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Part X: Setting Boundaries to set ourselves up for success

Setting boundaries is drawing a line in the sand to distinguish where our personal well-being begins and ends. As a social worker, it is incredibly important that your colleagues AND CLIENTS are fully aware of our boundaries. Prioritizing our health and wellness and establishing clear boundaries is an invaluable practice. It nurtures our mental and physical health sure, but also contributes significantly to our personal and professional and growth.

A huge aspect of boundary setting is establishing explicitly defined work hours with colleagues and supervisors. In the grand scheme of things this one is fairly new because technology has blurred the lines between work life and personal life. The fact that so many people also choose to work from home has made things even muddier and challenging to disconnect work from home. Set specific work hours and communicate them clearly to colleagues, supervisors, and yes, even clients. I know you want to help and be available but we have to create a structure that fosters work-life balance. This practice allows for focused work during designated hours and the ability to unwind and recharge outside of them. Time and place for both leads to reduced stress levels and increased productivity. It’s a win/win.

The best time to set boundaries was from the very beginning. The second best time is right now. Setting boundaries early in a professional relationships will communicate your limitations and expectations from the outset. It sets the tone for all future interactions. It establishes mutual respect and prevents misunderstandings or overstepping of boundaries. All of these things promote a healthy harmonious environment from which to work.

Once boundaries are communicated, consistency is key to maintain them. It's not enough to simply set them; it's imperative to uphold them. Consistently. People will respect boundaries when they see them consistently maintained, reinforcing the importance of your personal time and space. If we enforce our boundaries in a mealy mouthed willy nilly fashion people won’t know when (or if) we truly mean it. Obliviously emergencies happen and there are exceptions to be made. They should be few and far between.

Set boundaries so we have ample alone time. Time alone is self-care that often gets overlooked. Alone time allows us to recharge, reflect, and pursue activities that bring us joy and relaxation. Whether it's reading a book, meditating, or simply enjoying a quiet moment, carving out alone time is essential for mental clarity and emotional well-being.

Another technological hurdle to clear is boundaries on social media. The digital world increasingly encroaches on our personal space. If left unchecked it can easily be detrimental. We should have hard limits on social media usage for ourselves. Rules such as specific times for scrolling or designated tech-free zones can drastically reduce stress levels and/or improve sleep. Establishing boundaries on what content to engage with or the frequency of interactions helps in maintaining a healthy relationship with technology. We have the ability to personalize and curate what we see on our various social media feeds and we should use it make the internet a positive influence on our lives. Endless doom scrolling darkens our lives. I’m very fond of the saying that “Diet is not just what we eat. It’s what we read, what we listen to, and who we surround ourselves with. Be mindful of what we consume physically, spiritually, and emotionally.”

Setting clear boundaries is self-respect and self-care. It empowers us to take control of our lives, foster healthy relationships, improve our productivity, and have better overall well-being. It's about honoring our own needs while also respecting the boundaries of others. By explicitly defining work hours, setting boundaries early, maintaining consistency, making time for solitude, and establishing limits on social media, we will cultivate a healthier balance between our professional and personal lives which leads to a happier and more fulfilling experience.

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