Setting boundaries for your own needs can create more space in your schedule and help you feel better about what you can accomplish every day.
A little bit of planning can go a long way towards creating the kind of life balance that will keep you healthy, happy, and calm.
Here are some tips on how to set those boundaries and prioritize your self-care.
How to Set Boundaries for Self-care
Simply stated, setting self-care boundaries is:
- Figuring out what you would like to achieve during interactions with people.
- Identifying what you’ll do when a person says or does something that crosses your boundary.
- Acknowledging and respectfully communicating your limits and when someone crosses them.
Of course, there are many pieces to those primary steps, so let’s take a deeper look!
Yes, I know, changing your self-care requires learning new information. And it can be overwhelming!
But, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered!
I made this FREE faith-based guide to help you get started! Be sure to grab yours!
What is a Self-care Boundary?
The term “boundaries” has many different uses in everyday language. Still, when we’re talking about setting boundaries for self-care, it means the limits you set with the people in your life.
Boundaries let you decide what is and isn’t okay to ask of you. Limits also keep you from feeling overwhelmed by all the demands on your time and energy.
Everyone needs boundaries. But people who serve and take care of others are especially vulnerable and should put self-care boundaries in place.
Interestingly, people who struggle to set limits for themselves often have difficulty keeping them in place.
However, knowing your limits and sticking to them can help you feel more in control of your life. So it’s vital to improve your healthy boundary-setting skills continually.
You might have a few self-care boundaries in place already. Still, if you’re having trouble with any of the following, then it could be time to reevaluate them and set new ones.
How you handle boundaries says a lot about how you value yourself.
- Your schedule boundaries – Do you feel guilty about saying “no” to other people? Do you always say yes when people ask you to volunteer for more time than you have available?
- Your relationships – Do you find it easy to ask for what you need? Do your family members or friends come over without calling first, or do you feel drained by how much time and energy they require? Are you always the person who makes compromises to keep peace in the group?
- Your body – Are you eating junk food because it’s quick and easy, even though you know you’d feel better on a more nutritious diet? Or are you skipping exercise because you’re tired after work, even though it would give you the energy to tackle the rest of your day?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, it is likely time to revise your self-care boundaries.
However, it may very well mean starting with learning how to set boundaries with yourself.
It might seem weird to set boundaries when you’re the only person involved in the situation (like when it comes to telling yourself you need some alone time).
But this is when it’s essential!
You are the only person who can take care of yourself, so set boundaries for your peace and happiness. (If you are currently overwhelmed carrying another’s load, you might be interested in this Boundary Bible Study #affil link).
Why are Healthy Boundaries Important?
Setting boundaries for self-care is a critical skill. It lets you choose who and what gets your time and attention, which in some cases can mean not letting other people push you into things you don’t enjoy doing!
The basic idea of setting boundaries is pretty simple: deciding for yourself how much you will do or sacrifice for others.
People who serve and take care of others can have a hard time setting boundaries in their own lives. However, adequate limits for necessary rest are vital to staying healthy, happy, and calm. This failure to set boundaries often leaves those serving to feel unhappy, resentful, or taken advantage of by others.
We all want to be seen as helpful, generous, and selfless, but the truth is that even as Christians, we have limits. We can only do so much in a given time before we feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed out.
Setting boundaries isn’t complicated, but it can be a little tricky at first if you’re out of practice. As I mentioned above, avoiding things you don’t have the energy for isn’t just a good idea—it’s crucial to your health and happiness!
The Connection Between Setting Healthy Boundaries and Self-care
Boundaries give you control over your life and make it easier to love the people around you without feeling like you’ve lost yourself.
It’s easy to think that life will fall apart if you have fewer commitments. But, in reality, you might feel a greater sense of relief when you don’t have to deal with certain people or situations that drain your energy or make things more complicated.
Self-care boundaries affect everything you do. You can be kind and generous without losing sight of your own needs. Some things aren’t negotiable or open for discussion, but when someone asks something of you (and they do ask!), the best response is to make and have a plan.
Healthy boundaries help you take care of yourself (and stay sane!) while still getting all your work done, spending time with friends and family, and serving others in a way that brings glory to God!
And, it’s okay to ask for help! Many people (friends, family, professional counselors) will be more than happy to help you set self-care boundaries for yourself if you need it.
How Can I Get Started Setting Healthy Personal Boundaries?
An important point to remember is that you are in charge of your own life!
There are many ways to set boundaries for self-care, but they generally fall into two categories: passive or assertive.
Unhealthy Boundaries versus Healthy Boundaries
Passive boundaries are about not hurting yourself or others.
Examples of passive boundaries include:
- “Going along” with what someone else wants.
- Ignoring it when someone else is rude or disrespectful.
- Not saying anything about what bothers you.
Assertive boundaries are about standing up for your own needs while still being respectful of other people.
Examples of assertive boundaries include:
- Asking people to stop interrupting you.
- Saying no without over-explaining yourself.
- Giving positive reinforcement when people do something right.
Assertive boundaries are healthy because they give you a chance to be honest about what you want while still taking the other person’s feelings into account.
5 Steps to Setting Healthy Boundaries
1. Figure out what you would like to do during an interaction and why it is essential.
2. Identify what you will do when someone says or does something that crosses your boundary. (First, however, be sure to ask them to clarify what they just said or meant).
3. When someone crosses a boundary, think about the possible motives behind their actions (and did they realize they were crossing a line?).
4. Think about why they might want to cross this boundary and plan to address common reasons.
5. Use positive communication strategies.
10 Practical Examples Of Healthy Self-care Boundaries
Sometimes it helps to see what examples of healthy boundaries look like in real life. So I’ve listed a few examples of healthy boundaries that you can request or honor for others.
1. If someone asks you to go out and do something and you’re exhausted, say no.
2. Practice not interrupting other people while they are talking or having a conversation with someone else.
3. Don’t overshare your story in certain situations, like when people share about their struggles.
4. Ask for help or encouragement when you need it instead of just doing everything yourself.
5. When someone wants to hear about your struggles, permit them to ask for details if they want to know, but don’t offer too much information on your own.
6. Say no without explaining why a lot of the time, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
7. If you’re being taken advantage of, say no and set a deadline for the other person to ‘get their act together’ and treat you appropriately.
8. Let people know that you need some time alone to recharge.
9. When someone asks you to do something, ask yourself if it’s convenient, if you want to do it, and if you have time in your schedule before saying yes or no.
10. Start small by setting boundaries in areas of your life where you can take a risk, like canceling plans with a friend who always takes advantage of you.
Setting Boundaries with the People You Take Care of or Serve
It can be hard to set boundaries with people you serve and care for, such as elderly parents and children.
They tend to push your limits to get what they want or need from you. And, if you feel called to serve and take care of others, there are times when this will happen and you’ll have to prayerfully consider how firm to set your boundaries.
Setting limits on how often you do for others will help prevent them from using guilt or manipulation to get you to do more than you’re comfortable doing.
Not setting this limit can cause resentment towards them and eventually strain your relationships.
5 Tips for Setting Healthy Self-care Boundaries with People You Take Care of and Serve
1 Start small.
You don’t have to tackle all your boundaries in one go! Instead, start by choosing one person and practicing setting boundaries with them.
2 Don’t expect perfection.
It might be discouraging at first if you push yourself too hard, but you can always try again later, so don’t give up.
3 Remember the purpose for your self-care boundaries.
Remember that setting a boundary is not about being selfish. Instead, it’s about being kind to yourself by protecting yourself from people taking advantage of you.
4 Be respectful.
You deserve respect and kindness from others, even if you know you can’t get it from everyone. Setting boundaries can also help people in relationships because it encourages them to speak up when they feel disrespected or taken for granted.
People who struggle with setting healthy boundaries often feel like they owe other people or that it’s wrong to stand up for themselves and what they need, but this is a misconception. Instead, it’s essential to stay true to yourself while still being respectful of others’ feelings.
Setting boundaries isn’t about pushing people away or pulling their feelings; it’s about taking care of yourself and respecting your needs while respecting others.
5 Expect pushback on your boundaries
It’s normal for people to try and test your boundaries, so don’t feel upset by it! Just be prepared and stay firm when you need to.
People might get angry, disappointed, even sad if you set a boundary, so brace yourself for their reaction.
Try not to apologize or back down from your decision because you’re worried about hurting someone else’s feelings.
Other people might get angry when they don’t get what they want, so work on reminding yourself that it’s okay to have your priorities. If you are setting boundaries, you are protecting yourself from being taken advantage of or mistreated.
People might get mad when you select a limitation, but often it is because they wish things were like they used to be! It can be painful for them to realize that you now have a choice about whom you give your time and love.
Don’t worry – remember having boundaries doesn’t mean that you don’t care about other people. It just means that you’re taking care of yourself and respecting what you need, which is the right thing to do!
PRO TIP: If you know someone will be disappointed that you can’t do what they asked, soften the blow with a kind explanation for why you have to say ‘no.’
Saying no in a kind, respectful way usually helps deescalate the situation, as I mentioned.
However, suppose someone continues to ask too much of you after you’ve made your position clear. In that case, you should not feel guilty about setting firmer boundaries or walking away. You don’t have to struggle through things just because other people want you to; you’re the one who will live with your decisions.
If the other person cares about you, they’ll understand and respect your feelings in turn, even if they don’t like it.
And if their boundaries seem to have disappeared, that might be a sign that it’s time to reevaluate the relationship.
It’s okay to keep your distance from people who want more of you than you can give!
5 Practical Examples of Boundaries for People you Take Care of and Serve
Some ideas can include:
1. Use as few words as possible to get your point across, like “no” or “that’s not okay with me.”
2. Think about how you want to feel around the person, and set a boundary that reflects those feelings.
3. Make a specific action plan for what you’ll do if someone crosses one of your boundaries, like changing how you interact with them.
4. Practice in lower-risk scenarios so you feel more comfortable before trying it in a high-risk interaction.
5. If you feel guilty about setting a boundary, ask yourself what’s stopping you from addressing your needs and do something about it by improving your setting boundary skills.
How to Handle the Reactions by Others to Your New Self-care Boundaries
People might struggle to respect or let you set boundaries, especially if they’ve always been allowed to get their way in the past.
Some of the most common reactions you might experience when people don’t like your new boundaries include:
- Anger, sadness, and withdrawal: it’s normal for others to get angry or upset if you set a boundary. They might withdraw, cry, or try to guilt you into doing what they want.
- Trying to control or manipulate you: people might call you selfish for setting boundaries, but remember that it’s okay to look after yourself! Others might use guilt, promise something in the future (“I’ll never ask again!”), or use emotional blackmail to get you to let them have their way.
- Blaming: people might try to blame you for something that’s not your fault when it’s convenient for them, like blaming you when they don’t get their way or when someone else is mad at them.
- Resistance: people might aggressively object if you set a boundary, like losing their temper and yelling or trying to talk you out of it. They might tell you that they can’t “do anything without your help.” This response is a manipulative tactic to get you to do what they want – prayerfully consider responding if you experience this.
- Attempting to guilt trip you: people will sometimes try to make you feel guilty for standing up for yourself by accusing you of hurting them, neglecting them, or being selfish.
- Making it about themselves: they might say things like “I’m working hard to make this work” when they mean “I want to keep taking advantage of you.”
Remember that self-care doesn’t make you a bad person! It’s natural to take breaks and do things for yourself.
Limits can be held in a godly way.
Monitoring Your Self-care Boundaries
Over the first few weeks, pay attention to how your boundaries affect those around you. Then, observe their reactions as you set them, primarily if they’re not used to having any limits or control over their behavior.
You might find that some people respect your boundaries, while others try to pressure you into giving in. Over time, you’ll be able to tell the difference between people who want to accept and respect your decisions and those who want things their way.
As you navigate this new path, take time to breathe before responding to adverse reactions to your new boundaries. Then, notice their response so you can acknowledge and respect their feelings.
Finally, accept that they can have these feelings. You do not have to like or agree with them but take them and move on (instead of arguing over it).
If they listen to you, you can verbally acknowledge the feelings you notice. Next, let them know that the changes you are seeking may produce some discomfort between you. Finally, you appreciate they want what is best for you and thank them for their understanding and support.
No One-Size-Fits-All Self-care Boundary
You know yourself best, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of boundaries. Some might work for you now and then change as your life changes.
Remember that there are many different ways to set a limit, so if the first thing you try doesn’t work, don’t give up!
In conclusion, remember that although it might be hard at first to set boundaries, most people won’t want to push against them for too long.
You deserve to take care of yourself and live a calm and joyful life!
Learn to say no, stand up for yourself, and know that even while you are serving and taking care of others, you can set limits as you learn to love and respect yourself.
To get started on your self-care, don’t forget to grab the Self-care StarTer Guide!
Hi, I’m Lisa! Thanks for visiting My Life Nurse, where we provide people who serve and take care of others with easy self-care plans and systems, wellness strategies, and scripture-based encouragement so you can stay happy, healthy and rejuvenated. I’ve found that many people struggle with caring for themselves while taking care of others, but they also feel called to serve others, so they keep working even when they’re stressed and exhausted. That’s why I combine my nursing expertise with Scripture-based teaching. Our readers love learning how to walk closer to the Lord to improve their self-care – so they can begin their journey to feel better – without feeling guilty. Be sure to grab your FREE Self-care StarTer Guide!