I’ve been thinking about boundaries a lot. Mostly because I didn’t learn how to set them until very recently, and I still struggle at times. Setting boundaries is something I mostly do inwardly, and in regards to specific relationships I have with others. This sort of self-love is done often without expressing these boundaries outright to my loved ones, but internal commitments to myself and my well being.
Recently I had to set a boundary. It was a few days after Christmas and I had started to feel extremely emotional. I was grumpy, uncomfortable, and anxious, but I couldn’t put my finger on the trigger, and I knew I should be spending the evening alone, doing some self-reflection. However, my partner, who was days away from leaving for four months, was supposed to come and spend the night with me. As I struggled with the anxiety of canceling these plans, I practically had to force myself to send the text, but when I did I felt a huge lift off my shoulders. Although I felt guilty about canceling, I knew that I had to spend some time journaling and reflecting on my current emotional state. My partner immediately understood and said he’d see me tomorrow.
By doing this I gave myself room to feel, and the next day I felt refreshed and new, and emotionally available. If I had forced myself to ignore my emotional turmoil, I am sure it would have put a cloud over our night and even the next day. But I am so glad that I listened to my needs and set the boundary with myself.
Setting boundaries, when you first start, can be filled with a lot of guilt, but in the end it will be better for your friendships, relationships, and mental clarity.
Here are three small changes you can make to start setting boundaries:
Recognize your emotional state. Are you anxious, easily annoyed, or particularly snarky? If you have plans that day or night, try to set aside just an hour before you leave to do some inner reflection. Think of the last 72 hours and write down every emotion that you had during this time. Try to remember them all. Read these emotions back to yourself. Recognizing and letting yourself see these emotions will help you pinpoint where they came from. And saying these emotions out loud will help your mind start to process them.
Go home early. We all have obligations with work, friends, family, partners, etc. Most of the time these obligations are good for our social-souls and can liven us up. Sometimes though, it’s better for our mental states to go home early. I challenge you to go to an obligation, and leave after two hours. Two hours gives you enough time to connect with people, have an experience, but still put your needs first. Set a timer with a truthful and interesting reminder: “Siri, remind me in two hours that it’s time to go home and take a bath.” Smile when this reminder appears, and start to say your goodbyes. If people try to guilt me into staying, I take a humorous tone, like saying “you know, I made a commitment to my bathtub this morning and I just really can’t let it down again.” This will help break any guilt you may be feeling, and make it easier to leave.
Turn your notifications off. Yep, that’s right, I said it. Turn 'em off! Give yourself a few hours once a month without notifications - without the buzz, the bing, the constant updates of the world around you. And focus on the world you live in. The place you call home, your animals, your books, your journals, your favorite playlists. They’re starved for your undivided attention and you both deserve to spend some uninterrupted time together.
Setting boundaries is one of my absolute favorite self-love acts that I do. Because I know that after I listen to my needs and follow these boundaries, I am more emotionally available, emotionally stable, and mentally present. And we should all live our lives a little more present.