Setting Boundaries with Others and Managing Expectations Around Burnout [Episode 60]


Here's What to Expect In This Episode:

Leave work at your contracted time. Don’t bring your work computer home with you. Close your door as needed for breaks. Don’t give out your cell phone number to students. 

What do all of these things have in common? They’re examples of boundaries that you might be setting as a high school counselor to avoid burnout. However, as you probably know, setting boundaries with others is easier said than done. 

We’re natural helpers as school counselors (some of us to a fault). This often shows up as us not following through on the boundaries we’ve set for ourselves, which can lead to burnout and job resentment very quickly. As your high school counseling hype girl, I’m here to tell you that if we’re not defining our own boundaries, somebody else will!

Setting boundaries, and actually sticking to them, ultimately leads to higher job satisfaction. It will help you to feel productive, proud of the work you’re doing, and confident that what you’re doing is enough.

A huge piece of this is setting relational boundaries with the people that you’re working with, which is the main topic of today’s episode. You’ll also hear practical tips for combating burnout straight from the mouths of high school counselors who are listeners of this podcast!

Topics Covered in This Episode:

  • Remembering to “decide what matters” when it comes to determining what your boundaries are
  • The major benefits of sticking to your unique boundaries 
  • How boundaries relate to connecting with staff in your building
  • Using your administrator relationship to your advantage to fulfill your tasks and meet your goals
  • Reflecting on what you want your relationships to be like with your coworkers
  • What to do if you get pushback on your boundaries
  • Managing your expectations around your job as a high school counselor
  • Strategies from listeners like you on how to avoid work burnout

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Read the transcript for this episode:

Let me be vulnerable with you for a moment, you know from following me on social media or going back to my background and interest story in episode one that I do not work in a high school full time anymore. I stay connected to you all podcast listeners, I attend and present it PDs I nurture a community for other high school counselors, the way I serve has shifted to helping high school counselor stay focused.

And I know that I can do that better with more focus now when I’m not in school. And you know, all the other reasons from listening to the backstory. This makes talking about a topic like self care, burnout and setting boundaries feel a little weird if I’m being honest, because I am not dealing with those things in the same way that you are right now. So I wanted to say honestly, thank you for listening and still giving me a shot.

I have a few guests in mind to have on the podcast to continue this discussion. But I’ve gotten a lot of questions and thoughts in my DMs about this. So let’s get to talking about it. On the survey that you filled out at the end of the year, managing self care, and this workload was a topic of interest to you all.

And I’ve done another podcast episode on it last year, Episode 23, which was called Three personal boundaries to set a more intentional work life balance. Also, when I talked to Sarah from the responsive counselor back in episode 48, she briefly brought up burnout as it relates to school counselors, and I thought it would be worth bringing up again, but in more depth this time.

So thanks for supporting me as I support you. I can have some impostor syndrome, for sure talking about a topic like this. But if you’re asking for it, then I assume you’re in it with me and you’re still here for it. I don’t have all the answers. And I will never claim to. I’m just here to provide a space and start a conversation. So let’s get to it.

High School Counseling conversations is a podcast where we talk about exactly that. A casual potpourri of school counseling topics intended to grow us as school counselors, but also give us space to enjoy each other’s company. I’m Lauren from counselor, click and I’m sharing my experiences and perspectives as a high school counselor.

No topic is off limits. And I’m certain we’ll cover it all on your high school counseling hype girl here to help you energize your school counseling program and remind you of how much you love your job. Whether you’re just getting your feet wet as an intern, or you’re nearing retirement, you’ll feel like you’re just popping in to catch up with your school counseling. bestie. Let’s go.

Boundaries are so personal and can look completely different for everyone. In the words of my favorite voice of reason, the lazy genius, “decide what matters”. I think this is the perfect lens to look through when you’re trying to decide what your boundaries are, how you’re going to manage them, and how you’re going to make them work for you. And in what season of life you’re in.

Our boundaries are often blurred, not in an ethical sense. But in a helping sense. We are helpers, some of us more to a fault than others. If we’re not defining our own boundaries, somebody else is. I’m very passionate about setting boundaries and deciding what matters because it will increase your job satisfaction.

If you’re happy in your career and enjoying what you’re doing, you will last. Will there be stress? Yes. Will there be bad days? Most certainly. Will you be able to balance it all? Not always. But does this need to affect our mental health, physical health and general well being for the sake of being in a helping career? No.

Setting boundaries will help you feel proud of the work you’re doing, you’ll be focused on helping students, because I’d be willing to bet that’s why you got into this in the first place, you’ll be confident that what you’re doing is enough, and you are enough. When I sat down to think about boundaries, I had so many thoughts for relational boundaries and with the people that you’re working with. So that’s actually what this episode turned into.

I also want to share some of the boundaries and ideas that you all share with me on Instagram to combat burnout so that you can really remember that you’re not alone in this. And then maybe those can spark some ideas for you to decide what matters by hearing what matters to others. So keep listening.

Let’s talk about boundaries as they relate to connecting with and relating to other staff in your building. You may have some boundaries that are important to you that fall into this category. So it’s time to get into it. And like I said, I have so many thoughts. You see teachers and admin in the hallways who asked you to check on this student to do this thing and that thing.

You are the newly named test coordinator, step counting test booklets and organizing the master schedule around where teachers are floating in the building. Everyone needs just one more thing for you. I’m urging you to take control of your calendar. Please go back and listen to the time management episode I did episode 44, ‘owning your time management by using your calendar’. This will be a game changer.

Next, think about using your administrator relationship to your advantage. Are you going to work with some difficult people who you don’t see eye to eye with or who don’t understand your role? You bet. But how can you align with your administrator to keep moving forward in the same direction? If you’re meeting regularly to discuss goals that both of you are moving towards, this really easily sets the stage for boundaries around the tasks that you’re given and the tasks that you are trying to fulfill.

For example, your three main goals this year, were decided back in August, and you went through them with your administrator. Say, maybe they were things like you wanted to increase promotion rate by X percent, you wanted to have X percent more completers in your CTE classes, and you wanted your students perception of their belonging at school to increase by X percent. You’ve got ambitious, measurable, SMART goals, and a lot of programming that comes with those, like you have so many tasks underneath those to make those goals happen.

Your admin were psyched back then about those back in August because they also wanted their CTE completers so that they could have funding for their school. They wanted promotion rates to increase so that their graduation rates increase. So when a new attendance initiative rolls around, and they want you to be in charge of it, you can genuinely remind them that you’re focusing on the three SMART goals that you all set together at the beginning of the year.

There are too many opportunities in education to chase shiny objects. And sometimes even our leaders need to be reminded of that in the nicest and most professional ways.

This episode is brought to you by Going Merry. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has heard this 1,000,001 times. What scholarships can I get? With a huge caseload, I know that you want to help your students, but you can’t possibly give a personalized answer to each one of them. Until going Mary came along.

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You’ll be able to see all of your students scholarship progress so that you can gently nudge them, ahem, encourage them to finish those applications. All while you’re collecting relevant insights like the data driven counselor that you are. Counselors, what are you waiting for? Sign up for your free going marry counselor account today by going to Now back to the show.

Does connecting with others from your workplace matter to you? I know some people’s relational boundary is no I will not hang out with or talk to work people outside of work. I don’t want to follow them on Facebook or Instagram. But others get life from that. It’s okay to have a boundary that’s different from somebody else. Maybe you move to a new city. So spending time with your co workers in a non work setting is really life giving to you.

You may enjoy your job more if you have some real life friends there. So taking the initiative to schedule a happy hour and invite some friends may be just the priority, you need to flip your work energy around. This is the fun thing about boundaries. What may be a boundary to one counselor might be completely different from somebody else.

Your co workers and co-counselors may be able to help you in addressing your boundaries and burnout. My guest from episode 51, Lorraine Holman, my former department head emphasize her boundary of leaving work on time. And honestly, this gave others the freedom in our department to do the same.

We learned from her example and we followed suit. You may need to speak your boundaries out loud so that others can hold you accountable. I remember at the end of the day, she’d yell down the hallway, I’m leaving! Who’s walking out with me? And then you’d hear somebody else respond, hold on, I’m just sending this one email and we’d all walk out together.

So what if there’s pushback when you’re setting boundaries that feel extremely relational? Remember, I said we’re working with humans, we are flawed, they are flawed. We have our own personalities, and we just may never see eye to eye and that’s okay. Instead of thinking that our boundaries may come off as rude to someone, we have to change the narrative in our minds.

I know there are 101 books out there about boundaries. So I don’t need to tell you this, you could read one of those books for more ideas for revamping your mindset around this. Really quickly. I wanted to mention managing our own expectations around our jobs as high school counselors. Here’s your reminder. You will not accomplish everything in one day, you won’t even accomplish everything in a week. Heck, I had things that would sit on my to do list all semester that were nice to imagine getting to.

I know you’re already good at this. But remember, you have to be adaptable and flexible as a high school counselor. We’re humans working with other humans. Remember, people are straight up unpredictable, especially teenagers and angry parents. Let’s shift that mindset from it must all get done to it’s just not going to all get done. It’s a good thing. Because listen, once you complete the task, more are added to the list. That list will always be there.

Establishing and following through with your boundaries will pay off. As you manage your expectations around these things. You will in turn start to shift away from burnout and this matters. When you have the boundary set. You’re better at doing your job because you’re there and you’re focused.

Just like I’m a better mom when I’m at home and I’m not focused on work. Just like if I want to rest I need to rest 100% Not scroll on Instagram. I need to give my all to whatever I’m focused Done, more focused equals more productive in the space that I actually want to be in at that present time.

And remember, when you’re focused, productive and not burnt out, you love your job more. The goal is ultimate job satisfaction. I want you to love what you’re doing. Align your priorities, so that you can remind yourself of how much you do love your job.

Lastly, I want to mention some of your boundaries and strategies that you shared with me on Instagram to avoid burnout that I haven’t mentioned already in the episode, I kind of sprinkled some of them throughout the episode. Overwhelmingly, and rightfully so ,a lot of you had boundaries around email, I’d venture to say we have a lot less physical work to take home with us than teachers do.

However, we have this emotional burden that comes with our work, and we take it home with us. People seem to need us all the time. And they reach out via email. Many of you said that you have taken your work email off of your phone completely. And then along with this, a common boundary was not checking work email at night or on breaks, or setting out of office replies as necessary.

Another practical boundary around this was leaving your work computer at work, no temptations to open it up just to check something. I have a whole blog post called the five myths you’re believing about work email, causing you to fail at self care. I know that sounds bold, but these are ideas that I had to get over to step away from my work email at home because I did not always believe those things, I’d encourage you to go read it.

To give you all some other ideas of things that matter to some other followers and listeners that may also matter to you. If you haven’t thought of these already, I’ll just read them to you. Closing the door as needed for breaks. Not letting pushy parents or students call me by my first name, not giving out my cell phone number to students. Remembering that my own kids need me as their mom too.

And then in a similar category, answers from listeners and followers that they are using to protect themselves from burnout, the Clique Collaborative community, this podcast, not going to work which I laughed at, but using personal days and time off. And then templated emails. So being efficient and not wasting time on little things keeps you focused and in the moment.

I hope these last few things gave you some practical ideas that others are using and thinking about as they pace themselves through second semester. I know we’re about to hit that long stretch of time where it seems like we have no days off and no time to ourselves. So prepare yourself for it. Put in the rhythms and routines Put together the systems and supports that you need to get through it.

My dream is that this podcast would continue to serve you and encourage you as you march through your days and be the best version of yourself for your high school students. I’ll see you next week.

Thanks for listening to today’s episode of high school counseling conversations. All of the links I talked about today can be found in the show notes and also at forward slash podcast. Be sure to hit follow or subscribe wherever you listen to your podcast so that you never miss a new episode.

Connect with me over on Instagram, send me a DM @counselorclique. That’s C L I Q U E. Thanks so much for hanging out with me. I’ll see you next time.

Connect with Lauren:

Cheers + Happy Listening!

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