The 5 Best Practices for Setting Healthy Boundaries
Are you in the habit of unloading your problems on another person without any warning or prompting? That’s okay — or is it? Think how you would feel if an acquaintance, without adequately preparing you, starts telling you about the abuse she’s experienced and her husband’s continuing infidelity.
Of course, you would feel like taking up the cudgel for her. You would treat her to brunch, a movie, and drinks. However, you must admit you would also be under enormous stress.
Ask your specialist on stress management in Dubai, and they would tell you the stress might be because of the following reasons:
- She’s a distant friend, an acquaintance, and you might not want to get too personal with an acquaintance.
- You did not ask for nor prompt the barrage of problems.
- The person did not give you a choice about whether you wanted to hear about her problems.
- The person did not ask if you had sufficient headspace to process her problems, which would naturally add to the concerns already crowding up your thoughts.
In other words, the above scenario violates the boundaries you set, which might include the following:
- That only a close friend might open up to you about such highly personal matters.
- That you want to be given a choice whether to listen to people’s concerns.
- That you insist on people asking you if you have the headspace to listen to their problems before they tell you about them.
Naturally, not everyone would find the above situation distressful, but that’s only because boundaries are personal or determined on an individual basis. The point is that everyone has limits, and you will get stressed when someone violates those boundaries.
Best Practices to Setting Healthy Boundaries
One way to reduce the stress you have to deal with daily is by setting clear, healthy boundaries. We recommend the following best practices to achieve this end.
1. Reflect on Your Values
To determine what you will say yes and no to and identify what you will allow other people to do and not do to, with, and for you, first, you have to be clear on the things you value.
Using the example above, do you value your mental health? Then, perhaps, tell your friends that you should all practice asking for permission before unloading problems on each other. If you think physical exercise is essential, set aside time for it and not let your work or your family members encroach on it.
2. Commit Your Boundaries to Paper
What do you wish to start and stop doing, and what do you want others to start and stop doing? List down your answers.
Do you want your husband to start taking his fair share of parent-teacher conferences or attending family events at your children’s school? Do you want your friends to stop ignoring your opinions? Do you want to start painting and stop being the only one among the siblings taking care of your sick mother?
List down these things. Honesty is the only rule. The list you’ll come up with is solely for your eyes and benefit, and it will help give you clarity about your boundaries (or what you wish they were, anyway).
3. Start Setting Boundaries
Once you know your boundaries, you need to start enforcing them.
For instance, if it bothers you when your office mates talk badly to you about absent colleagues, then you must communicate how you feel. Tell your erring office mates that you don’t like them talking maliciously about colleagues who are not present to defend themselves.
Yes, you value your work. However, if work is all you’re doing with your time, then perhaps you must start being firm on your work hours. You ought to decline any work calls, emails, commitments, and discussions outside these hours.
Be warned that there’s a good chance you’ll feel anxious when you start establishing your boundaries. There’s bound to be conflict when you tell your friends they can’t just suddenly unload their problems on you with no warning or prompting.
If you feel extremely overwhelmed and stressed out, anxiety treatment without medication can be your friend. Get therapy if needed, but do not give up on setting healthy boundaries.
4. Don’t Rush to Say ‘Yes’ and Practice Saying ‘No’
Don’t immediately say ‘yes’ when someone asks you to do something or take on a new responsibility. Train yourself to take some time to think before you say yes to anything.
A trick would be to stall by clarifying what the other person is asking you to do. Use the time that buys you to decide. A frank, ‘Let me think about it,’ should be good, too.
Sometimes, we end up violating our own boundaries because of a knee-jerk reaction to say yes to everything.
Likewise, don’t hesitate to say no when someone asks you to do something you don’t want to do. We might not relish offending anyone, but we must respect our own boundaries. They exist to protect your well-being.
5. Reach Out to Others
When everything’s getting too overwhelming for you to deal with on your own, if setting and enforcing your boundaries are causing you more stress and anxiety than you’ve prepared yourself for, get support.
Set an appointment with a therapist. Join a support group or take self-care classes. Don’t give in to the urge to return to a life with no boundaries. In the long-term, you’ll thank yourself for continuing, being firm, and soldiering on, no matter the difficulties you’re currently facing.
We can help you set clear boundaries or manage the stress and anxiety caused by trying to establish healthy boundaries. Talk to us today!
Dr. Upasana Gala is the founder and CEO of Evolve Brain Training, a Neurofeedback-centered institute that focuses on using non-invasive brain training techniques to maximize the brain's true potential.