This post was written by Nicole Gaedtke, MSED, LMFT, employee assistance specialist, Parkview Employee Assistance Program, Parkview Health.
With growing demands in the workplace, staffing shortages and increased workloads, it’s no surprise that life feels more tense and hectic than ever. Whether you’ve been encouraged to take on additional shifts, stay late or even given more responsibility, your stress and anxiety levels have elevated. And, to top it off, finding a solution may seem near impossible. But rest assured, despite these growing demands, setting boundaries may be the key to helping you decrease your stress in a workplace situation that may feel outside your control.
Boundaries are the limits we set for ourselves within relationships. They typically encompass our personal and work life, affecting both our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. Boundaries can be anything from limits on what we share to how we spend our time. Depending on the circumstances, they often align with what we value or what is important to us and vary in flexibility and rigidity.
The importance of boundaries
Boundaries are essential for several reasons. They protect our wellbeing, improve our communication, limit the negative impact of situations and help us get more of what we want and need. Boundaries can increase our self-respect, self-esteem and self-compassion while decreasing the amount of stress, fear and pain we experience. Boundaries also allow for growth, requiring people to be more aware of their behaviors and where they stand within a relationship.
Your boss has asked you to stay late, now what? First, remember to use confident body language and be respectful. You always have the right to say “no.” There’s no need for shame or guilt when drawing the line for your wellbeing. Second, consider what you want and how to say it before entering the situation. Third, establish the boundary with clear and concise communication. Finally, remember it’s not enough just to set a boundary; you must also be willing to back it up with action and follow through if it’s not respected.
When establishing boundaries, it can be helpful to remember the following:
- When setting boundaries, be firm but respectful, clear, direct and concise.
- Face the other person, make eye contact, use confident body language and a steady tone/volume of voice while utilizing nonverbals to emphasize the message.
- Think and rehearse what you want to say before starting the conversation.
- Communicate the action you are willing to take if the boundary is not met or respected.
- Don’t feel the need to defend or over-explain yourself.
- Consider having support available if you are struggling or feel uncomfortable.
- When appropriate, consider the needs of the other person. You don’t have to compromise, but healthy relationships typically have a little give-and-take.
Johnson State College, Vermont