Anyone who has been actively working on building and protecting their own mental health has likely become aware of the importance of setting boundaries.

According to Raven Daer, Communications Specialist at Envision Counselling & Support Centre, boundaries are not 'rules' for others, but, in fact, they are more of a guideline for upholding personal standards, for the purpose of self-care.

Whether it's physical, relational, financial, or food-or-time limits, setting boundaries in our life is a big part of being healthy.

"We go through a number of different relationships in our lives, whether that be romantic relationships with partner, relationships with our children, parents, perhaps friends or coworkers, and even people that we just meet, maybe at the grocery store once a week, or the people that fill our cars up with gas once a week. The boundaries that we set will look different based upon what type of relationship we are talking about in that situation. If we're talking about a romantic relationship, maybe we are a little bit more comfortable sharing intimate thoughts or beliefs and things like that, and maybe we are comfortable with physical touch and them coming a little bit closer into our personal space, whereas maybe we're not as comfortable with the person at the gas station doing those sorts of things."

Before explaining how to set boundaries, Daer noted that many are afraid to follow through with enforcing them, so they simply don't set them to begin with. 

One boundary that is learned early on in life, however, is the word, 'no'.

"'No' is absolutely a complete sentence. We don't need to have all of these excuses attached to it. It is really important, even at a young age, especially with our children, to get them comfortable with saying no and recognizing that they're saying no because that is what is good for them and right for them in that moment," she noted.

Determining what you're comfortable with and uncomfortable with takes a lot of time.

"Just remember that you know yourself best. So trust in what you need, want, and value in life, and you should let others know in a respectful way when they have crossed the line with you."

Daer explained that having healthy boundaries sets the standard for how you feel you deserve to be treated, and how you want to treat other people. 

"Setting those standards early on in relationships is very important because once we get into a relationship, for a number of weeks, months, years, it becomes that much more difficult to set those boundaries, and the individuals that are on the other side of that are not going to be as well-responsive to hearing that. They're going to be taken back or taken off guard a little bit more by that. So you might actually feel a little bit more hesitation and tension in that situation."

Boundaries, she clarified, are standards of protecting yourself from being taken advantage of by others. This means the first attempts at setting or enforcing a boundary will be more difficult.

"It's going to feel really hard. Don't give up. You need to keep trying. Keep being persistent. Absolutely stay true to yourself and your values, because over time it will get easier and you will just be able to set boundaries and enforce them in every aspect of your life without even really recognizing that you're doing it. So just be willing to take the time, give yourself grace because it is not an easy thing do," she reminded.

While setting boundaries doesn't come easily or naturally to a lot of people, anyone can learn to set healthy boundaries, as they are needed in all of relationships.

There are seven steps to boundary-setting: Clearly define the boundary; Understand why you need the boundary; Be direct- say what you mean and mean what you say; Don't apologize or give long explanations; Address boundary violations earlier in relationships, don't ignore red flags; Have a support system in place; Trust your intuition. self-check-in, course correct.

"A wishy-washy boundary is not effective, so we need to spend some time figuring out what we need before we're ready to put the plan into action," she explained.

First, one must understand the motivation behind why they need the boundary. 

"If you don't have a compelling reason, then are you going to follow through with setting the boundary, if it's out of your comfort zone? Or maybe you're going to be like, 'well, you know what? Nah, it's OK. It's really just fine'? You need to understand why you're setting it and stick true to that, too."

Another important step is being straightforward and not purposefully vague or dancing around the conversation or the topic, thinking that you're going to spare someone's feelings or avoid a conflict. 

"The kindest and most successful approach is honestly just to be direct. Say what you mean and mean what you say."

Overly explaining yourself and apologizing, she noted, actually undermines your authority, "and gives the impression that you're doing something wrong, or it gives that open opportunity for someone to maybe barter with or try and get you to change your mind."

Daer reminded, "'No' is a complete sentence. You don't have to give all these extra excuses at the end of it."

Remaining calm and polite will also get your boundaries established without too much drama.

"This means keeping our own anger and feelings in check. I know a lot of times in conflict we get heightened, right? So just ensuring that we're taking a couple deep breaths and not trying to set those boundaries in the middle of an argument because we want our messages to be heard. Yelling and sarcasm, or even maybe a condescending tone, all put others on a defensive personality or kind of feeling in that moment, and it really just distracts from the real issues. So important to keep calm, breathe and try not to have those conversations in the middle of an argument."

She said it's important to remember to breathe.

Having tighter boundaries at the start of a relationship is important, as it's easier to loosen them later than it is to try to draw lines once they've been crossed.

"So when you meet a new friend or start a new job, naturally you want to make a good impression, right? You want to be agreeable and fit in, be this really cool, awesome person. As a result, maybe you overextend yourself or agree to commitments, or things that don't sit well with you. That's kind of what that 'people pleasing' looks like, and that results in loose or weak boundaries and those are going to be very, very hard to strengthen later on in time, so start tight and then loosen up overtime if we need to."

Daer noted that boundary-setting is always a work in progress for everyone. 

But what if your boundaries are violated? Addressing them early on will also benefit the situation, rather than allowing it to continue longer.

"Small problems are always easier to manage, so this means that if you start noticing behavior that you are not feeling settled with, makes you feel uncomfortable in those sorts of things, don't try to pass off those red flags early on in the relationships, because you are infatuated with the thought of the person they make you feel good or you don't want to ruin the relationship or whatever that might be," she cautioned. "You do need to make sure that as soon as someone violates your boundaries, you are speaking up, because it's not fair to assume that they actually know what your boundaries are until you've explained them."

Setting boundaries is not a personal attack. "We're not trying to attack another individual. It's just so that we are focusing on our own personal well-being."

Daer said having a support system in place is really important, "because setting boundaries can be tough, especially if it's already an established relationship where we have maybe set the standard a little bit lower than what we had hoped or like to receive in a relationship. Using a support system is very important whenever you're doing anything challenging."

Last but certainly not least is trusting your intuition. 

"Slow down and just tune into yourself. Always pay attention to your feelings and constantly just check in with yourself each and every day. What is your gut telling you? If it feels wrong, make a change and then you'll be able to just take these steps forward when moving forward into relationships and navigating the whole boundary-setting concept."

She reminded people that it does take time, and that setting new boundaries is not an overnight transition.

"[Boundary-setting] is crucial and important when we are navigating through relationships, so that we're protecting ourselves and making sure that we're not doing any harm on to others as well," she added. "It's hard! We haven't always been empowered as individuals to say 'no', so we're learning and relearning, and that's okay. It's going to take time. But as long as we have these conversations a little bit more often, it'll get easier."