A key element for surviving in this world without losing your mind to burnout—social, professional, and otherwise—is having a good defense at the ready for any situation. That’s right, I’m talking about boundaries. A big part of my personal wellness journey has involved building boundaries and sticking to them, especially given all the years I’ve spent being exposed to the stress-inducing elements (and three-plus calls a day from my mom). But, these boundaries weren’t cultivated overnight, and there was a fair amount of trial and error involved in creating (and abiding by) specific ones that worked well for me. What I know now and wish I knew from the outset is that there are actually five types of boundaries, and understanding each is crucial for marinating healthy control in my life.
In an Instagram post shared by Nicole LePera, PhD, who goes by The Holistic Psychologist, the five types of boundaries are defined as emotional, material, time/energy, physical, and mental. Emotional boundaries focus on barriers from inappropriate topics, dismissing emotions, and emotional dumping (so both your good-vibes-only friend and energy-vampire co-worker fall under that umbrella). Mental refers to preserving your freedom of thought, and physical is, not surprisingly, about people who make you feel uncomfortable (ahem, close-talkers). Time/energy and material are the only two boundaries you can obviously see; they’re centralized on favors with your time and with your stuff.
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The other day I posted about how to respond to push back on boundaries. So many of you were saying you didn’t even know what boundaries to set. I realized I needed to create a basics around boundaries. So here it is. If you’re like me, you might have lived a significant part of your adult life without boundaries. This is normal. Many of us grow up in within codependency, where we don’t see people setting and keeping boundaries. In short, boundaries are our own personal limits. They are clear and direct, and tell people in our lives how to treat us. There are many different kind of boundaries including emotional, material, time/energy boundaries, mental and physical. Setting boundaries is a PRACTICE. It’s a practice of self love that allows us to reclaim our right to protect our energy. It’s scary at first, but with time it brings confidence, clarity, and peace into our lives. Which boundary is the toughest for you? #selfhealers
For example, let’s say you’re a city dweller who only uses your car for special occasions, and your third-tier friend wants to borrow it to drive to a bachelorette party. A big N-O should suffice here. (Remember, “no” is a full sentence!) But if you’re new to setting up any of the types of boundaries, including this material one, start with a fence instead of a wall: In this case, a firm “my car can’t be used on weekends” works. (And even if that’s a fib, the truth really isn’t any of this person’s GD business, now is it?)
What’s essential to setting up boundaries successfully is abandoning the notion that you’re coming across as rude or aggressive in any way. Because really, you’re just standing up for yourself by asserting your needs and not letting anyone knock your balance with toxicity. It’s also kind to break the news to others so they’re aware. Like, my mother still thinks she’s doing me a big favor with her middle-of-the-workday phone calls, and it would be enlightening for her to know that the habit actually dials up my energy to an 11. It’s, um, on my to-do list. (Unless you’re reading this now, Mom, in which case, consider yourself informed.)
Healthy boundary building is, clearly, a process. But by identifying where exactly in your life you’re feeling targeted and depleted, you’re better equipped for designing a targeted plan for exerting your personal agency and control. So, what are you waiting for? Start creating boundaries—all types of boundaries.
Need a little more help with setting boundaries? Here’s how to (kindly) say “let’s not catch up sometime” to an acquaintance. And here’s how to set healthy boundaries with an an ex who’s still lurking in your social circle.