What are boundaries and how do we establish them? 

Having clear, concise and consistent boundaries is essential in maintaining a balanced lifestyle and healthy relationships. Boundaries are a form of self-protection, self-preservation and self-care. Boundaries can be set around any aspect of our life from relational boundaries, professional boundaries, content boundaries and environmental boundaries. These are the lines we draw or the limits we set to keep ourselves healthy and live a life aligning with our core values and own needs.  


Let’s break it down. 

For example, a personal boundary in a relationship could be how emotionally close you let people get to you, or how much you share about your life with this person, boundaries can vary from person to person depending on how “safe” the relationship feels from your frame of reference. Boundaries can also be drawing a line within the relationship, limiting contact or cutting it altogether if you feel the relationship is not healthy for you or serving your life.  

It may be necessary to put up boundaries in a relationship that may be detrimental to your mental health or relational hurt, repeatedly occurs within the relationship. Perhaps a friend gossips about you or tells others personal information you would rather they didn’t, in that case, a boundary would be to keep the chat surface level and not confide too much in that person. 
Professional boundaries are the limits you set around your career/working life, i.e. the workload or timeframe you set yourself to meet work goals, again, this is necessary for maintaining a good work-life balance, an example of a boundary could be not to take work calls while spending time with the family or have a cut-off point to answering emails etc, in today’s busy world we are often fully accessible, working boundaries are key in maintaining healthy work-life balance. 
Content and environmental boundaries are the restrictions to the amount of life content we expose ourselves to, content that perhaps needs to be managed to maintain a healthy lifestyle or promote good mental health, for example, we may limit social media or screen time, setting a boundary to avoid or deactivate our apps at weekends or mornings etc. It can be necessary to have content boundaries around unhealthy content such as takeaways, alcohol or spending. Boundaries are super personal and should meet your own personal needs and align with your own core values. 

Here are some steps to help you set healthy boundaries

1. Reflect on your core values, work out what your deal breakers are, and give some thought to what you expect from your relationships. Establish boundaries accordingly. 
2. Consider your capacity when it comes to work life. Notice what aspects of work you become overwhelmed around? Lay down some structured boundaries around this.
3. Identify the regular content of your lifestyle that could be problematic in your life, most content is ok in moderation, however, too much of anything can become unhealthy.  What content do you specifically struggle with? Set limits and stick to them.  

The key to maintaining boundaries lies in consistency, when we are consistent in our boundaries, we have a clear framework to follow, and others will also be clear of our needs. Having boundaries is not a selfish act, it is a necessary act, strong boundaries promote healthy relationships but most importantly they promote good self-esteem and self-worth. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
Newtownabbey BT36 & BT37
Written by Ashleigh Duncan, Counsellor MBACP
Newtownabbey BT36 & BT37

Ashleigh Duncan Counsellor MBACP
Owner and founder of AD Counselling and Wellness, Newtownabbey and Elements Wellness Studio. Published writer.

Show comments

Find a therapist dealing with Relationship problems

All therapists are verified professionals

All therapists are verified professionals