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Setting Boundaries: How to Maintain Your Sanity without Offending Anyone

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Setting boundaries at home, work, or socially can be a difficult task. Many of us don't like saying 'no' because we might feel guilty, or worry we are letting others down. But there are ways to set boundaries that will help you feel less stressed, have better relationships, and not let guilt and worry take over.

Have you ever felt tired and burnt out by trying to keep your family, friends, or boss/coworkers happy? Do you feel obligated to go to every family function or say ‘yes’ every time your friends ask you to do something? Do you feel the need to say ‘yes’ whenever your boss or coworkers ask you to do something? Or have you set boundaries and stand up for yourself?

I’ve noticed that many people don’t want to say no to others because they are afraid it may offend them or end the relationship. Yet, finding the right balance between being kind and firm is the key to maintaining healthy relationships. But you may ask: how can you set boundaries without offending or hurting someone? Here are some tried-and-true strategies that I implement in my life as well as what I teach clients in my private practice.

A. Know what you want and prioritize your boundaries. Determine your boundaries, create boundary statements, and communicate them in a clear and concise manner. Know what you will tolerate and won’t tolerate.

Some boundary statements include:

  1. “Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you...”
  2. “Thank you so much, but no…
  3. “I’m tied up right now and can’t chat…”
  4. “I am not ready yet…”
  5. “I understand your point, but the answer is still no”
  6. “I am not going to do that…”
  7. “I am not able to do that right now, but I can do…”

B. Be firm and prioritize your personal time and self-care. Don’t be afraid to be firm or assertive with those who are not willing to respect your boundaries. You need to prioritize yourself and take personal time. Taking a mental health day, turning off your email and phone notifications after 6pm, or taking an exercise class are all good ways to put yourself first. Engaging in a self-care routine can also help prevent burnout.

C. Just say ‘no’. It’s important to understand it’s appropriate to say ‘no’ when you’re tired, burnt out, or you don’t want to do something without the need to provide a long explanation. Additionally, don’t let someone talk you into doing something you don’t want to do.

D. Alternative Solutions—When someone asks you to do something and you don’t want to do it, offer an alternative solution. Or if someone at work asks you to do something and you don’t have the right skills or knowledge, make a coworker recommendation. Being part of the solution can help eliminate extra stress.

E. Consistency—Being consistent when it comes to enforcing boundaries with everyone is the key to success because this will condition them not to ask you to do something you don’t or can’t do.

Keep in mind that not everyone will accept and respect your boundaries no matter how hard you try to enforce them. But when someone doesn’t respect them, you must decide whether you want to have a relationship with this person or at least reduce how much communication you have with them.

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