Learn to Set Boundaries to Avoid Stress and Anxiety

A man with several different hands requesting things from him
Getty Images

We all know that dreaded moment when we agree to one commitment too many. You can’t think of a good way to say no, so you say yes, and immediately regret it as your stress level rises.

Being overcommitted is a significant stressor, the Mayo Clinic reports. This increases anxiety, interferes with sleep, alters appetite and decreases productivity. Stress even impairs learning and memory, a University of California, Irvine, study found. Here are some ways to avoid being stretched too thin. 

  • Consider your response. When someone makes a request, don’t automatically say yes. Try something like, “My plate is really full right now. I’m not sure I can take on anything else, but tell me a little more about it.”
  • Know the facts. What do they want, exactly? How much time will it take? (In your mind, double it.) What’s the desired outcome? Available resources? Obstacles? Who are the players? If they include people you find taxing, consider that as well.
  • Be OK with your decision. Disappointing people can be hard. But take a breath and let go of the guilt. Once you choose to commit or decline, own it and move on.
  • Take care of yourself. Each day needs space for love, joy and laughter. Reserve time to engage in meaningful activities. It’s important — and required — to recharge your batteries and keep yourself mentally and physically healthy.

Learn more on AARP® Staying Sharp®

This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any expert, professional or specialty advice or recommendations. Readers are urged to consult with their medical providers for all questions.

Search AARP Blogs