If there were ever a year to make me pause and think about setting boundaries, 2020 was definitely the year. As soon as the pandemic started, I knew that 2020 was going to test me in ways I hadn’t been tested before.
Quickly, I realized that, in order to protect my sanity, I needed to establish some boundaries, especially ones that would help reduce how much negativity I consumed (2020 had a lot of it).
And I’m certain that setting boundaries in those early days helped me ride the wave of what turned out to be my most stressful year to date (even outdoing all the years of solo-parenting I’d previously faced).
While, yes, 2020 may be over, there is still a long, long road ahead of us – which is why I think the best way mama’s can reduce stress in 2021 would be to start by reevaluating a few key areas. Then, set some healthy boundaries around them.
What are boundaries and why are they important?
I like to think of boundaries as a way to help us narrow our focus, our attention, so that we don’t overwhelm ourselves with everything. That’s why I consider boundaries to be an important part of self-care.
As a highly sensitive person, I’m already absorbing a lot more information than someone who isn’t highly sensitive. Therefore, I have to be careful not to overload my senses.
By establishing boundaries around things, such as how much time I spend watching the news, I’m able to reduce the amount of information I take in, which reduces how much information my mind must process.
The goal is to reduce the work load of my mind so that it doesn’t burn out.
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Without boundaries, my mind will be so busy processing information, that it won’t be able to function properly in other areas. For instance, I might have a harder time falling asleep at night since my mind will have so much more to think about.
So, basically, you could think of boundaries as a way to create a bubble around yourself. Whatever you’re limiting just bounces off and doesn’t enter into your mental space, which means energy doesn’t have to be wasted processing it.
Setting boundaries helps you have the energy you need for the things you value most.
And if you’re reading this blog, I’d imagine one of those values would be your family.
Keep reading, mama. This post is going to help guide you through 3 areas of your life where you might want to consider setting some boundaries.
1) Saying “no”
What do you want in 2021? Why don’t you start with saying “no” to the things you don’t want to do?
Obviously, you can’t say no to doing laundry (although you could delegate some of this chore to an older child or spouse). But you can practice saying “no” to things you’ve been wanting to let go of, but just haven’t had the guts to.
I can’t tell you what to say “no” to (you’ll have to figure that out on your own), but this is one of those boundaries that we woman often have an extremely hard time with. Perhaps start with the more easier “no’s”, whatever those look like for you. Keep in mind that saying “no” to things you don’t want to do will open up more time and energy to focus on things you want to do.
If this helps make saying “no” easier, remember that you aren’t saying “never ever” – just “no, for now.” And if you need to tell someone “no,” they don’t have to know that one day you might say “yes.” Stick with a firm “no” and offer up no explanation for why you’ve decided that and try not to apologize for it.
Saying “no” is one of those boundaries that will be difficult to uphold. However, the more often you say “no,” the easier it will get – and the less guilty you’ll feel.
If you found yourself filling up all that extra time at home in 2020 on your devices, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s totally normal to turn to distractions to avoid facing reality. However, it’s a habit that shouldn’t be indulged long-term.
Should you break up with your devices in 2021? Only you can figure that out. In 2020, I set clear Screen Time limits on many of the apps on my iPhone, locked down most of my phone after 7 pm, and used Do Not Disturb to limit when I get notifications.
Think about how you use your devices and what boundaries you could set to help you establish a healthy relationship with them. Test things out. Find a rhythm that works for you. What works for me might not work for you, so create some boundaries and give them a trial run for a few days.
Maybe you’ll find that one full-day away from your devices every week helps you recharge. Or perhaps you need to build a boundary around your bedtime so that you can fall asleep quicker. Whatever you do, keep in mind the end goal – reducing stress.
3) Social Media
Social media consumption is such a large part of our use of technology these days that I consider it an entirely separate area for the purposes of setting boundaries.
Are you happy with how you’re using social media right now?
Is there a way that you can create some boundaries around the platforms you use so that social media enhances your life instead of sucking the life out of you?
Really think about it, especially if you didn’t really give this much thought last year. Remember, social media is a form of distraction and if you’ve been using it a lot more in recent months due to the stresses of 2020, then it’s time to step back and think about how you want to proceed moving forward.
What do you enjoy most about social media? What do you dislike? Going into 2021, are there ways you can change your relationship with the platforms you’re on so that it can be a positive place to connect with other?
If you’ve been feeling like you might want to step down off a platform, take a mini sabbatical and use that time away to help you reevaluate how you want to use the platform when (or if ) you return.
Creating boundaries around my own social media use in 2020 was something that helped me better deal with the stresses I faced. I took many breaks during the year and I’m more intentional with how I appear there now.
Set Your Own Boundaries
Alright, mama. It’s time for some self-care. Get the kiddos situated so they won’t bother you (as much) and sit down (perhaps with a pen and notebook) and think about the 3 areas I discussed in this post and answer the following questions about them:
1.What do you want to say “no” to?
2.Should you break up with your devices?
3.Are you happy with your use of social media?
Your answers will help you figure out a way to move forward.
Remember, the goal of setting boundaries in 2021 is to reduce stress by giving your mind less things to process and more time to practice healthier self-care practices. By setting some boundaries now, it will be easier to find time to work on any New Years’ resolutions or goals you have for 2021. Even if all you want out of 2021 is to calm down from the craziness of 2020, establishing boundaries will help you do just that.
Love & light,
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Christy B says
I’m so glad I found your blog and look forward to reading more insights! Saying no took me a long time to master and I still have moments when I struggle with it. But professionally I’ve gotten a lot better at it (the personal commitments are harder for me sometimes to decline). Giving ourselves permission to do what’s best for the self is not selfish but instead a gift we deserve!
You are so right, Christy. It’s easier to say know professionally than personally – especially if someone is asking you right to your face. I once had someone over who talked about me possibly babysitting for her while she went back to school. She didn’t flat out ask me, but she just brought it up, probably thinking that I would say, “oh, yeah, sure I’ll do that” since she didn’t know anyone else in town she could trust. But I ignored it and just didn’t address it at all – because I didn’t want to! It’s not being mean, it’s just knowing what my plans are for my life and if your plans don’t fit into mine, sorry, not sorry. lol