10 boundaries you should start prioritizing as you get older, according to psychologists

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When you hit your third snooze on the alarm or say ‘yes’ to that extra project at work when you’re already swamped, you might be neglecting your boundaries.

But as we age, setting and maintaining boundaries becomes more critical than ever.

You might think that boundaries are something only for the overly sensitive. But that’s really not the case.

Boundaries, according to psychologists, are essential for our mental and emotional health.

One key sign of maturity is understanding what you need and being firm in upholding those requirements. Often, this means setting boundaries with the people and situations in our lives.

Signs of neglected boundaries

As we age, the importance of setting and maintaining boundaries becomes more evident.

Psychologists have identified several key signs that may indicate you’ve been neglecting your boundaries:

  • consistent feelings of resentment or discomfort
  • difficulty saying ‘no’ to requests (and even demands)
  • constantly feeling overwhelmed or stressed
  • maintaining relationships that feel one-sided or toxic
  • lack of personal time due to commitments and obligations
  • frequent burnout or exhaustion
  • feeling responsible for others’ happiness or well-being
  • neglecting self-care routines and personal interests
  • difficulty making decisions without consulting others

You don’t have to exhibit all these symptoms to start reprioritizing your boundaries, but if you relate to more than a few, it might be time for a change.

Understanding the signs and symptoms of neglected boundaries can provide some context for your experiences.

The following are some boundaries you should start prioritizing as you get older, along with tips on how to set and maintain them:

1) Personal space and time

An important boundary to prioritize as we age is setting space and time for ourselves.

It’s not selfish to need and demand time for self-care, relaxation, or simply to be alone with our thoughts.

As we get older, it becomes ever more critical to guard this personal space against the demands of work, social commitments, and even familial obligations.

If this is you, you need to learn that it’s okay to say ‘no’ when you need to recharge or take care of your own needs.

2) Emotional boundaries

People often find themselves feeling guilty or burdened over how someone else might feel or react.

This is why psychologists often highlight the importance of emotional boundaries, which involve distinguishing and separating your emotions and responsibilities from those of others.

Simply put, you are responsible for your own emotions and responses, not those of others.

As we age, it’s essential to understand that we can’t control others’ emotions or reactions. We can only control our actions and responses.

Having clear emotional boundaries allows us to empathize with others without taking on their emotional baggage, and it’s crucial for maintaining mental well-being in the long run.

3) Work-life balance

As we get older, striking a healthy work-life balance becomes increasingly important.

This means setting strict boundaries between professional responsibilities and personal time.

Here are some things you could do to establish work-life balance:

  • Avoid answering work calls or emails during off-hours
  • Make sure to allocate time for hobbies, relaxation, and family
  • Don’t use down time to do extra work
  • Make time to rest and relax so you don’t burn out

While work is important, remember that you’re still entitled to a life outside of it.

4) Openness to change

Life is full of changes, and our ability to adapt is crucial for our overall well-being.

This means setting a boundary against rigidity and refusing to be stuck in old patterns that no longer serve us.

Embracing change can lead to growth and new opportunities.

5) Saying ‘no’

Let’s be honest: saying ‘no’ can be hard.

We often worry about disappointing others or being seen as unkind. But the truth is, saying ‘no’ is one of the most important boundaries we can set for ourselves.

As we age, our time and energy become even more precious, and we can’t afford to spend them on things that don’t serve us or make us happy.

So, learn to say ‘no’ without guilt. It’s not just a word; it’s a complete sentence.

6) Prioritize self-care

It’s easy to neglect our needs in the hustle and bustle of life.

But remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Prioritizing self-care is not just about physical health but also about mental and emotional well-being.

Set a boundary to ensure you’re taking time for rest, hobbies that bring you joy, and practices that keep your mind and body healthy.

It’s not selfish—it’s necessary. Remember to be as kind to yourself as you would be to others.

7) Acceptance of imperfections

Nobody’s perfect, and that’s okay.

As we age, it’s important to set a boundary against the pressure of perfectionism. This doesn’t mean settling for less, but rather embracing our flaws, learning from our mistakes, and accepting that we are a work in progress.

Life is a journey of growth and learning, and it’s perfectly acceptable to have bumps along the way.

8) Social media detachment

In this digital age, it’s easy to get sucked into the vortex of social media.

But as we get older, setting boundaries with our digital consumption can make a world of difference.

Limiting screen time, turning off notifications, or even scheduling ‘digital detox’ days can help us reconnect with the real world and ourselves.

Plus, think of all the extra time you’ll have for that book you’ve been meaning to read!

9) Self-respect and dignity

This might be a tough pill to swallow, but not everyone will treat you with the respect and dignity you deserve.

That’s why it’s crucial to set a boundary that ensures you uphold your self-worth.

Do not tolerate disrespect or mistreatment from anyone, period. You deserve to be treated with kindness and consideration.

If people can’t meet that standard, it’s their loss, not yours.

10) The power of choice

Above all, remember this: you have the power of choice.

Life is full of situations and people that may challenge your boundaries, but you always have the power to choose how to respond.

You can choose to uphold your boundaries, even when it’s difficult. You can choose self-care over pleasing others. You can choose respect over neglect.

As you get older, remember this power and use it wisely. Your choices shape your life, so make them count.

Reflecting on boundaries as we age

If you’ve recognized a few areas where your boundaries could use some work, that’s perfectly okay. Change doesn’t happen overnight. The first step is simply acknowledging where improvement is needed.

Dr. Brené Brown, a renowned American professor, once said, “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.”

Let that sink in. It’s not about building walls or shutting people out; it’s about respecting and loving yourself enough to prioritize your needs and well-being.

Remember, it’s never too late to start setting healthier boundaries. Whether you’re in your 30s or your 60s, these principles apply. You have the right to establish limits that protect your mental and emotional health.

Eliza Hartley

Eliza Hartley, a London-based writer, is passionate about helping others discover the power of self-improvement. Her approach combines everyday wisdom with practical strategies, shaped by her own journey overcoming personal challenges. Eliza's articles resonate with those seeking to navigate life's complexities with grace and strength.

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