Using Boundaries To Improve Your Mental Wellbeing
While we often hear that saying ‘yes’ can open doors to opportunities for progression, saying ‘no’ setting boundaries can actually be very beneficial to your wellbeing. This is one example of a boundary – a limit that you can put in place in order to protect your physical, emotional and mental health.
Dr Christos Kouimtsidis, Consultant Psychiatrist at The London Psychiatry Centre says: “Setting boundaries is a form of self-care and a sign of self-worth. Boundaries are flexible and can be set in a number of situations and with different people, including friends, family, coworkers, partners and even strangers. Respecting your boundaries is something that other people can do in order to help preserve your wellbeing.”
Why Are Boundaries Great For Your Mental Health?
By setting boundaries, you can improve your mental health in a number of ways. These include:
- Protecting your time and energy – while a busy schedule might feel productive, too many activities can leave you feeling drained and struggling for time to yourself.
- Avoiding feeling overwhelmed or stressed – stress is a catalyst for poor mental and physical health. If left unchecked, it can lead to anxiety, depression, gut issues, and more.
- Setting the bar for how you want to be treated – if you set boundaries and stick to them, others are less likely to cross them.
- Feeling more confident and in control – taking control of your life can begin by setting boundaries. By doing this, you can feel more confident to make decisions that benefit you in other areas of your life.
- Building healthier relationships – not all relationships are healthy. By putting boundaries in place, you can build healthier relationships with new people who come into your life, as well as improving existing relationships.
Examples Of Mental And Emotional Boundaries
There are many types of mental and emotional boundaries that a person can set in order to improve their wellbeing, and these will differ from person to person. Here are some common situations where you may benefit from boundary setting:
Sometimes, being touched can cause psychological discomfort. This can be due to past physical trauma, lack of physical affection in childhood, anxiety about being attacked, and other reasons.
It can be helpful to use “I” statements to express your feelings and needs when setting boundaries for physical touch. For example, you could say “I feel uncomfortable when you touch me without asking,” or “I need more space.” This centres the boundary around you, rather than the person that you are addressing.
Whether you are trying to control your diet, stop drinking, or avoid engaging in addictive activities such as gambling, peer pressure can feel like a barrier that prevents you from achieving your goals. This can create setbacks in regards to your mental health.
In these situations, it’s important to be assertive. This means standing up for yourself and your needs in a clear and confident way. Don’t be afraid to say no, even if the other person is trying to pressure you. If this does not work, try to spend less time with those who encourage poor habits. While this might seem tough initially, you will benefit in the long run by putting yourself first.
Emotional burdens of others
Trusted friends and family should be able to come to one another with their problems and receive support in return. However, it is difficult to be receptive to another person’s emotional burdens when you are struggling with your own issues.
If you feel unable to support a friend, communicating this can sometimes be tricky. Instead of ignoring them or getting into an argument (which might mentally and emotionally impact yourself and your friend), try expressing your concern for their wellbeing while making it known that you are unable to support them right away.
When dating, you might feel that it is appropriate for your safety to put boundaries in place such as: keeping your phone number or address private; limiting meet-ups to the daytime in busy places; and saying ‘no’ to physical touch if you feel uncomfortable.
However, there are also boundaries that you can establish in order to protect your mental health, too. These may include limiting your usage of dating apps; only communicating with your date during your ‘free’ hours, rather than those spent at work or with family or friends; and making it known how you expect to be treated (i.e. respected, listened to, validated), rather than letting your date set the standard.
In today’s world, many of us lead busy work, home and social lives, with little time to rest in between. If you are trying to make more time for yourself, it is important to create boundaries to prevent others from taking advantage.
For example, if you have had a busy week, and you are invited to a last minute event when you would rather take time to rest at home, understand that it is okay to say ‘no’ and to be honest about your reason. Conversely, if you’ve arranged to meet someone, and you know that they have a habit of being late, try to emphasise the importance of meeting on-time so that you don’t feel like your time is being wasted.
When you might need boundaries
You might need to set boundaries in any situation where you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or taken advantage of. Boundaries can be especially helpful in situations where you are dealing with someone who is demanding, controlling, or manipulative.
Setting boundaries can be challenging at first, especially if you struggle with standing up for yourself or if you worry about disappointing others, but it is an important skill for maintaining your mental health. When this has become a habit, it can help you build healthier relationships and feel more confident and in control of your life.
If you are having issues with your mental health, our friendly team can help. Get in touch with us using the contact details below.