In order for me to get through life with most of my sanity, I’ve had to set healthy boundaries. I’ve had to do it at work, at home, with family, and with strangers. It’s about self-preservation, you know?
I was actually doing some of these things long before I knew what to call them - and then recently I had to define what healthy boundaries meant to me, and I started expanding what that looked like in my life.
You might find some of these useful, and you might add a few of your own to address your unique set of circumstances.
#1. SAYING “NOT NOW” OR “NOT EVER”: Who hasn’t had more than they can handle? Something always suffers when the plate gets too full, and often that is our health or our relationships. For me, I eventually reached a point in my life where I felt more comfortable saying NO, or NOT NOW. I opted out of things I didn’t want to participate in, or couldn’t reasonably fit without undesired sacrifices. I’m sure there were some negative consequences for my push-back, but it was necessary for me to deliver quality in those things I do prioritize. It’s no good giving someone or something your attention when you’re arriving late, leaving early, and totally distracted while in the midst of it. This boundary protects me from busyness and allows me to focus on quality of experiences over quantity.
#2. A FIX FOR SHINY OBJECT SYNDROME: I’m easily enticed by new ideas and exciting opportunities. I’m learning that I shouldn’t run after every stick that gets thrown for me to chase. It’s not easy to live with that fear of missing out, but I have to consider if and how I’ve utilized all the past investments I’ve made. For example, instead of continually adding books, and courses, and resources to my arsenal, I add new interests to a wish list as I continue working with the materials I’ve already purchased but not completed. That wish list also becomes a handy gift guide for birthday or Christmas time. This boundary protects me from overwhelm and fractured thinking, and allows me to use what I already have at my disposal before adding anything new.
#3. OFFICE HOURS AT HOME: Sometimes when we work from home, the people around us don’t always realize, recognize, or acknowledge that we’re actually working. It can be difficult for others to determine when I’m interruptible, and when I’m not. So, I have set aside certain hours of my week as my work hours, and that has helped me to have dedicated time on tasks that need extreme concentration, and it has allowed my family to know when they should probably not knock on my office door. I still have additional working hours that are more flexible, but this has helped me chunk up parts of my week to ensure I accomplish the essentials. This boundary protects me from interruption and allows me to have concentrated “doing” time.
#4. NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS: The media outlets have been a big source of anxiety for me personally. I recognized that I’m hyper-sensitive to absorbing negative energy, and this is one thing I’m happy to leave out of my daily experience. I include social media in this practice also by limiting my exposure or removing negative influencers. This boundary protects me from anxiety and depression, and encourages me to have a positive outlook.
#5. LEAVE ME A MESSAGE: Just because my phone rings, or I get a text, doesn’t mean I have to answer it. If there’s an emergency, they’ll call back or try another route to get me. There are times I refuse to be interrupted. This boundary protects me from distraction and drama, allowing me to maintain a creative mindset.
#6. AVOID WASTED TIME: I don’t like wasting time. When I have things to accomplish I don’t like to find myself waiting around for someone or something else. If I’m sucked into an encounter with someone who seems intent on wasting my time I try as politely as possible to extricate myself and move on. If I have to wait on a doctor or a car repair, I usually have a book or a piece of work I can chip away at. There is only so much time and energy I can put into my day, so I try to protect myself from these types of time vacuums. This boundary protects me from idleness and frustration, and lets me intentionally choose my downtime according to my preferences.
#7. REPLACE MY BATTERIES FIRST: I recognize I have to take care of myself if there is going to be something for me to give others. I often let the priorities of others get the better of me, but I’ve been trying harder lately to make sure I’m getting the time I need to be healthy so I can use that energy to help others. This boundary protects me from burnout and allows me to show up for others with my best self.
#8. ICE THE ADVICE: I have a helpful nature, but sometimes it’s best to just stay out of other people’s choices. Some people will ask for help in making decisions, but they aren’t very good at owning the fact that it’s still their decision to make. So when they ask for advice what they’re really doing is asking you to be the scapegoat when something goes wrong. Unfortunately, I learned this one the hard way. This boundary protects me from being victimized and preserves my sense of value.
#9. EMPTY THE TRASH: I am learning that there are many things within my control, and many things outside of my control. When something important is within my control I put a plan in motion to see how I can manage it. For things not in my control I literally have to discard them, along with the resulting emotions that accompany the situation. It’s about accepting it for what it is, moving forward, and not looking back. This is probably the hardest boundary to implement, because it can come with a lot of really intense emotions. But I find, when it is successfully implemented, it is also the most freeing boundary. This boundary protects my world from caving in, and reserves my energy for addressing those things which I can change.
#10. AMAZING GRACE: I realize I’m going to fall short. I know I will continue to course-correct my way through life. In times when I’m feeling defeated, I must allow myself some grace. This boundary is protecting me from - myself. I’ve been revisiting a lot of my past mistakes lately, and finding grace has been difficult this week, but I’m sure it’s just a temporary setback. I have found I can distract myself from negative self-talk by keeping my mind busy - and sometimes that means taking on a new hobby or activity that will require some extra mental attention and it’s just enough to keep my mind above all that negative noise. I have to be gentle with myself and allow some grace - or mercy - to be wrong sometimes and know it is just a learning opportunity. This boundary protects me from being my own worst enemy, and helps me achieve resilience.
I hope some of these resonate with you. They may not fit your life exactly, so I encourage you to define and set your own healthy boundaries. The world needs us sane.