Boundary setting can promote growth and healing, however, sometimes it feels wrong. There is a lot of comfort in old patterns and behaviors, even when we know they are not working for us. If you have found yourself dealing with growing pains, don’t forget that it’s all a part of the process.
Setting boundaries can have many benefits to your emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being, including increasing your self-awareness, improving communication, and feeling more in control of your life. Boundaries are the rules and guidelines we set that dictate how we behave in relationships — including with ourselves.
How to identify boundaries?
Checking in with yourself regularly can help you to identify when and where boundaries can be useful. When checking in with yourself, notice what brings you joy, energy and happiness. Notice what makes you feel overwhelmed, uncomfortable, or stressed. Reflecting on what impacts your emotional well-being can help you understand and honor your needs while identifying what is in your control. Is there something you can change by setting a limit, communicating a need, taking on fewer responsibilities, or saying no to a commitment?
Inevitably, there will be circumstances that are out of your control, like due dates for projects or the actions and opinions of others. Setting and communicating boundaries can be uncomfortable at first, so it can be helpful to start small and remind yourself and others why you are choosing to set certain boundaries.
Boundaries with yourself
When life gets hectic, it’s common to forget to prioritize your mental health and well-being. Implementing boundaries around your time, energy, finances, and self-talk can set a foundation for other things going on in your life. Self-care and prioritizing your well-being whenever possible can help lead to a balanced post-secondary experience.
Setting boundaries with yourself can include:
- Not attending to your phone when you’re busy or need to concentrate
- Unfollowing or muting an account on social media if it’s having a negative effect on your mental health
- Taking breaks from studying
- “I’m going to study for an hour and then make a snack”
- Limiting screen time or time on a specific platform
- Scheduling time for rest and relaxation
- Setting a specific bedtime routine or morning routine to ensure you get enough sleep
- Making time for things that bring joy and fulfillment – spending time outdoors, baking or cooking, exercising, or crafting
- Creating a budget or prioritizing how you’ll spend money
- Contacting supports when you start to feel overwhelmed
Setting boundaries in relationships
Setting boundaries in relationships can help others understand how you’d like to be treated and what they can expect and anticipate from you. When you’re clear and honest about what is and isn’t working for you, your relationships can positively shift and feel more balanced. Other people may see you as a model of healthy boundary setting and become inspired to set their own boundaries too.
Setting boundaries in relationships may include:
- Rescheduling plans or not attending a social event because of other priorities
- “Thank you for the invite, I have to focus on ____ right now”
- Being clear about communication expectations
- “I’m not comfortable meeting at ____, so if you’d like, I can suggest another location that works for both of us”
- Distancing yourself from a situation that’s negatively impacting your mental health
- Honesty around how other people’s actions, decisions, or words impact you
- “It hurts my feelings when…”
- “I need you to…”
- “When you _____, I feel _____”
Remember, it’s okay to:
- Ask for help when life feels overwhelming
- Cut ties with people who don’t make you feel good, even if they have been around for a while
- Be a completely different person than you were a year ago, or even 6 months ago
- Put a pause on your responsibilities for a day so you can take a break or practice self-care
- Establish new boundaries and start saying no to things you used to say yes to
- Avoid talking to certain people about certain topics if they are not respectful or supportive of your choices.