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Setting boundaries with the people in your life is essential to both your mental and physical health. When you feel like you’re stretched to your limits, not only does it take a toll on your happiness and emotional well-being, it can take a toll on you physically too. Tired muscles and lack of energy associated with stress, lack of sleep, and a weak immune system are all signs that your boundaries have been violated.
This reminds me of a friend who suffered a major medical illness several years ago. Often times we would discuss how she was burning the candle at both ends. She was frustrated with her family who intruded on her time. She couldn’t get them to understand that even though she worked from home, she wasn’t available during the day for drop by visits and trips out to lunch.
Coupled with the stress of her business, she often complained of muscle pain, a serious lack of sleep which left her feeling groggy, tired and frazzled most days. She had the classic symptoms of a woman who was having difficulty not only setting boundaries but guarding them at all costs.
Often times though, we are responsible for allowing this to happen because we don’t enforce the boundaries we’ve set for ourselves. Maintaining your boundaries takes skill and a willingness to put yourself first.
It’s a challenging concept for many women.
As we talk about how to set better boundaries, it’s also important to talk about the strength it takes to maintain those boundaries.
Having healthy boundaries means you know and understand what your limits are. But maintaining those boundaries means you have self-respect.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SETTING BOUNDARIES:
PUT YOURSELF FIRST
Make yourself your number one priority. When you take care of yourself first, you have more energy and strength to take care of others. When you make yourself a priority, your motivation to set appropriate boundaries becomes stronger. Self-care is about respecting yourself and what’s most important to you; giving yourself what you need. Only you truly know what you need. If you’re feeling stressed, frustrated, or angry, these feelings are your clue that you haven’t respected your own boundaries. When you respect what you need in your life, you have the energy, satisfaction, and happiness you need in order to be more present with the people around you.
Think about all the women you know who don’t take care of themselves and think about how unhappy most of them are? When you respect yourself enough to put your needs front and center and give yourself the permission to be a priority, in the end, you become a happier person.
LISTEN TO YOUR FEELINGS
As we just discussed, when you’re feeling resentment or frustration, it should be a red flag that you’re not managing your boundaries. When experiencing these or similar feelings, give some thought to what might be causing you to feel this way? What’s happened or is happening that’s brought these feelings on? Are someone else’s expectations of you bothering you? Did you say yes to something you should have said no to?
Resentment usually happens when you feel like you’ve been taken advantage of or not appreciated. It’s usually a sign that you’ve pushed yourself beyond your limits or someone else is imposing their expectations on you and it’s not within your boundaries.
Listening to your feelings takes practice particularly if you’ve ignored them for some time. But, practice makes perfect, so keep practicing and listening to what your feelings are telling you. Then course correct.
While some people may understand and respect your boundaries, usually because they have their own and know how hard they are to maintain, there are other people that will require you to be more direct. Have confidence and know that you’re speaking up because you respect yourself. Don’t be afraid to speak up and let someone know they’re asking for too much. Or let them know that you don’t have the time or desire to do what they’re asking of you. If you don’t speak up, you’ll end up feeling taken advantage of or unappreciated, and you won’t have anyone to blame but yourself.
Afraid you’ll be labeled a bitch? Do it with resolve and a dose of kindness and you should be fine. Standing up for what you need or speaking up for yourself is not selfish, it’s self-love.
IT’S OK TO SAY NO
Guilt, anxiety, and self-doubt can knock you right off-course. Especially if you’re concerned how someone else will respond to you enforcing your boundaries. You might experience some guilt when speaking up for yourself or saying no. Frequently, people feel like they just need to deal with a situation and get through it. It’s only for a little while after all. But it can leave you feeling drained and taken advantage of.
Boundaries aren’t just a sign of healthy relationships; they’re a sign of self-respect. Give yourself permission to set whatever boundaries you need. Then have the strength to maintain them.
And remember, “no” is a complete sentence. Don’t feel like you need to explain yourself.
KNOW YOUR LIMITS
When setting boundaries, you need to know what your limits are. Otherwise, how can you possibly set proper boundaries? You need to know where you stand, what’s important to you, and where your priorities lie. Take some time to think about what your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual limits are. Think about what you’re willing to tolerate and what makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed. Those feelings will help you identify your boundaries. Journaling on these feelings will help you to discover your true, innermost thoughts that will help you set your boundaries and know what limits to set for yourself.
Maintaining your boundaries is hard word so find some support. If you’re heading into a situation that you know will push your limits, ask your spouse or a friend to stick with you and remind you of what you want. Finding a counselor or coach, speaking with someone at church, and finding support in friends are all good options for support as well. While you’re getting comfortable with your boundaries you don’t have to go it alone. Find someone you trust to hold you accountable for the boundaries you want to set and maintain.
PRACTICE SELF AWARENESS
The more present you are in a moment, the easier it will be to see a situation that will test you come up and deal with it before it gets out of control. If you notice your mood start to shift to that of frustration or anger, ask yourself: What’s just changed? What I am doing or what is the other person doing that’s making me feel this way? Think about your options: What can you do to change the situation? What do you have control over? What can you say to stand up for yourself?
Setting and maintaining your boundaries is hard work. It takes perseverance, practice, and support. Every day will test your skills and your limits. You won’t be a master at setting better boundaries with the people in your life overnight, but it’s a skill you can learn to master over time. Be patient with yourself and notice when you see yourself slipping. This is an opportunity to learn what you can do better next time. And always remember that “No” is a complete sentence. No excuses or explanations necessary.