Improving Emotional Well-Being by Setting Appropriate Boundaries

By Julia Behr, CVPM, CVBL, PPPC, CCFP - Director of Coaching Operations at Veterinary Growth Partners

Emotional well-being is the ability to practice stress-management and relaxation techniques, be resilient, boost self-love, and generate the emotions that lead to good feelings.

People that score high in emotional well-being tend to focus on positivity and improving their emotional intelligence. They tend to be more resilient, have effective time management strategies, and set healthy boundaries. Today we will focus on improving emotional well-being by setting appropriate boundaries.

Boundaries are ways to communicate our needs to others via words or actions which allow us to establish perimeters with ourselves and others. Boundaries help you feel safe and comfortable in your relationships and help you to learn when to say no or when to say yes.

Veterinary Growth Partners Chief Culture Officer, Shawn McVey, says, “Emotional Intelligence is about how we treat others, and boundaries are about how we treat ourselves.” That statement stopped me in my tracks and made me really reflect on how impactful boundaries are to our well-being.

Boundaries are a tricky thing. We all want them, we know we need them, but we collectively are not particularly good at setting them. So why do we say yes so much?? We need to realize that there is a large social component here – When someone asks something of us, we want to say yes for approval or acceptance. We want affirmation - to feel like we belong and are a member of the group – we need to feel needed.

We may say yes to avoid emotions or fall out from saying no. Sometimes people do not react well to boundaries, and we may find it easier to simply say yes and appease them rather than deal with the emotional fallout or push back. Saying no or providing an alternative can take a large amount of courage if it is not something you are used to doing, and someone pushing back may be enough to make you cave in and say yes anyway. Remember, saying no means saying yes to yourself.

FOMO or fear or missing out is another reality for many of us. Saying no may mean you are missing an event, or group project, or an opportunity that you may regret. Some people may also say yes out of the fear that if they do not, they will be passed over for future opportunities. At work, power dynamics may lead you to say yes simply to avoid friction or tension with another person. Brené Brown said best: Choose discomfort over resentment.

Quite simply, setting boundaries is STRESSFUL. It is so ironic to me because setting boundaries can help decrease stress but implementing boundaries can be immensely stressful.

There are some tell-tale signs of unhealthy boundaries.

  • Neglecting self-care such as skipping workouts, not getting proper rest because of replaying stressful scenarios in your head, or eating a poor diet
  • Feeling overwhelmed and unable to concentrate
  • Feeling like you want to run away or avoid responsibilities
  • Feeling resentful that you give more than you feel that you receive. It is when you start overgeneralizing and saying, "You never wrap the packs correctly," or "He's always late and I have to cover for him"
  • Feeling of being burned out
  • Feeling as if you are always helping others and you hesitate to ask others for help and think, I will just do it myself
  • Not being able to say no
  • Rescuing others when they have bad behavior – or making excuses for them. Saying that is just how they are.
  • Allowing others to vent or emotionally dump on you or you on them without knowing where the other person is emotionally
  • A culture of gossip and triangulated conversations or lack of direct communication
  • Allowing disrespectful words, tones, and body language
  • And allowing 24/7 communication – that is unrealistic and will lead to failure and burnout

So how can we overcome this? Here are several specific ways to build healthier boundaries at work:

  1. Play to Strengths: Utilize your personal strengths and surround yourself with a well-rounded team that has unique strengths that you do not have so you can maximize those and share responsibilities
  2. Use your PTO: Take your personal time. You have earned it and it is imperative to rest and rejuvenate yourself with time off. Plan for it!
  3. Empower your team: Next time they ask you how to do something, ask them how they think they should proceed. Most of the time, they will know the correct answer. If not, it is a coaching opportunity.
  4. Get a support system: Your support system could include a friend, neighbor, or family member or professionals to help guide you and hold you accountable such as a counselor, a life coach, a fitness instructor, or your Veterinary Growth Partners (VGP) Practice Coach. It is important to have people in place that care about you and your well-being that you can count on.
  5. Optimize technology: If you utilize communication systems, you can adjust your notification settings to quiet alerts while you are out of the office.
  6. Take a break: Put this on your calendar to make sure you get the breaks and 12 hours do not pass by before you eat or take a bio break. Burnout is real, and this remarkably simple act can be a game changer.
  7. Delegate and Elevate: Delegate and elevate people on your team. You cannot do it all, and you should not try!
  8. Add levity and laughter to your day: It helps in stressful situations because it creates neuroplasticity or rewiring of your brain. Have you ever felt relieved, despite a recent stressful day, by a good laugh with a coworker? That is because joy floods your body with mood-enhancing and stress-reducing hormones leading to neuroplasticity.
  9. Plan Meals: This helps you make healthier diet choices instead of choosing convenience or comfort foods.
  10. Manage your time: Implement time management strategies to help effectively manage your time.
  11. Create protocols: Implement protocols to create consistency and give the team the tools they need so they do not always have to come to you for every question.
  12. Practice self-care: You cannot give from an empty cup, so you must take care of yourself so you can continue to take care of your clients, your patients, and each other!

I hope this gives you some awareness on healthy boundaries and will help you improve the emotional well-being for yourself and your team. If you need other support ideas and you are a VGP Elite member, you can begin working with one of our Practice Coaches.

Learn more here: Schedule your coaching call!

If you would like to become a VGP member, click here: Sign-Up

About the Author

Since 2015, Julia Behr has been indispensable in the development and growth of the practice coach team at Veterinary Growth Partners. She brings more than 25 years of veterinary industry experience to the table; 20 of which were spent in veterinary practice management. Being able to connect hundreds of veterinary hospitals and practice owners with business-transforming resources is one of Julia’s favorite parts of her job.