How to set healthy boundaries for less stress

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Don’t think boundaries are that important to your health and hormones? Think again. Boundaries have everything to do with your stress levels—and those stress levels will make hormone balance impossible for you. So get going on incorporating these tips. They’ll help you learn how to set healthy boundaries into your life ASAP.

How not setting boundaries affects your health and hormones

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With boundary-setting, there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain. And that’s not an exaggeration. If you’re not setting healthy boundaries, you’re de-valuing your happiness and health. At a minimum, you’re probably worn out or just plain exhausted. At the worst, a lack of boundaries can translate to physical, emotional, financial, material, sexual, or other traumas.

Not having enough boundaries in place in one or more areas of your life raises levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Those hormones help you cope in the short-term. But in the long-term? Well, look out. They’ll deplete your progesterone and thyroid hormones. This leaves you with symptoms like inconsistent periods, increased anxiety, cravings that mess up blood sugar, difficulty sleeping, pelvic pain, hair loss and eyebrow thinning, weight gain, water retention, lower energy, and more.

So, now that you know what can happen when you’re not honoring boundaries, how do you know if you’re compromising your health by not setting boundaries? Honestly, you need to check in with yourself—your state of mind and to consider the clues your body is giving you. When you’re pushing yourself to do all the things and it’s just too much, your body will tell you. But only if you’re tuned in and listening. So what are these clues? Extra forgetfulness, increased mental and physical fatigue levels, insomnia, and constantly being distracted are all signs that you’re overcommitted and suffering because of it.

3 tips on how to set healthy boundaries (because you definitely should!)

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Tip 1: analyze and reflect

Setting healthy boundaries starts with tip one. You need to analyze where in your life you’re feeling fatigue and not being valued. That goes for physically, emotionally, and, if it applies, spiritually. Not sure how to go about that? Don’t feel bad! That’s not uncommon. For some people, it helps to reflect on areas of your life where you feel overwhelmingly exhausted or resentful. Is it at home? When your extended family or friends ask for a favor? School? Work? The burden of daily tasks or chores? Or maybe if a partner asks for intimacy?

Identifying where you feel resentment is so valuable. It’s a good indicator of where you feel overcommitted or even taken advantage of. Once you have those in place, consider if you have any hard nos in your life. By that, we mean things that deplete you no matter what and that you just don’t want to do—ever. For example, if you’re a teacher, family and friends may rely on you for advice about their kids’ education or behavior—or even try to guilt you into or convince you to tutor even though you 100% don’t want to.

The same logic applies to every profession and other areas of your life, too. In these cases, you may need to set rigid boundaries, which are absolute and unbending. Most of us already have some degree of rigid boundaries. (We will not break the law, etc.) Understanding what you absolutely don’t want to do, regardless of the circumstances, frees up the mental space to stop responding to those requests or allowing yourself to be guilt-tripped into them.

Tip 2: Be open, honest, and, well… call a time out

You’ve figured out what’s leaving you depleted and resentful. You understand your hard nos. But how do you actually set healthy boundaries? It starts with open and honest communication—and resisting the urge to say “I’m sorry” or explain your reason. (You have nothing to apologize for, and no is good enough!) Open and honest communication allows you to understand what the other person needs. It also lets you consider if you have the capacity or desire to help. If you don’t, you need to say something along the lines of: Gosh, I know what it’s like to be stressed. But I can’t help with that right now. Don’t want to say “no” in the moment? We get that. You can always call a timeout. That just means you tell the other person you need to check your calendar and get back to them.

Tip 3: Practice, practice, practice

Going from a lack of boundaries to suddenly setting them can upset some of the people in your life. It may take some time for them to get used to you asserting yourself or not being as willing to do as many things as you once did. This is natural. But if someone loves and cares for you and your well-being, they’ll adjust their thinking and want what’s best for you.

What’s also common? You might experience anxiety when you start to set boundaries. The thought train can be a lot to handle. What will people think? Am I disappointing people in my life? Why is she looking at me like that? Is he mad? Acknowledge the inner dialogue. Then, remind yourself that you deserve to have time and energy for the things you need and want. But whatever you do, don’t backpeddle or let yourself be convinced to cave or give in. It’s important to continue practicing to set both big and small boundaries. With time, boundaries shift from feeling anxiety-inducing to being an empowering and powerful form of self-respect.