How to Maintain Boundaries

The holidays will be here before you know it. You’re going to have to set boundaries so that you have time and energy to not only get through the season but also have time and energy left to do some fun things just for you. It’s possible to have a healthy body, mind, and spirit so that you won’t even need to make those New Year’s Resolutions. 

You’re Not Building a Prison

A boundary is something you set so you have time and energy left over for what you want to do. Maybe you want to spend more time relaxing or recharging. Maybe you have a hobby that you enjoy. Whatever the activity is, boundaries are essential to help you live a full, happy life. Boundaries are not something you set to confine yourself. Boundaries are not something you set to punish other people by keeping them out. Even if you’ve not been very good at saying “no,” to things in the past, you can still learn to set healthy boundaries today. By saying “no” today, you’ll get to say “yes” to the things you want to do later.  It may be uncomfortable at first to say “no,” by setting a boundary, but it gets easier over time. You learn by doing. 

One of the easiest things to do is decide ahead of time what is important for your physical, mental, and spiritual health. Since there are three months left in 2020, use that time on your calendar or smartphone to schedule things you want to do. You can plan something that takes several hours. For example, you might decide to take a long bike ride every Saturday until December 26th. Or you can start with an activity that doesn’t take a lot of time. For example, you might decide to go to bed an hour earlier so you can get 9 hours of sleep every night for the rest of the year. Maybe you want to give yourself 20 minutes in the morning for prayer or meditation. Block off this time for self-care in your planner or smartphone. Treat this time as any other event on your calendar as a commitment you are willing to make. 

Prevent the “Yes” That You Regret

Once you’ve planned out the next three months, your biggest challenge will be holding that boundary. You will want to say “yes” to others during that time because that has been your natural tendency. Resist that tendency. Before saying anything, check that planner or device. 

Guard the time you need to take care of yourself as if your health depends on it because it does. When someone asks you to do something, and it doesn’t fit, you can honestly say that you already have something planned for that time. You don’t have to justify how you choose to spend your time. 

If the request of your time and energy is something you really want to do, then you can say, “I would like to do that, but I have something planned that day. I’ll get back to you.” Then you can decide what works for you. 

If the request of your time and energy is something you don’t want or need to do, then say “no,” graciously. You can say, “What you’re doing is important. I just can’t help you this year,” or, “I know I’ve helped you out in the past, but as you know this year has been challenging for all of us. I can’t say yes at this time.”

Most people are understanding. You don’t have to do it all. Your time and energy can be gone in a flash if you don’t guard it. Guard it with purpose and grace. 

Some Advice for People Pleasers

If giving is in your nature and you genuinely like people, you likely have a big capacity for getting things done. If you’re not giving, you don’t feel like yourself. Go ahead and give time and energy to others but do it purposefully.

Make a list of people you want to spend time with. Maybe it’s someone you haven’t seen in a while. Take some time to think back to 2019. Who did you enjoy hanging out with? What fun things did you do together? This is the perfect time to reconnect with that person, and even if you can’t do the things you once did, you can come up with something. There is nothing better than being with those that make us feel good about ourselves. You need some of that. 

Make a list of people you need to spend time with. These would be the people you have an obligation to even though they might not be the easiest people to hang out with. If you’ve done the first part and given yourself time for self-care, and you’ve gotten those hits of joy from spending time with people who make you happy, you will have time and energy left for your family or work responsibilities. 

Meeting obligations is important to you. You like to do the right thing. You can do the things you’re obliged to do without burning yourself out or being resentful of those that you have to connect with. In fact, if you approach these situations having a reserve of energy, you’ll bring your best self, and this can open new possibilities in that relationship. 

For example, several years ago, I had a coworker who always asked me for help on things he was quite capable of handling on his own. I wanted to be seen as a nice person and a “good” boss so I would drop everything each time he asked me to help with a work-related task. I grew to resent these intrusions. On some level, I think he sensed my resentment and responded by asking even more questions. 

I knew things had to change. Instead of rushing in to help this person, I began to let him find his own answers. As it turned out, he enjoyed being more self-sufficient. It built his confidence. He became a really good employee which was a win for both of us. 

The Time of COVID has shown us how much dissension, rebellion, and divisiveness there is out there. You can’t control much of what is going on. However, you can control how you spend your time and energy. You can begin to make things better with your own little corner of the world starting by taking care of yourself. 

Tell me about a time when you said “yes,” when you wanted to say “no.” When do you have a hard time holding a boundary? 

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