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Manage Your Boundaries


Techniques Managing Stress > Manage Your Boundaries

Description | Discussion | See also



Set your own boundaries for what you will and will not do. Then stick to them. When other people ask you to do things that are outside these boundaries, politely refuse.

Boundaries can include:

  • The time you will spend on doing things for others (which takes into account the time you need for your own activities).
  • The desirability and difficulty of the work requested.
  • The type and amount of risk that you are prepared to accept.
  • The amount of money you will spend, including money you must spend up-front before getting paid back for this later.
  • What other resources you will be prepared to use or lend (for example would you lend your expensive camera to a friend for a weekend?).
  • Taking all things into account, the maximum stress you can sustain.
  • The ethics and values that you use to decide what is right and wrong.

If your boundaries will be crossed, then say no. You can do this nicely, but be firm and do not allow them to persuade you. They may use phrases like 'Only for me' or 'Just this once'. Stay firm and say 'Sorry, but no'.


A lot of stress is based around relationships with others. This includes partners, children, parents, people living nearby, work colleagues, managers, local politicians and so on.

It is not uncommon for people to ask us to do things for them, with an assumption that we will be able to do it quickly and easily, while the reality is that it is difficult and takes much longer than was assumed. It is also easy for people to assume we have plenty of spare time to do things for them, when our days are already overflowing.

Stress is accumulative, adding up with each stressful thing we do or experience. Even a small thing can 'break the camel's back'. This is one reason why always managing your boundaries is important. If you break them once, people will assume you will break them again.

When we do thing for others and we have the time and resource, we typically feel good about helping them. When we are stressed, however, we easily end up resenting them (often unconsciously), and the relationship may be damaged as a result. This is an important response to worries that we must sustain the relationship by doing whatever others ask us to do.

See also

Say no, Assertiveness


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