t have to apologize if you take ten minutes for yourself before starting dinner. It means taking a relaxing bath or spending a Sunday afternoon with a good book without feeling you should be doing something for someone else. By taking time for yourself, you are reenergizing yourself for what might come your way later. It can give you some much needed energy, peace of mind, and a more positive outlook.
- Who is my support group? If you struggle with setting boundaries, having people you can turn to when you need help is crucial. Find a support group meeting, a therapist, and/or friends that you can turn to and that you trust. And of course, the world is full of articles and books that can be beneficial to you and your well-being.
It can be hard to set boundaries, but once you’ve started and have seen what those boundaries can do for you, it will get easier. Life coach Barrie Davenport suggests that you trust your instincts and feelings about what you want and don’t want in your life. Don’t allow others to define that for you. Once you have some boundaries established, you will feel more self-confident and empowered because you’re learning how to effectively communicate your self-worth to those around you.