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Setting Boundaries Around Your Time (And Who You Spend it With)

The phrase “setting boundaries” is talked about often - but what does it mean to set healthy boundaries around how you spend your time? Boundaries are limits we set for ourselves and with others, which can involve your time, space, and people you choose to spend time with. Setting healthy boundaries around how you spend your time (and who you spend that time with) can have many positive benefits in your life, including in relationships, as well as on your emotional, mental, and physical well-being. Your time, especially the time you have control over how you get to spend it, is valuable.

Some examples of setting these types of boundaries can include things such as saying no to going out after a long week and choosing to stay in and rest (aka binge watch that new series on Netflix) instead, setting time aside each week to do activities that help you recharge, and spending less time with people who do not leave you feeling like the best version of yourself. Obviously, there are some things we have less control over how often we have to do them, but when it comes to the people and activities we do have control over, there are some things you can do to enhance these benefits.

Saying No to Things That Don’t Fulfill You and Yes to Things that Do

If you have trouble saying no to others, you may find yourself in relationships and situations you do not really want to be in, as well as run the risk of burning out (emotionally, mentally, and physically). When you place more emphasis on doing for and pleasing others, but don’t balance that with doing things to take care of yourself, you may feel exhausted and run-down.

It may feel uncomfortable to say no to someone if it is out of your comfort zone, and you may receive push back from others if they are not used to you saying no to them. This is normal when someone behaves differently within a relationship - others will respond accordingly. But think of some of the benefits of saying no to things that are not serving you: it will free up time for you to engage in activities that recharge you and fuel your energy.

Think about what you are doing and who you are with when you are feeling your best. These are the things that will enhance your health. Now think about the things you are doing and who you are with when you feel the opposite. These may be examples of areas where you can set boundaries around how much time you spend engaged in and with them.

Something else to consider is what keeps you from setting boundaries (if it is difficult for you). For example, are you afraid you will make someone mad by turning down an invitation? Are there certain people who you are better able to set boundaries with than others? Once you can identify what it is that makes setting boundaries hard for you, you can begin to work on making positive changes.

Some Tips to Help Get You Started

Electronic communication/social media: In today’s society, boundaries often get blurred and easily stretched when there are so many ways people can contact you at any time of the day. Learn to set boundaries around checking/answering emails and texts, as well taking an inventory of what you follow on social media. Learn to pay attention to signs that you need to take a break from these types of communication. For example, do you notice yourself feeling anxious after scrolling through your Instagram feed? If so, that is probably your body’s way of telling you you may need a break.

Set self-care time: Try setting some time aside each week to do something of your choice that recharges you. If you are a schedule-oriented person, it might be helpful to schedule some time here and there that is blocked off just for you-time.

Be honest: If you are feeling drained and really just want to say no to an invitation to a social gathering or taking on another unnecessary responsibility, be honest and say so. If the person asking you really cares about you and has your best interest in mind, they will understand and make different plans.

How are you at setting boundaries around your time? If this is an area that you feel you would like to increase your skills in, working with a therapist can be a helpful option. A therapist can help you recognize where you lack boundaries, explore what may contribute to this, learn ways to say no to others, and support you as you keep yourself accountable for setting new, healthy boundaries.

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