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What Are Boundaries and How Do You Set Them?

Setting and communicating boundaries is an essential component of your health, well-being, and sometimes even your safety. You’ve probably heard the importance of boundaries mentioned before, but do you actually know what boundaries are and how you can apply them to the major areas of your life? If not, this article can help! Today, we’re going to explore what exactly boundaries are and offer tips for enforcing them.

First things first, what are boundaries?

Boundaries are guidelines, rules, or limits that you create based on keeping yourself mentally and physically happy, healthy, and safe. You can create boundaries with anything in your life: people, activities, places, or things. They can be physical or emotional and can range from being loose to rigid, with healthy boundaries typically falling somewhere in between.

Setting healthy boundaries has many important benefits including:

  • Good mental, emotional, and physical health

  • Development of identity

  • Avoidance of burnout

  • Physical and mental safety

  • Conservation of mental and physical energy

  • Better self-esteem

  • More independence

How to set boundaries in your life

It’s important to have boundaries in just about every area of your life, but there are four major areas that people seem to struggle with the most: work, family, spouse/partner, and social media. Let’s break down how you can set boundaries in each of these areas.

Setting boundaries with work

Many studies show that work is the biggest source of stress and anxiety for Americans. A big part of that stress has to do with a lack of boundaries. Here are some ways to set healthy work boundaries so you can protect your well-being, gain respect, and increase your productivity:

  • Set limits: Create strict limits and stick to them. Some examples include stopping work every day at 5 p.m., not checking work emails on the weekends, not accepting projects when you already have too much work, or choosing to not work closely with a particular co-worker (when possible).

  • Prioritize and delegate: Prioritize your to-do list and ask for assistance if you have too much on your plate.

  • Communicate clearly: Once you have your limits in place, don’t be afraid to enforce them. Get comfortable saying no and making your co-workers aware of your limits.

Setting boundaries with family If you’re feeling overwhelmed by difficult family members, it’s time to create some boundaries. Here are some tips for doing exactly that:

  • Be honest with yourself about your needs: Be honest about how much time feels tolerable to you with difficult family members. You don’t have to cut people out completely, but neither should you spend more time with them than feels good to you. It’s important to note, however, that if you’re being abused in any way, very strict, no-contact boundaries should be set, ideally with the help of a professional.

  • Be firm, but kind: Setting boundaries doesn’t have to equate to being callous. In fact, approaching difficult family members with kindness is often the best approach.

  • Remember that you’re in charge of your actions: While you can’t control other people’s behavior, you can control how you respond to them. Practice telling your family members how their actions make you feel and walking away in certain situations if needed.

Setting boundaries with your spouse/partner

All healthy romantic relationships have boundaries. They provide the freedom to express your needs and values while also honoring the needs and values of your partner. Setting boundaries within your relationship can transform it and elevate your own self-respect. Here are some tips for getting started:

  • Use clear communication: After identifying the things that are important to you in your relationship, use clear language to discuss them with your partner. For example, “I need a half-hour to myself when I get home from work to decompress” or “Please don’t raise your voice at me during conflict.”

  • Set clear consequences: Be clear about what the consequences are if your boundaries aren’t respected. What the consequences are depend on your unique values and needs.

  • Take responsibility: Setting boundaries goes two ways. Just as your partner needs to respect your boundaries, you must respect theirs, too. If you slip up, own it, apologize, and discuss how to move forward with your partner in a calm and productive way.

Setting boundaries with social media

This last section is a bit different from the others, but is no less important. Setting boundaries in relation to social media is crucial for protecting your mental health, staying productive, and maintaining healthy relationships. Here are some tips:

  • Turn off notifications: It’s nearly impossible to ignore social media if your phone is dinging every few minutes. Turn off your social media notifications and resolve to only check your accounts a couple of times a day.

  • Set time limits: Decide how much time you feel is reasonable to spend on social media every day. Once you choose your time limit, stick to it! Stay determined and don’t give in. If you slip up, start again the next day. With patience and repetition, you can create a new habit.

  • Unfollow people who bring you down: If interacting with or reading posts from a certain person or group makes you feel bad in any way, unfollow them! This connection is not worth sacrificing your mental health.

The bottom line

Creating healthy boundaries starts with knowing what your limits are. From there, it’s all about enforcing those boundaries with steadfast resolve. It’s important to note that it’s okay to reassess your boundaries from time to time and make them more or less strict depending on how you feel. You’re in control of what you do. Always remember that.

The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this page are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this post is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics, including but not limited to the benefits of mental healthcare, wellness and nutrition. It is not intended to provide or be a substitute for professional mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is not a substitute for a relationship with a licensed mental health practitioner. Always seek the advice of your therapist, physician or other licensed mental health professional with any questions you may have regarding a mental health condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional mental health advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this page.




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