In today’s technological age, we are bombarded with information. In the past, our main concerns were the issues pertaining to our families and our communities. With the advent of the internet and 24-hour news, we have access to information about events around the country and around the world. We feel the need to “do something” and we are constantly called to action. We try to support and encourage our family and friends when they are struggling, we worry about issues in our communities, and we suffer thinking about the suffering of the many victims of violence, poverty, and war around the world.
The question becomes, how can I serve others in the way I am called to do, while also preserving my mental and physical health?
The answer to this question may lie in boundaries. What are boundaries? Boundaries are the limits and rules we set for ourselves. They are a way to guide and protect both our time and our emotions. Healthy boundaries allow us to have concern for the needs of others while at the same time being considerate of our own needs. Boundaries help us find a balance between having close and intimate relationships, serving others in their time of need, and knowing when it is appropriate to say “no”.
How do we determine our boundaries?
A good place to start is to examine our values. For example, if we value time with our children in the evenings, a good boundary would be to set a time to end the workday and stick to it. That might mean saying no to late day requests from colleagues or deciding not to respond to emails after 6pm. If we value an early morning workout, an early bedtime might be a priority. Therefore, we may have to decline invitations for evening activities that run late. So make a list! What is important to you?
The next step in creating boundaries is to be comfortable saying no. For so many of us, saying no is very uncomfortable. We do not want to appear selfish or ungrateful. However, constantly saying yes has its pitfalls. When we give too much, at our own expense, we have what are called “loose boundaries." People with loose boundaries can be tired, irritable, less productive, and therefore less helpful than if they said no more often.
How do we respectfully decline?
First be clear. Leave out ambiguity in your response. Do not use phrases such as “I don’t think I can” or “I probably can’t make it.” A polite yet brief, “I won’t be able to attend, but thank you for the offer,” is all that is necessary.
Some days you will give more than you take and some days you will take more than you give. Learning to say no to certain things in an effort to prioritize your time, in accordance with your values, will ultimately provide the healthy balance you are looking for.
If you feel you need help with personal boundaries, reach out. At Whole and Holy we can work with you to set priorities, firm up your boundaries, all while preserving what makes you YOU.
Photo by Joshua Olsen on Unsplash