How to Set Boundaries (and Why it Matters)
- November 20, 2018
- Rachel Dawson
We live in a culture of hard work and hustle and making things happen. We’re accessible at all times, we’re connected constantly, and we are propelled by productivity. And honestly? It’s exhausting. We’re burning out, making ourselves sick, and feeling stressed out all the time.
We weren’t made to go nonstop. Just think– after just six days of creating, the God of the universe himself took a Sabbath day to rest… yet we humans seem to think we can go on creating, working, making, going, going, going forever.
It’s not healthy. We aren’t thriving.
We have to learn how to set boundaries.
We have to learn how to say no.
We have to find a more sustainable way to live our lives.
I know, I know. We have a fear of missing out. We see all the things all of our friends are doing on Instagram, and we feel like saying no to an invitation will make us the odd one out. Maybe it will. But maybe we will be better for it.
Now, I’m an introvert by nature, so the whole “saying no and staying home” thing comes naturally to me. I’m the person who rejoices when plans are cancelled and I get an unexpected night in to just relax. But even I have found myself with an overwhelmingly busy schedule lately, every day on my calendar filled with meetings and get togethers and dinner plans. It took my body breaking down with a horrible cold for me to realize (yet again) that I cannot maintain this pace of life for ever. I have to slow down. I have to rest.
Setting boundaries feels hard at first. It feels limiting, constricting, and just not a whole lot of fun. But there’s freedom in creating healthy boundaries too, and I’ve been learning just how beautiful and life-giving they truly can be.
When we say no to things (even good things), we are prioritizing other things. We can establish our lives in a way that elevates the things that are good, holy, and right, and we can be healthier and more fulfilled people as a result. We can step away from things that are draining, discouraging, and damaging. We can find greater joy as we follow the Spirit’s leading into a lifestyle that is more abundant and free. We can create rhythms in our routines that help us to be steady, successful, and sane. We can! Truly.
It just starts by putting some boundaries in place. It starts with saying no so that we can in turn say a better yes.
Here are a few examples of healthy boundaries that might help you in creating some of your own:
Charge your phone away from your bed. You (most likely) do not need to be accessible at all hours of day and night. By all means, if your job requires you to be on call, keep that phone close! But if you’re off the clock and trying to get some quality rest, you need to remove any potential distractions from within your reach. Keep that phone far away. Bonus: you’ll have to get out of bed to turn off your morning alarm!
Set goals and guidelines for friends and family time. Maybe this means you need to limit the amount of time you spend with toxic or challenging people in your life. Maybe it means you need to schedule a committed date night with a friend or your partner. Maybe it means you schedule set times to spend with friends, but you know that once 9 pm comes, you will leave to head home. Whatever your guidelines are, think through what will help you to be a healthy and happy person to be around, and arrange your social outings accordingly.
Create a spending plan. You might call it a budget. To me, referring to it as a spending plan feels less limiting, and that works for me. Either way, I have a written plan that helps me know where my money is coming from and where it’s going, and it helps me to stay on track. This definitely means saying no to fun things sometimes, but if it helps me meet my financial goals (goodBYE, credit card debt!), then I have to remind myself it’s worth it in the long run.
Take a Sabbath. Whether you choose to rest on Sundays or a different day of the week that works better for your schedule, be intentional about taking a day each week to disconnect and recharge. Figure out what works best for you on your Sabbath– does it include other people? Do you work and shop ahead of time to free yourself from nagging responsibilities? Do you stay at home or venture outdoors or pursue a fun hobby? Do you have a set routine, or do you keep it spontaneous? Sabbath was once explained to me as a day to pray and play– that’s a helpful way of framing it that works for me and helps take the pressure off.
What are the boundaries you need to put in place in your life?
They might be one of the few listed above. They might be huge. They might be just the first small step. They might be a continuation of things you’ve been working on for a while. You might need the help of a friend, a mentor, a counselor, a pastor. You might need to rework some things in your life to find what works.
I encourage you today to practice saying no, to practice setting boundaries, to start to live in a way that is freeing and fulfilling, for the glory of God and the health of your own heart and soul.