Setting Boundaries

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The freedom of limitations.

Growing up, I always thought of boundaries as negative things. For the most part, boundaries were things one could get in trouble for crossing. Anything from, “You’re standing too close” to “That comment is racist.” Boundaries could be easy or hard to define, but they were definitely something to be feared.

But as I’ve grown, I keep hearing about boundaries in a positive light. Things that are important to set as to protect oneself and the things one loves. Cheryl Strayed, on her podcast Dear Sugars, constantly encourages her listeners and letter writers to set and adhere to personal boundaries.

So over the past few months I have become more interested and intrigued with boundaries, and I’m feeling ready to set some.

But what exactly does this look like? How do you know where in your life to set boundaries and how do you enforce them?

I want to use boundaries to help me be my best. In this blog, I talked about when I am at my best. Now that I understand that, I want to protect it. Adding some boundaries can help me do just that. I need to safeguard my sleep schedule, keep my exercise routine consistent and interesting, and make time to learn new skills.

As for enforcing boundaries, I see them as learning experiences. You simply don’t know how you will react to something until you try it. Give it a go, reflect, and adjust as necessary.

So here are the specifics of the boundaries I want to set and explore:

  • Sleep – I really don’t operate well on low sleep. And low for me is anything under 7 hours. In January, Nick and I went week after week where we had plans on weeknights. While the events were fun in the moment, they really threw off my sleep schedule. Waking up the next morning after too-little sleep, I felt irritable, sluggish, and behind. Was it a fair trade off to have been able to participate in the prior night’s activity? In some ways yes, and in others no. Perhaps a boundary here would help. What would happen if I set a boundary to be in bed by 10PM Sunday – Thursday night? Would I feel like I was missing out on activities? Or, what would happen if I set a boundary to sleep for 7+ hours a night regardless of the specific hours? Would it give me permission to sleep in without guilt? As I like waking up early, I am tempted to try the first idea and see how two weeks of being in bed by 10PM makes me feel.
  • Food – Nick got me interested in intermittent fasting in 2017, and I have been following it on and off for some time. With intermittent fasting, you typically go for 16 hours without food. For most, this means skipping breakfast. But Nick and I love breakfast too much to give it up. For us, fasting from 4PM until 8AM works better for our schedule. It frees up our nights from having to prepare and clean up dinner and we use the fuel from our breakfast and lunch to power us through the day instead of dinner powering us to sleep. When I deviate from our fasting schedule and have dinner, I often feel negative effects, like bloating, a gurgly stomach as I lie in bed, or a sugar high when I am trying to go to sleep. But having a strict boundary against eating dinner makes it harder to engage in social situations. I’m going to try setting a hard boundary around my weeknight fasting schedule and a soft boundary for the weekends. This means I’ll be uncompromising about skipping dinner Monday – Thursday, but will make exceptions for dinner plans Friday – Sunday after first trying to meet for breakfast or lunch instead.
  • Exercise – I feel great when I exercise four days a week. I sleep well, my body feels strong and capable, and I am more productive and happy. But it can often feel like a big time commitment. Between getting ready and packing a gym bag, getting to the gym, working out, gym socializing, traveling back home, and showering, it can easily become a three hour affair. I’m going to set a boundary of only being at the gym for one hour. This will push me to work harder and faster, and double up my time socializing with easier workouts. With this boundary, I can protect my workout without feeling like I am giving up too much of my day.

My hope is that setting boundaries will help me prioritize my needs. It is saying no to the less important so I can say yes to most important – my self.

-TM

What boundaries have you set or do you want to try setting? Let us know below.

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