Since the beginning of the pandemic,
many of us had to decide what our boundaries were for ourselves (and our households) to social distance while continuing to run errands and maintain a social life. With half of the country being vaccinated and the recent guidelines from the CDC, now is a good time to reassess what your personal comfort levels are for things like socializing and shopping. Odds are, your boundaries are different now than they were a year ago.
There are benefits to setting boundaries.
Why are boundaries good for you?
Of course, you wouldn’t be encouraged to establish boundaries if there weren’t clear benefits for doing so. They help preserve your own wellbeing (including mental, emotional, and physical health) and ensure you have healthy relationships. Creating and maintaining healthy boundaries also leads to better self-esteem, more independence/agency, and more emotional energy. Instead of becoming drained by things you don’t necessarily want to be doing, you get to choose how your energy gets used. When you interact with others who respect your boundaries, those relationships become healthier because you reduce your own resentment and cut out people who take advantage of you. Having healthy boundaries is kind of like having a superpower, but it also requires work to maintain.
Why are boundaries difficult?
A lot of us fall into the category of being People Pleasers. We want everyone to be happy with us, no matter what it costs us. Saying no can be difficult because we don’t want to cause offense or tension in the relationship. We don’t want people to be disappointed or think negatively of us. We prioritize others’ needs above our own… every single time. On one hand, it makes sense because we are inclined to go out of our way to help others, which is seen as a Good Thing. But in reality, this means we are so focused on respecting others, we forget to respect ourselves. (This is a Bad Thing!!) This leads to us getting burned out very quickly because we don’t have the boundaries in place to protect our own wellbeing. The good news is that boundaries can be created and modified at any time to support our current needs.
What are the key components of establishing boundaries?
- Self-Awareness and Clarity
- Figuring out what your needs are and when you need to say “no”
- Prioritizing Yourself
- Giving yourself permission to respect your needs and letting go of feeling guilty
- Letting others know what exactly you need and how they can help
- Outside Support
- Finding others who will support you and your needs
- Allowing room for change
- Baby Steps
- Practicing the skills so you can set more difficult boundaries
When to set boundaries:
- Personal space
- Time and energy
- Emotions and thoughts
- Stuff or possessions
- Culture, religion, ethics
Questions to help determine a boundary for a need that isn’t being met:
- How does a specific situation make me feel?
- What am I doing? What is the other person doing?
- What are my basic rights?
- What about the situation makes me feel resentful or stressed?
- What does my gut tell me?
- What relationships do I have more difficulty with?
- Which relationships make me feel safe?
- What are my values?
- What do I have control over in the situation?
- What am I going to do about the situation?
Take a minute and think or write your responses to these questions. Then think of another boundary or need and do it again. Decide which boundaries have been working for you and which ones have gotten too rigid or too porous (or which ones don’t even exist yet). Figure out a balance that allows you to fulfill your duties AND spend time doing things you enjoy. With the world slowly opening back up this summer, take some time to decide how you plan to return to “normal life” in a way that is comfortable and safe for you and your family.
If receiving support from friends, family, or community resources are not enough in your journey, consider reaching out to a counselor who can help you evaluate and set effective and healthy boundaries to improve your life. Call us at (217)203-2008 or send us an email to schedule an appointment.