Setting Healthy Boundaries and Learning To Say No

Setting Healthy Boundaries and Learning To Say No

Set Healthy Boundaries and Learn To Say No

Setting healthy boundaries which can involve having to say no, is something that nobody teaches us and yet we are all expected to know how to do. It can be difficult to juggle family, work, relationships, social life and still find time for ourselves. We have all experienced times of overwhelm and putting ourselves last. Perhaps because we feel there is so much to do or other people to take care of.


By setting healthy boundaries you will have more energy, time, space and you will feel so much happier in your life. This then ripples out to your relationships, work, family and personal time. Meaning you have a happier and more fulfilled life.

In order to do this successfully it’s really important to be clear in your language and expectation. Both with yourself and with others. By organising your time in to a diary or calendar, you create control over your week. Plan family time, playtime with your children, time for your partner, work hours. Above all, plan time for yourself!

I do realise that in today’s hectic world it can feel almost impossible, but it’s incredible what a difference planning can make. Once you have your week how you want it, the tricky part is keeping it that way! This is where it is very important to respect the choices you have made. You can’t do much about unforeseen circumstances but you can start to notice where you are overriding your own boundaries and saying yes when really, you mean no.


Setting clear healthy boundaries is directly connected to what you think you are worth in terms of your time, your energy and your expertise. Implementing healthy boundaries is asking for respect from others which is a wonderful loving thing you can do for yourself. Raise the bar of what you expect from others! If you think its OK for people to overstep your boundaries until you have no energy left, have no more hours in the day or have no physical space to yourself, then you are putting yourself last. You are saying that you don’t matter.

To love yourself is to say that you do matter, that you have incredible value and worth. By understanding this, you are asking people to treat you respectfully and to respect your boundaries. Because deep down, you know that you deserve that level of respect. To receive anything less than this is unacceptable to your new way of being.


Your emotions and bodily sensations will tell you if boundaries are being overstepped. So it is important to learn to listen to them. A tightness in the chest or throat or a sinking feeling in your gut. Perhaps a quickening of your heart… Each of us respond differently so learn to look out for your unique ‘boundary flags’. When you start paying attention, you will notice that they are usually accompanied by an inner dialogue. “Oh no I don’t want to do that”, “it’s not fair”, “they are taking me for granted” or “I never get any time to myself”.

If we are honest with ourselves, we already know what our boundaries are. The important thing is to give ourselves full permission to implement them and live a full, enriched and happy life!


As unique individuals, we all set our boundaries in different places. People aren’t mind readers and therefore will not know if they are overstepping unless you actually tell them. This is why it is really important to first define what your boundaries actually are to yourself. Then you can practice implementing them. It is also worth remembering that most people are nice! Not only will they likely not want to load on you more than you can handle but would genuinely want you to live a happy, balanced life.

We spend so much time in our own heads worrying about perceived reactions of others. Of what might be expected of ourselves. We can forget in reality, people are perfectly reasonable if you are clear with them. If for any reason they are not then it might be worth looking closer at why they are in your life and what changes you could make.

Set healthy boundaries and learn to say no. Bristol Trauma Therapy. Heather Bradley.


Understand that it’s OK to say no when someone is asking more of you than you can give. No is an incredibly powerful word that leaves no wriggle room and as such we tend to shy away from using it for fear that our response won’t be acceptable. After all, we were brought up having to conform to grown ups rules. Inevitably these would often have some form of consequence if we didn’t comply. However, I urge you to imagine how much better your life would be if you had the power to say no whenever you wanted! Take a moment to really imagine what that might be like and notice how much better you feel in your body as a result. You can have this by starting to practice using that little word, no.


It is true that for some the consequences of saying no in the past would be so severe that it may feel impossible to ever be able to say it to anyone. If this sounds like you then I appreciate this sounds like a really hard task. It’s ok, for now just understand that it is a process and it doesn’t need to happen overnight. All you need to do is be is open to the possibility that you might be able to say no someday – then the rest will come. If you truly desire to be free and live a happy life full of love, there are no chains strong enough to hold you in the past. Just take it one step at a time because the truth is; it your absolute right to say no.


To say no and then to follow through with healthy boundaries is enormously respectful of your needs. But we often feel obligated to put others needs above our own. How many times have you said to yourself “I can’t say no”? I get it, we are kind people. But I think we should be asking the question; why have we been putting our own needs last? We should be reminding ourselves that we do in fact always have a choice, even when it feels like we don’t.

A really good exercise to do is imagine that you have already been implementing healthy boundaries for three months. In your minds eye, see that people are respecting them. What does your life look like? What thoughts are in your head? How do you feel in your body? In what way are people treating you differently? How much more time do you have for doing the things you love?

Even just thinking about this for a minute can result in a sigh of relief for many people. Remember that this dream can become a reality by remembering that we do always have a choice and then giving ourselves permission to follow through on those choices by setting healthy boundaries.


People often get caught up on the fact that they don’t have a reason for saying no. They don’t want to appear selfish or they don’t want to make excuses. I remember saying myself on many occasions that I don’t have a good enough reason to say no and I’m not about to start lying. People often fall into this trap of not wanting to make up a reason, but feeling like the truth might hurt the other persons feelings. This can be particularly strong if the reason is that you just don’t want to.

The truth is you DO NOT need to give a reason. You are under no obligation to anyone to have to defend yourself or get their approval of how you spend your time. It is simply giving your power to another and you don’t want to be doing that. Life is about feeling good. You already know that you are a good and a kind person. But saying yes when you mean no just means that you end up feeling incongruent around that person. Therefore, ultimately it changes the dynamic of your relationship. So, either be honest or know that it is OK to just say no and nothing more.

Learn to say no so that you don't reach burnout. Bristol Trauma Therapy. Heather Bradley.


It is important to remember; if we just say ‘yes’ all the time to everyone and anyone, it is inevitable that we will reach BURN-OUT. It’s just not consistently viable over a long period of time to be giving but not refilling our own reserves. A car cannot travel indefinitely without stopping to fuel up and neither can you.


Learning to say no will get much easier with practice but if it feels too difficult right now then you can start by getting into the habit of saying “I’ll get back to you”. This will give you time and space to think about what you actually want and to construct a response that is in line with your boundaries.


How many times do you find a week going by without ever having gone for that walk? Never got around to that bubble bath? The book you’ve been looking forward to diving into is left unread on your bedside table and any chance of a routine with meditation, yoga or the gym has been lost beneath a pile of other things that need to be done?

Self Care - A Healthy Boundary. Bristol Trauma Therapy. Heather Bradley.

This is because we don’t tend to prioritise relaxation and down time into our calendars. We automatically assume that we will do something nice for ourselves if we find a spare five minutes. The truth is, sometimes we need to prioritise ourselves and actually block off time in the diary for self-care. Remember; You have worth. You have value. But it’s up to you how much value you choose to assign yourself. It’s fine to turn your phone off for an evening and be totally unavailable because you are having a bubble bath! You may be doing a meditation, watching a movie or going for a bike ride. Perhaps cooking, reading or writing. What you do with your time is completely your choice. You are not obliged to give anyone reasons for why you are unavailable unless you want to.

Routines are a really good way of training your brain into self care.

So choosing to meditate or exercise daily or even just zone out, creates strong neural pathways associated with relaxation. This has a positive, calming effect on the body actually making you more productive the rest of the time. So, by chilling out you are actually doing everyone else a favour! Hopefully knowing this will help you to have confidence in setting strong boundaries around your self-care and personal time.


It may be easier to set boundaries on some days than others. Obviously this depends on variables like who is involved and how you are feeling. But please keep reminding yourself that you are worth it! By starting to respect yourself and your time, you start to expect this respect from others. If it feels daunting to make the change overnight you can say an affirmation to yourself each day. “I am in the process of setting healthy boundaries”. Or “I’m learning to say no and respect my boundaries”.

By looking in detail at setting boundaries and the importance of saying no in this blog, we have learned to create and maintain our own healthy boundaries.

As a bonus, when we do this, we naturally become more aware and respectful of the boundaries of others. It becomes easier to notice when we might be overstepping them. So, as is often the case, by giving love and respect to ourselves, it ends up rippling out positively to others.

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