Living Well

Setting boundaries to lead a happier life

Arika Morrison. Arika Morrison.

An interview with therapist Arika Morrison 

What does it mean to set boundaries? 

Setting boundaries is about understanding the parameter of our limits and personal needs. It’s how we communicate our “yes” and our “no.”

In relationships, it is understanding where one person ends and another person begins. There are different types of boundaries. Loose boundaries allow too many things in and rigid boundaries keep too many things out. Healthy boundaries serve as a filter, allowing good things in and bad things out. 

Why are boundaries important? 

Boundaries protect us. They are essential in various types of relationships: work, school, family, church and other activities. They protect our time, money, energy and body. They can set expectations in relationships. Boundaries help us to take care of ourselves by honoring our needs and the needs of others.

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How do boundaries, or lack thereof, affect our stress level?

We can experience stress when we have too many boundaries. Boundaries can become walls and isolate us from the good things that bring us joy in life. 

But, we can also experience stress if we don’t have enough boundaries. We can become overcommitted and have too many demands on our life. This can be very draining and cause us to neglect our physical and emotional needs. We must replenish ourselves. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup.

What are some tips for those who struggle with establishing boundaries? 

Many people have difficulty saying “no” because they don’t want to disappoint people. This is especially hard for people pleasers. They may feel they are being selfish or perhaps they don’t feel that their needs matter. It’s important to understand that we all have needs and we must take care of our needs to be healthy. This is not being selfish, this is self-care. Start by slowing down the automatic “yes” and say “maybe.” This creates space to ask yourself:

• Do I have time?

• Do I have the energy? 

• Am I afraid of disappointing the other person?

• Am I neglecting my own needs?

• Does saying “yes” align with my values?

• Can I say “yes” joyfully?

It can feel uncomfortable to change your boundaries and it may be helpful to seek support from others. Many people benefit from learning communication skills and establishing boundaries to create a happy and healthier life.

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