Reduce anxiety in 2020 by learning to set boundaries.
A topic that often comes up when I’m counseling women in the Fishers area is boundaries– boundaries with husbands, in-laws, church, children, friends. This is an especially important concept among clients who are seeking counseling for anxiety, because poor boundaries often lead to anxiety, guilt, and frustration.
What are Boundaries?
There are several different types of boundaries:
- Physical boundaries— what kinds of touch are you okay with, and when?
- Time boundaries— when to say yes, when to say no, and how to not feel guilty when you turn someone down
- Emotional boundaries— where do you end and I begin? And how can I empathize when you have a bad day without it meaning that I have a bad day, too?
What Should I Know about Boundaries?
If the idea of setting boundaries is new to you, here are a couple things to keep in mind:
- People who are not used to having boundaries set for them do not appreciate it at first. Be prepared to experience some negative responses. Practice setting boundaries with safe people first (telling a friend you need to push your coffee date to a different time, for example.)
- One definition of boundaries is “helping people have their own problems.” You may need to examine your definition of “love.” Is it loving to take on someone’s stress so they don’t have the experiences the consequences of their own actions? Or might it be more loving to help them see that the choices they are making aren’t working for them?
- Instead of thinking of boundaries as negative or letting people down, ask yourself: how could this boundary benefit others? As a personal example, a few years ago the main keyboard player at our church decided to cut back on his service in the music ministry. He agonized over that decision and felt incredibly guilty, assuming he was letting the church down. However, because his stepping down opened a need on the worship team, my husband (who played a little piano as a kid but was rusty) tried out for the team and after lots of practice, now really enjoys leading worship twice a month now. When the previous keyboard player was there, my husband didn’t feel there was a need for his skills, but when the vacancy opened up, it allowed him to rekindle a hobby that he’d previously really enjoyed. If you say no to something you’re burned out on, you could be creating an opportunity for someone else to serve or discover a new passion.
Your Best Yes
Let me leave you with my favorite quote about boundaries from “The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands” by Lysa TerKeurst:
“When you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else.”
Everyone has limited energy, time, and money. Every day, you are making choices about how to spend your resources. When you say “yes” to a serving opportunity at church, for example, you may be saying “no” to an unstructured family night at home. Or by saying “yes” to too many PTO events at your child’s school, you may be saying “no” to your own self care (time for exercise, eating well, and relationships that are important to you). Many times, both options are good things, but you have to make the best choice for you at the time. If you are depleted or burned out, you’ll be more anxious and irritable with those you love most.
What’s the Next Step?
You can learn to set boundaries this year! You can learn to say “yes” to the right things and “no” to opportunities that aren’t the best use of your resources right now. You can learn to let go of guilt when other people don’t like your boundaries. I’m here to help. Contact me for an intake session and let’s talk about how boundaries can help you feel less anxious and more in control of your life this year.