healthy boundaries

 

Over the years, working women have assumed countless roles – mother, student, employee, boss, teacher, spouse, friend. The list goes on and, at some point, responsibilities begin to overlap. The line between women’s personal and professional lives starts to blur and, soon enough, they don’t have even a minute alone to themselves.

Without realizing it, you say yes to everything and, at the same time, you say no to other things that you actually need – and certainly deserve. This can have negative effects on both your personal life and your career. That’s why it’s so important to set healthy boundaries and protect your peace at home, at work, and on the go.

Create trust, build better relationships and enhance well-being by setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. In doing so, you’ll teach others to value and respect you, even when they disagree – and that, alone, can be life-changing.

 

1. Consider Your Own Needs

It’s hard to set boundaries for yourself when you feel you don’t deserve them, and working mothers might struggle with this the most. Often, they put their own health and happiness on the back burner to focus on personal and professional responsibilities. Yet, you must realize that you have needs, too, and they deserve to be met. If you ignore them for too long, you’ll likely burn out and drop the ball in multiple areas of your life.

Reprioritize yourself by considering these needs and then making a point to fulfill them. Take care of yourself by investing in a self-care routine, complete with a skincare regimen, sleep schedule, and perhaps even a daily workout. Setting boundaries at work and at home will allow you to make more time for these and other needs, but recognizing them is often the first step.


2. Trust Your Intuition

For centuries, society has written a false narrative that women are overly emotional, sensitive, and even manipulative. Consequently, many women push their instincts aside because they’re convinced, they’re unreasonable and, therefore, untrustworthy. Yet, trusting your gut is one of the best things you can do to set and maintain healthy boundaries.

If something or someone feels unsafe or uncomfortable, consider those feelings a red flag and trust your intuition. Check in with your body. How does it respond to different situations? Perhaps your heart rate goes up when a certain co-worker walks by or your stomach clenches whenever your mother calls.

These physical reactions will reveal what you can handle and where you need to draw boundaries. Don’t overthink it and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

 

3. Learn to Say No

Women and working mothers, in particular, constantly field requests at work and at home. With only so many hours in a day, you only have time to say yes to some of them. Everything else must receive a resounding “no.”

Of course, choosing which responsibilities to accept and which to neglect can be tricky, especially when your job is on the line. However, assessing each ask, delivering a well-reasoned no, and making accommodations while still respecting your healthy boundaries can help.

For instance, if your boss asks you to stay late and complete extra paperwork, you might consider your abilities, rules regarding overtime, and your post-work responsibilities before giving an answer. If the request is unfeasible or infringes on prior commitments – like your kids’ dance recital – you may either say no or offer to complete the work at a later date.

If you do say yes, have a clear and focused plan for execution so the task doesn’t take more time and energy than it should.


4. Limit Communication

Does your boss consistently call on your day off and beg you to come in? Maybe you have a friend, parent, sibling, or even a spouse who texts you; countless times a day. Even social media can encourage some considerable boundary-blurring and distract you from the present moment.

In these instances, it’s easy to give in to the constant barrage of messages and engage in conversation. However, if doing so means sacrificing your mental or physical health, it’s time to establish some boundaries.

Use the “out of office” responder on email accounts or temporarily delete your email app to safeguard your personal time and space. Send verification of your vacation days well in advance to avoid unsolicited phone calls and texts. You can even turn off notifications on all your devices to further solidify your boundaries.

When all else fails, directly tell people how to get a hold of you. If you can compartmentalize emails but not texts, limit communication to your inbox.

 

5. Be Consistent

Giving in to others’ demands and letting boundaries slide can confuse those around you. If you can’t respect your own healthy boundaries, neither will your friends, family, or co-workers. Ultimately, it’s up to you to enforce them, so try to remain consistent and unwavering. Standing your ground will reinforce your thresholds and beliefs to ensure your boundary lines remain clear and uncrossed.

Being assertive about your boundaries can be intimidating at first, especially if you’re new to setting them. That’s why it’s best to create a basic framework and then adapt it to fit each relationship or responsibility in your life. For instance, if you want to get 10 minutes of alone time each day, you may have to set physical boundaries with your kids and spouse at home. At work, this might entail turning off notifications and taking a walk outdoors instead.

 

6. Seek Support

Defining and enforcing boundaries gets even trickier if you or someone you love is living with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or a similar mental illness. These mental health conditions make it hard for you and those around you to see reality. In this case, you might need additional support from a therapist or mental health professional.

For example, if you’re a sexual assault survivor, you may want people to ask permission before hugging you or patting you on the back. If you’re struggling to assert this boundary because it feels countercultural, ask a therapist or trusted friend for advice or encouragement. They can help you phrase your request so that it creates more opportunities for connection, even if you prefer to maintain physical distance.

 

Reassessing Your Boundaries

Writing your boundaries in permanent ink will likely cause issues down the road. After all, people grow, perceptions change and priorities shift. A limit or boundary that worked last month might not work this month, and that’s OK.

Instead of holding on to dysfunctional boundaries or ones that isolate you, frequently reassess your personal thresholds and ask yourself whether they’re truly healthy. Then, you can choose to make them stricter or looser depending on the situation and whether anything’s changed. You can be firm and flexible at the same time. It just might take some time, patience, and trial and error before you get it right.

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