Learning how to set healthy boundaries is one of the most significant changes you can make toward overall health and wellness. Some find it even more difficult than starting an exercise program or eating better. Right about now, you’re probably wondering how setting limits can affect your health, so keep reading to learn more!
What Stress Does to the Body
Perhaps the most obvious way that unhealthy boundaries affect your health is your level of stress. When your boss is texting you outside of work hours, or you’re expected to attend yet another holiday party you don’t have the energy for, your level of stress and exhaustion can rise significantly.
Stress might seem like a purely psychological type of health issue, but it affects all systems of the body. Your heart rate and blood pressure rise, cortisol (the stress hormone) breaks down fat into blood sugar, and your digestive system kicks into overdrive. You might feel as if you’re on edge all the time, gain weight from the excess blood sugar, and experience heartburn. Over time, it can affect your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness.
The cycle of stress must stop, and you are the only one who can make it happen!
Take an Inventory
To know what boundaries need to be set, you must first take an inventory of your biggest boundary-pushers. Making a list can be very helpful to be mindful of the boundaries being pushed and by whom.
Now think of your goals. For example, do you have a family member who drops in frequently? Do you feel as if you’re being pulled in too many directions? Are you stressed out because you never have time for yourself? No matter what your goals are, setting boundaries can help you reach them.
Determine Why the Boundary Needs to be Set
Once you’ve established boundaries that are being pushed and your goals for needing to set them, you can determine why it must be set. Think of why you need to make a change. When you’ve established your “why,” it’s a great reminder of why this change is so essential to your health and wellbeing.
Using the work example, you may feel like you never have an evening off because you’re getting work texts. Your goal would be to have this time off, and your “why” could be because you’re feeling anxiety because you can never really relax. You might also identify that your work quality during working hours is suffering because you don’t get this time to recharge.
If you’re like a lot of us, the holidays present a challenge because you have a lot of invitations to visit friends and family. While some might be excited by this, others might find it exhausting, and it could even cause tense relations. You know you can’t make everyone happy, but you can make yourself happy!
Set the Boundary
Now comes the hard part: establishing the boundary. Saying no and setting limits with others can be so difficult because we fear the repercussions. You might worry you’ll be disciplined at work or that you’ll disappoint a loved one. The most crucial thing to remember is that when somebody does act out, it’s a great reminder of why you need that boundary in the first place.
Communicate clearly. You might try something like, “I’m going to have to stop answering work texts in the evenings. While I want to be available and produce the best work possible, this time in the evenings is important to me, my family, and my ability to do my job well.”
Or be as simple as, “We’re not able to attend your celebration this year, but we hope to catch up with you after the new year. Let’s schedule a lunch date!”
And, of course, come in the form of self-preservation: “I really don’t want to discuss my health issues with you. Thank you.”
Be careful not to over-explain the situation, apologize, or backtrack. These actions invalidate your intention and open the door for more boundaries to be pushed. That said, in the case of work-related boundaries, you may have to compromise if it could affect your ability to do the job or the work you are contracted for. You may need to meet with human resources before having this type of conversation to determine the best course of action.
Stay Committed to Yourself
Making changes in your life can be difficult, and this is no exception! Navigating relationships with boundaries can be especially tricky, but surprisingly, these boundaries can strengthen your relationships.
Take inventory every week to determine how well you’ve held up. Do you find yourself falling back on old habits? Can you identify the reasons you’re backtracking? If you find that you’re not keeping these boundaries, write down why and recommit to yourself.
Check in with yourself often to determine what’s working, what’s not, and how you can improve your situation going forward.
We know that setting boundaries can be so tricky. Once you learn to do it and you stick to your guns, you’re going to find that you have less stress, and a boost to your overall feeling of wellness. Commit to yourself, and remember, if you don’t create boundaries, nobody will do it for you.