Setting Boundaries and Protecting Your Valuable Time

Do you ever find yourself saying yes to an extra shift at work?  Or maybe you agreed to go to the movies with friends even though you have an 8-page paper at home waiting to be written.  Teens today are busier than ever with school, friends, after-school activities and family obligations.  However, sometimes these activities can lead to feeling overwhelmed and stressed.  This is why it is important to learn how to set boundaries for yourself! While setting boundaries is an important part of self-care, it isn’t always easy to do.  Many people find it difficult to say no, but sometimes working an extra 2-hours or taking on an extra credit assignment isn’t the healthiest option for you.

So, the real question is: How do you set boundaries and learn to say no, while still respecting relationships with the important people in your life?

How to set boundaries at work or school:

Protecting your time at work – Learning how to set boundaries at work is an important life skill, but it can feel overwhelming, especially when you are first entering the workforce.  However, research shows that employees who regularly take time off are more productive, because they have time to get away and refresh before coming back to work.  One way to protect your boundaries at work is to tell your boss you need to check your calendar and get back to them before you agree to an extra shift or project.  This is a respectful way to give yourself time to think about whether or not you want to take on extra work.  It can also be helpful to ask for written expectations and hours before you begin a job; then if your boss is trying to pressure you into additional work, you have an agreement you can refer back to.

Balancing schoolwork – In order to help manage your boundaries around schoolwork, first write down everything that has to be done, and then consider if you have time for extra assignments or activities.  It’s easy to say yes to extra projects and realize after the fact that you have overcommitted.  It’s also easy to get distracted by more exciting things when you are trying to get your work done.  Consider using  apps like SelfControl, Freedom, or Anti-Social to help block the internet, social media or texts on your phone during set times when you are trying to do homework.  It’s also important to give your brain a break from school sometimes, so set a homework schedule with built in breaks to help keep you on track!  For instance, give yourself a half hour break for every two hours of homework you complete, then during the half hour you can check social media or respond to messages.

How to set boundaries in your interpersonal relationships:

Talking with your family about respecting your time and space – Most of us are at our best when we understand what is expected of us.  Talking with family members about the expectations you have for each other can help to avoid conflict and confusion later.  This may mean agreeing to do your chores after you have finished your homework, or asking your family members to knock before entering your room.  Simple rules that have been agreed upon ahead of time can improve your relationship overall with your family and can lead to mutual respect.

Creating healthy boundaries in your friendships – Creating boundaries is an important part of healthy relationships.  Boundaries may help protect against resentment and conflict.  If your schedule is already full, saying yes to hanging out with friends may increase your stress. Instead, consider meeting up with friends to get homework done, or suggest that you hang out another time when you have less on your plate.  This is a great way to set boundaries in your friendships, while still letting your friends know that you are interested in spending time with them.  If your friends are trying to pressure you into doing something that you are uncomfortable with, it’s okay to say no, and it can be helpful to add a short reason why.  For instance, if your friends are pressuring you to smoke marijuana, you could try saying: “No thanks, I’m trying to stay in shape for the soccer season”, or “I’m working to stay focused on my grades this semester”.  If you have more questions about how to deal with peer pressure, check out this TeenSpeak blog post:

While it can feel difficult at first to create boundaries, they are meant to protect you from stress and burnout.  Therefore, the next time you are feeling overwhelmed, consider what changes you can make in your life to find a healthier balance!  If you are continuing to struggle with setting boundaries, always feel free to speak with your health care provider.

If you are worried that you or a friend might be in an unhealthy relationship please check out our blog titled, How do you know if you are in a healthy relationship?