If you’ve been here awhile, you know I’m a big fan of self-care for counselors. Not because it is today’s latest buzzword, but because it is so common for us counselors to work ourselves to the bone, forget about boundaries, and lose sight of why we became counselors in the first place (ahem…to help students…if your vision is currently blurry). This post focuses on the importance of setting boundaries in three key relationships: with staff, with your administrators, and with coworkers. Read on to learn how relational boundaries can make a world of difference in increasing job satisfaction and preventing burnout.
If boundaries are a weak point for you, be sure to also check out podcast Episode 23 on three personal boundaries to set a more intentional work/life balance.
1- Set boundaries with teachers and other staff members to protect your time
Let’s face it, most of us counselors are natural “helpers” (can I get an amen from all the enneagram 2’s out there?). It’s how we’re wired; we want to help! We most likely got into this career because we wanted to make a difference in students’ lives. As helpers, we, unfortunately, can become magnets for other staff members to pour tasks on us. Often, we genuinely want to help, but if we are going to stay focused on what really matters – our students – we can’t be everybody’s “yes” person.
This is where the beauty of a well-planned calendar can really shine. When you’re in the hallway and someone says, “Hey, can you check on this student for me?” … You can say, “Yes, I’d love to do that for you. Shoot me an email, and I’ll send you my Calendly link so we can set up a time to discuss further.” Gently toss the ball of responsibility back in their court (“if this is important, you’ll send me an email”) while protecting your schedule (“set up a meeting on my calendar”). This is an important boundary with staff members. You’re still willing to help, but this way it is on your terms and protects your time.
Side note: if you haven’t heard me talk about the importance of a digital calendar or the brilliance of Calendly, stop here and go read this blog post. Trust me- this will change your life as a counselor!
2- Set boundaries with your administrator to stay focused on your goals
It’s important to use your relationship with your administrators to your advantage. Consider regular meetings with an administrator you work closely with so that you both can stay on task with the goals you’ve already set together.
I strongly suggest that you set measurable goals with your administrator at the beginning of the year. That way, when they come to you and ask for you to head up the new attendance initiative, you can gently remind them that your focus and energy need to be spent intentionally on the goals that you both were pumped about at the beginning of the year. Sometimes, even the best administrators need to be reminded that we simply can’t do it all.
If you aren’t doing so already, implement these three healthy habits to nurture the counselor-administrator relationship.
3- Set boundaries with your coworkers to eliminate relational stress
It’s inevitable that we will work with people who are *ahem* difficult to work with. If you haven’t experienced this as a counselor already, just keep waking up and working because it’s bound to happen to you at some point in your career. Sometimes you have counselors who don’t like their jobs or others who would rather do paperwork than help students.
My most important piece of advice when working with people like this: Do not take this relational stress home with you. We are all guilty of venting about a difficult person to a spouse or a friend. But at the end of the day, gossip and chatter about their poor work or relational habits will burn us out. Gossip doesn’t solve problems. Burnout happens when we think about work without problem-solving. Don’t fall into this trap!
When setting your own boundaries, keep in mind that we will all have different boundaries. We are different people with different triggers and different capacities. I hope this post at least got you thinking about what your relational boundaries are and how you are going to manage them.
For more tips on setting relational boundaries, be sure to check out this podcast episode. You can also find me on Instagram for quick counselor resources. Plus, jump on the Clique Collaborative waitlist to join a vibrant and growing community of counselors to learn and grow with as a counselor.