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Setting Boundaries: Why it's Important and How to Do it

Boundary setting is an important tool in maintaining your mental health. Making sure that you set firm boundaries with family members, friends, partners, and even employers can save you a lot of hassle in the long run. This is especially true for individuals who see themselves as people pleasers because they struggle the most with feeling like a burden for setting their boundaries. The truth is that setting boundaries is healthy and necessary to maintain relationships. For example: If you sign on to work for a company and tell them that you can’t work Tuesday’s because of school or other commitments and they schedule you consistently for Tuesday’s, this might be a good time to set boundaries.

When you set clear and defined boundaries, you establish what is acceptable and what is not. This helps others understand where they stand, what they can expect from you, and what they should not do.

Setting effective boundaries comes with practice and assertive communication. The first time you set a boundary with someone, especially someone close to you, it might seem like you’re doing something wrong. It might feel uncomfortable, especially for people pleasers, to go against what someone wants in favor of what you need. When you use assertive communication such as “I statements” and simply saying no, you are standing up for yourself and what you need in spite of someone else.

Why is setting boundaries important? It’s important to be true to what you want and need. If your partner or friend is pushing your boundaries about something important to you, it’s also important for the relationship to be open and honest with them. Setting boundaries can also decrease your stress level, improve your mental health and relationships, and can help fight off burnout. The only person who knows your limits is you, and it’s important to communicate what you want or need.

Setting boundaries in the workplace can prevent coworkers from constantly interrupting you or taking advantage of your time.

How do I set boundaries? This part can be tricky, but with practice it will become easier. If you have loose boundaries, it might seem hard to suddenly set healthy boundaries with people. However, boundaries don’t have to be rigid in order to be worth communicating. In fact, rigid boundaries can make it so that you have fewer close relationships and keep others at a distance. The area you want to be in is somewhere between loose boundaries and rigid boundaries - and we refer to that as healthy boundaries.

There are five different types of boundaries: physical, sexual, intellectual, emotional, and financial. It’s important to explore each of these types of boundaries and figure out what you want and need. If you are a person who requires more physical space, let your friends and family know that you don’t want to be hugged hello or goodbye. Opt instead for a high-five or some kind of handshake.

An important part of setting boundaries is being consistent with them. When you set boundaries with people, make sure you maintain those boundaries throughout the relationship. If you don’t want to be hugged, make that clear as soon as you can and maintain that desire throughout the relationship by reinforcing the boundary. If you are lax with your boundaries, you venture into loose boundary territory and increase the risk of stress, anxiety, and burnout.

We know that setting boundaries can be difficult, especially with people that we love. If you find yourself struggling to communicate your boundaries, we at Mindsight can help you.

Shelby Case is a new therapist at Mindsight Louisville! Shelby's favorite things include spending time with her animals and her spouse, watching television (currently they are watching Big Brother), and taking road trips. When she isn't providing therapy to clients, she can be found playing video games (her favorite is The Sims 4) or spending too much money at a thrift store. Shelby's favorite color is green and her guilty pleasure is reality TV shows.

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