Balance and Boundaries

Finding that balance of doing it all and managing stress in our daily lives can be difficult. One of the quickest ways to achieve balance is by setting boundaries. Setting boundaries is all about knowing what our limits are and what we are comfortable with at the end of the day. Boundaries are guardrails that we establish to keep us from careening off the road of life, so to speak. So how do we do that?

The key is balance.

At The Life Change Group I worked with a client who was struggling to manage the pressures he felt at school, and still be supportive to his friends who were struggling in their personal lives. We talked through what parts of the dynamic between school and life were overwhelming him and then identified where he felt comfortable setting boundaries. His scholastic stressors could be managed with planning and discipline and learning when to ask for help on things like studying and test-taking. For his personal experience, he ultimately identified he was not comfortable ending any friendships, but rather wanted to set a boundary where he would not constantly look for a solution to his friends’ problems. He was content with simply being a good listener when needed. Over time, he learned to manage his stress by applying those guardrails.

Identifying our own sets of boundaries is a skill we have to learn in order to develop and cultivate healthy relationships. In order to develop that skill, we need to know what we are willing to accept and what we are not able to tolerate. If we don’t understand what our limits are, we can’t set strong boundaries with others and ourselves.

Here are three helpful tips to setting and keeping boundaries:

1. Identify which areas of your life are the most overwhelming.

Does most of your stress come from work, school or relationships? Can you further specify a certain person, group or situation? Sometimes when we try to juggle too much it is hard to even identify where our stress is actually coming from. Take a moment to reflect on the aspects of your life, weighing the good and bad, and zeroing in on where you are struggling. Some clients are very literal in this process and make lists on the computer. Others are more liberal in this exercise and devote brain power during a long walk. Whatever works for you is fine as long as you identify those key areas.

2. Identify where you can apply limits.

Once you’ve identified which areas of your life are causing the most stress, it is time to identify what you ARE and are NOT willing to do in order to bring a little more peace back into your life. At work, are you willing to leave the office earlier? At school, could you give up a club or a sport to give yourself more free time? With your friends, could you take on fewer of their problems? With your family, can you forego a luxury to reduce stress over money. In many cases these are not easy boundaries to set, but ultimately they will protect you.

3. Allow yourself to say “no.”

One of the hardest parts of setting boundaries is the worry that we are being perceived as acting selfish if we say no to others. With this increased pressure to do it all, we often feel that we have to handle it all as well. This is simply not true. In fact, the entire concept of setting boundaries to find balance and manage stress, is establishing times and situations where you do say no. That’s the whole point. Know when to say no.

At the end of the day, setting boundaries is not only about having a healthy balance; it is also about having a healthy relationship with ourselves and our daily stress. Our boundaries are our own. The more we set boundaries we are comfortable with, the easier it becomes to maintain balance in our lives.

And thank goodness there is an app to show that boundaries really do work.