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Finding Balance: Setting Boundaries With the World

If you spend one minute watching the news or scrolling social media, you'll know why compassionate, caring people often feel overwhelmed and burned out. The constant want and need to take care of others in a confusing and violent world can take a toll on mental well-being. Combinations of anxiety, shame, guilt, fear, resentment, anger, isolation, overwhelm, and comparison are common experiences for many of the people I work with. Unfortunately, therapy can't make the world less violent, but it can help you feel safer and support you in making the world a better place.

Setting boundaries is about creating limits and guidelines for yourself and others to ensure that your needs are met and your mental health is protected. Boundary conversations are usually about setting boundaries with another person, which is important! But we can set boundaries with other things like social media, topics of conversation, even your phone. Below are some ideas for setting boundaries with the world.

1. Recognize your limits: How do you know when you have reached your limit for social media? Is it a feeling, like anxiety or fear? Is it a bodily sensation, like shoulder tension, eye strain, headache, or stomach ache? Do your thoughts turn to things like, "The world is only getting worse," "There's nothing I can do," or "Other people are doing so much to help, I'm not doing enough." Or maybe it's something as simple as a time limit; after about 15 minutes I start to feel overwhelmed. It's important to reflect on your own limits and make an effort to respect them.

2. Find YOUR self-care: Practicing self-care will help build up your defenses to the harmful effects of a violent world, which will then help you engage with the world from a healthier place. When asked what self-care means, I often hear activities like jogging, baths, and meditation. This may be true for some people, but not for everyone. And if you don't enjoy jogging (I sure as hell don't), baths, or meditation, you may be left feeling like you're "bad at self-care." Your self-care is whatever is good for your wellbeing. For me, self-care is sleeping in when I can, drinking water, snuggling a cat, and going on a walk instead of watching another episode. Sometimes it's watching another episode instead of going on a walk - it depends on what my body and mind tell me they need in that moment. Ask your mind and your body what they need right now, and do as much as you can of that thing. Notice how you feel after.

3. Prioritize YOUR self-care: I know you've heard it before - you need to take care of yourself so you can take care of others. Cue the eye roll.

But you still put others first every day and do the bare minimum for yourself. As a therapist, I know you probably won't prioritize yourself without exploring why you are so dedicated to putting others first. Ask yourself what you are standing for (or against) by prioritizing others. Maybe you're standing for love, compassion, service, or community. Or standing against disconnection, fear, loneliness, or selfishness. Either way, your values probably wouldn't support you suffering your whole life. Remember you can take care of yourself AND live your values, it's not an either/or.

4. Take a longer break: There may be times when limiting your social media to [fill in the blank amount] per day isn't enough of a boundary. You may benefit from a longer break where you don't log in for weeks, maybe months. I decided to delete my Facebook account (as much as one can delete their account) in 2019 and haven't looked back, and I don't interact on any other social media platform. I don't get wound up about an ignorant comment or post but I stay informed with podcasts, Youtube, and NPR. My particular boundary with social media doesn't work for most people, but you can find a detox time that works for you, and practice it when you need it.

But taking a break from the world is a privilege, so I shouldn't take a break! Noticing our privileges is a lifelong process and a vital step in using our privilege to create change. Absolutely. At the same time, ignoring your own needs and boundaries will only hinder your effectiveness in creating change in the long run. And taking a break from social media doesn't mean you stop engaging with the world. You still talk to your friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors. You can still stand for your values in face-to-face interactions.

5. Seek support: Don't be afraid to reach out for help when you need it. More than likely, your friends or coworkers feel something similar. Even if your loved ones don't understand what you're feeling, they still care about you and will most likely show up if you ask them. But you have to ask! Your loved ones are amazing but they aren't psychics! (Maybe your best friend is an actual psychic, but don't make her work for free.)

Whether or not you have a good support system, therapy can be a great source of support. If you're in Colorado, Boes Therapy Services is dedicated to providing support and guidance to progressive healers, helpers, and caregivers. Send me an email at to request a free 30-minute consultation.

Remember, finding balance between yourself and the violence in the world is an ongoing process. It requires self-reflection, self-compassion, and a commitment to your own well-being, in addition to the care you have for others. By setting boundaries and prioritizing self-care, you can continue to live your values of care, compassion, service, and love while receiving them yourself.

If you're ready to take the next step in finding balance and setting boundaries, consider reaching out to Boes Therapy Services. Get personalized support towards more appreciation, rest, passion, and connection today.

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