Tips from CAPS: Setting realistic and healthy boundaries

By University Counselor Patricia Dixontwo pairs of feet on the road

Being able to focus is an essential part of any college program. When we fail to set effective expectations and boundaries, things can become chaotic. Our bodies react and sometimes there can be lasting consequences.

Signs that indicate your boundaries may be challenged could include any or all the following:

  • Justifying another person’s bad behavior.
  • Gastric intestinal symptoms.
  • Feeling shame.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Doubting decisions.
  • Emotional outbursts.
  • Having a sense that something is off.
  • Feeling overwhelmed.
  • Feeling your voice is disregarded.
  • Isolating from friends and family.
  • Disrupted sleep.
  • Change in appetite.
  • Intrusive thoughts that you are not good enough.
  • Not finishing assignments or projects.
  • Increased substance use.
  • Feeling like you’ve given away your power.
  • Headaches.
  • Sighing frequently. 

Having the ability to verbalize your boundaries in a way that maintains self-respect is essential for mental health. Here are some words and phrases to help you assertively express your boundaries:

  • No.
  • Stop.
  • FYI, I have a thing about that.
  • I’m drawing new lines around that and need you to respect them.
  • I am uncomfortable with this.
  • I am no longer willing to do that or go there.
  • That doesn’t work for me.
  • If you want to be with me, things need to change.
  • I am upset by what just happened.
  • Let me explain how I see what you did.
  • I don’t agree.
  • You are asking me to put myself in danger and I won’t do it.
  • Please say that differently.


6 subtle signs your boundaries are being broken

12 signs you lack healthy boundaries (and why you need them)

10 reasons why your boundaries don’t work

18 signs you lack personal boundaries (and feel constantly used)

As you begin a new semester, keep in mind that CAPS is always here for you! You can reach out to me directly at 313-577-3243 or If you need help after hours or on the weekend, call CAPS at 313-577-9982.

WSU Applebaum offers dedicated Counseling and Psychological Services support to students on a group or individual basis. To get started, visit and complete the initial consultation form, making sure to note that you are an EACPHS student.

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