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  • Kelly O'Donnell

Set Boundaries, Find Peace

When we are feeling overwhelmed, depleted, taken advantage of, or taken for granted, we often blame others. But the truth is, it is our responsibility to set boundaries that protect ourselves from these feelings. Here are some guidelines…

1. Explore where you need to set boundaries by looking at your values.

Think about your values and priorities. Where are they being trampled over? For example, maybe “family” is important to you, yet you never have time to spend with them. Look for ways that you can make more time for family and create a boundary to protect it. Protecting this boundary may sound like…

“I can’t work after 5 during the week, nightly dinner with my family is non-negotiable. Let’s find a time next week to meet.”

OR Maybe “health” is your value, yet you trample all over it by drinking alcohol on a regular basis. You can set a boundary that protects your health. Protecting it may sound like,

“I do not drink alcohol on weeknights. I’ll have a water with lemon.”

2. Learn to say NO.

Saying “no” may be uncomfortable at first. It is a good idea to practice this language so you get comfortable with it. I recommend practicing saying the words out loud and in front of a mirror. If you know the boundary that needs to be set and are afraid to say it, this can help teach your body/mind that you CAN, in fact, do it! For example, say the words…“I can’t work late anymore, we are going to have to figure out a different way” several times out loud before you say it to your colleagues. This will help make that uncomfortable feeling more manageable. Notice your body. At first,you may feel incapable of speaking the words out loud, feel like you are going to throw up, or feel like you are going to cry. Practicing can help you get through all of that, and get to a place of confidence. Notice how it feels the first time, the fifth time, and most importantly after you say it to your colleagues!

3. Let go of guilt.

We are conditioned to ignore our own needs. Many messages get internalized in our society; “put others first”, “be selfless”, “you can have it all”, “be strong”, “be perfect”, the list goes on and on. If you notice yourself feeling guilty about setting healthy boundaries and sticking to them it may be helpful to think about putting yourself “equal to” others instead of putting yourself “first”. Would you want someone you cared about to feel depleted, overwhelmed, or taken for granted, in order to make you happy? Probably not. Setting healthy boundaries is a “win-win” situation. No one has to lose in order for you to take care of yourself. I am only suggesting that you put yourself on the same plane as others. Your needs matter.

4. Be prepared for people's responses.

As you change, other people will react. If people are used to you being the “go to” person, the “people pleaser”, the “plan maker”, the “partier”, the “therapist friend”, and then all of the sudden you set a boundary, you can expect a reaction. People may say “you have changed”, “you don’t care about me anymore”, “you are no longer a team player”, etc. Be prepared. Do not take it personally. Most importantly, communicate with people. Be ready to say something like, “I have decided not to work after five from now on because of how it affects my family, but I still want to be a team player. Let’s figure something else out.” OR “I know that you are used to me calling you to make plans, but could we please take turns? I really care about our friendship, but would like to share the responsibility of making plans.”

It can be really hard to change your habits around setting boundaries, and communication. People who grow up in a household or culture where these things are not valued can really struggle to feel comfortable with these new habits. If you could use some support building your skills around boundary setting do not hesitate to reach out. You do not have to make these changes alone. Click here to reach out to a therapist at Wise Mind Therapy!


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