Having healthy boundaries is really all about managing the time, energy and resources that we have available to us, so that we can prioritize those things for the things in our lives that are important to us. Managing our boundaries is a form of self-care.
In this guide, we’re going to talk about what healthy boundaries with your time look like, and how you can put them in place while maintaining loving, healthy relationships.
Why Do We Need Boundaries?
When someone asks you for something, or to do something for them, or show up somewhere, do you have the ability to say “no”? Does it make you feel like a bad person if you don’t say “yes”?
Are you spread thin with a packed schedule because you struggle to prioritize what’s important to you? Are you exhausted at the end of every day? If you resonate with some of these issues, you probably need to learn how to implement healthy boundaries.
Let’s look at an example. Angela is a mom of three who volunteers for every field trip, bake sale, and school event. It brings her joy to be part of her children’s education. However, her kids’ teachers and other moms at school start to expect that she will always be there to help, so they ask her to do more and more things expecting that she won’t say “no”.
Pretty soon she is the head of the PTA, planning the annual school fundraiser, and coaching the soccer team. She’s so busy that she doesn’t have much time with her kids, which is why she started volunteering in the first place.
Now, Angela is exhausted, does not find joy in her commitments, and feels bitter towards her community for asking so much of her.
The problem is that Angela feels bad about saying “no” whenever asked to do something. She needs to learn healthy boundaries so she can say a wholehearted “yes” to the things that are meaningful to her, and a polite “no thank you” to everything else.
It sounds simple, but for a lot of us, it’s much harder than it sounds. How do you actually place healthy boundaries so you aren’t overcommitted, resentful, burnt out, and no longer enjoying your life?
How to Set Healthy Boundaries
To set healthy boundaries, you need to identify your priorities. You may realize that you have committed to some things out of obligation rather than committing because they are something you actually prioritize.
Here are some ideas of what you might prioritize:
- Health and exercise
- Your career goals
- Being involved with your community
- Your hobbies
- Write out a list of your top priorities (this is where you can determine where you want to spend your time).
- List everything you are involved in right now (it should be an accurate representation of how you are currently spending your time).
Which commitments align with your priorities and bring you joy, and which ones do you do out of obligation? If you are exhausted from being overcommitted, it’s time to cut out some things that don’t align with your priorities.
Again, this is easier said than done. However, there are ways to do this and still maintain your relationships and responsibilities. The key is to communicate clearly, and communicate early, before your commitments get overloaded. Let your friends and family know if there are any areas in your life that you need to reprioritize. If your relationship with your friends and family are healthy, they will be able to meet you with empathy and understanding.
If you are struggling with this, here are a few things to remember:
- Saying “no” does not make you a bad person
- Rest should be a top priority
- When you focus on your priorities, you can do those things better
- It’s okay to delegate instead of doing everything yourself
- You are the only person who should have control over your schedule
- Your self-care and mental health are important
- You don’t need to apologize for setting a boundary with your time
- When you say “no” to the wrong things, you can say “yes” to the right things more
Setting healthy boundaries with your time takes practice, but you will get more comfortable with it the more you do it. Plus, you will feel lighter, happier, and more excited about your life.
As a Christian, sometimes it feels hard or wrong to say “no” to commitments at church, or volunteering for worthy causes. Church teaching sometimes places an emphasis on being “giving” with your time and resources, just like Jesus was. But even Jesus took some time away to spend it alone with his Father.
Being “giving” with your time can be a good thing. As Christians, we should desire to be generous and think of others. However, this teaching can be taken to extremes and can result in poor boundaries that ultimately can hurt you and your community.
Let me be clear: it is a good thing to care for others and volunteer your time. However, when it becomes unhealthy, it does not end up being that helpful if you are losing your joy and are experiencing burnout.
The best way to serve others is to do it with a cheerful heart, out of a place of rest and peace. It’s even better when you can use your God-given skills and gifts. For instance, maybe you love children and want to start tutoring.
How you spend your time will change throughout your life, but it’s important to remember that you can’t help everyone or say “yes” to everything. You will simply burn out. Boundaries help you protect your energy, which inturn, makes you more helpful, happier and healthier.
Oftentimes Jesus gets used in justifying unhealthy boundaries. However, if you study his life, Jesus actually had really healthy boundaries. He kept a small group of people around him, prioritized rest, and didn’t overexert himself or say “yes” to everything. He prioritized getting away for quiet times and prayer. He gave us a good example of healthy boundaries.
Boundaries Lead to a Happier Life
Let’s go back to Angela. Once she learned how to set healthy boundaries, she cut her commitments in half. Now, she has more time with her family, she is healthier and more rested, and she’s a better friend and member of her community.
She even had time to start a cooking blog, which is something she’s always wanted to do, and it helps other moms with healthy dinner ideas. Angela’s life has only benefitted from setting healthy boundaries.
Do you need to set healthy boundaries around your time and resources? I encourage you to make a list of your priorities and see how it aligns with your schedule. Remember, setting boundaries takes practice, but it will lead to a happier and more fulfilled life.
Stay tuned for more blog posts about other types of boundaries, like emotional and physical boundaries. In the meantime, check out our other resources about healthy relationships.
Author: Anna Harris