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Your Well-being

Healthy boundaries

New York Teacher

Personal boundaries are the limits and rules we set for ourselves in our relationships with others or with work.

Boundaries are important to keep relationships healthy. By making time and space for positive interactions and our own priorities, boundaries help us avoid feeling burned out. Burnout — a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress — can leave you feeling hopeless and resentful.

While burnout is often tied to work, you can also feel exhaustion in your personal life. If you feel tired, detached and quick to anger, or find things that previously brought you pleasure no longer do, you are likely experiencing burnout.

The pandemic has blurred many of our boundaries as our lives were turned upside down. The good news is we can take a step back and create or reintroduce them.

People with healthy boundaries can say “no” to others when they want to and are comfortable opening themselves up to close friends and family members.

Ways to maintain healthy boundaries

  • Identify your priorities and know your limits.
  • Pay attention to your feelings and give yourself permission to say no.
  • Communicate clearly.
  • Create clear structures for uninterrupted work time and to understand your environment.
  • Delegate work when appropriate.

Communicating your needs and limits is an important part of the process. Here are some examples:

  • “I appreciate this is important to you, but I’m feeling overwhelmed and need some time to consider.”
  • “I’m sorry I’m not able to help at this time.”
  • “This topic isn’t something I feel comfortable discussing.”
  • “I’m looking forward to getting together, but I only have a couple of hours.”

How to respond when someone crosses a boundary

  • Breathe and pause: Take a moment to ground your emotions and get clear before responding.
  • Disengage: End the conversation, stop texting or leave the room.
  • Put pen to paper: Write down how you’re feeling and let go of your anger and frustration.
  • Reiterate: When you feel calm and ready, restate the boundary you need.

Setting healthy boundaries will set you up for greater happiness at work and in your personal life. When you say yes to others, make sure you’re not saying no to your well-being.

The UFT Member Assistance Program offers short-term counseling and outside referrals to help you deal with a wide range of issues. If you feel overwhelmed and need to speak with a clinician immediately, call the MAP careline at 212-331-6322.