Setting and Maintaining Boundaries: The best gift to your mental health

When talking about self-care, it can be easy to focus on ways to care for our physical bodies. Diet, exercise, skincare–all of these things are wonderful ways to care for yourself, but they all focus on your external self. One of the best ways to care for your internal well-being is by setting and maintaining boundaries. Not sure what that means? Then this blog is the answer.

So, what are boundaries?

Boundaries are lines you draw in the sand that determine what behaviors are acceptable for yourself and others. While boundaries may sound selfish, rude, or controlling, they really aren’t. Rather, boundaries are more of stated intentions. These intentions aren’t about control (because we can’t control everything in our lives), but they are about self-care.

For example, say you are carpooling to work with someone. You are driving, and you let your coworker know that if they are late, then you will leave without them. Setting that boundary isn’t meant to be rude, mean, or controlling. You are simply letting them know you value your punctuality. You don’t want to risk getting in trouble for tardiness because of your coworker’s actions, and that is a very valid intention.

Why do we need boundaries?

Boundaries are important for communicating your needs with yourself and others. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy. Not everyone may like or understand your boundaries or your reasons for setting them. However, if you don’t set those boundaries for your mental health, you’re more likely to feel upset with yourself and the people you spend your time with.

Your needs are worth being communicated to others, and they should take priority when it comes to caring for your mental health. Once people around you know how to approach your boundaries, you’ll be able to maintain healthier relationships with others that serve you and them. 

Where can I set boundaries?

You can set boundaries in any area of your life to help you stay safe and sane. Here are some areas where you may want to put different types of boundaries in place:

  • Personal space (being too close for comfort, prying into thoughts or feelings, general discomfort)
  • Physical touch (any sort of platonic or romantic physical touch that crosses the line of comfort level)
  • Family dynamics (healthily interacting with your family. Read our recent blog to learn more about family dynamics)
  • Work dynamics (interactions with coworkers, not overworking yourself, having attainable goals to avoid burnout)
  • Friend dynamics (how much you take and project with friends, the “therapist friend” dilemma, any other comfort levels you need with friends)
  • Your emotional well-being (whatever you need from yourself or others to maintain your mental health as best you can)
  • Use of your time (respecting your time and how you choose to use it, not overstepping and putting other’s needs above your own)

Boundaries can be implemented for almost any situation, but how do you set them?

How do I set boundaries?

Setting your personal, mental, and emotional boundaries might sound complicated, but you can actually use a really simple formula:

“If ______, then ______.”

Making “if, then” statements is an easy way to set intentional boundaries, and they help you have a plan in place when certain situations come up. Here are some examples of boundaries for different life situations:

  • If I get an email after work hours, then I will wait to respond at the beginning of my next work day.
  • If my family begins talking about politics that I don’t agree with, then I will say “agree to disagree” and offer a change of subject.
  • If I go over [x amount of time] on a certain app, then I will adhere to the timing restriction I put on my phone.

Again, you can apply your own boundaries for all situations that you have a hard time dealing with. You can tailor your “if, then” statements to suit your needs and respect for your values. But remember, setting boundaries is just one piece of the puzzle. You also need to maintain them.

How do I maintain my boundaries?

For a lot of people, maintaining and enforcing boundaries can be difficult. It may involve some hard or awkward conversations with people you love, and you may find people aren’t as accommodating to your emotions as you may have expected. However, at the end of the day, your emotional and physical well-being is crucial.

When maintaining your boundaries, it’s important to keep these things in mind:

  1. You have to have the conversation. Nothing will change or improve without trying, and the first step is to figure out how to voice your needs to others.
  2. If they aren’t willing to respect your boundaries, they might not be great people to have around.
  3. Your mental health should be a top priority for you.
  4. Others will have boundaries as well. Once you voice yours, be open-minded to receiving and respecting other people’s boundaries as well.
  5. Your needs are valid. They matter. No matter what anyone else says, you’re valid in doing what’s best for you.

Having a set of healthy boundaries can lead to healthy relationships with yourself and others in your life. They can also help create an environment that helps you heal. If you feel that your mental health and emotions are being respected, it can be easier to get through the day and feel that you’re valued.

We hope this post helped to frame the concept of boundaries for you, and give you simple and actionable steps to set and maintain boundaries that protect your mental health. If you feel like you may need additional support with setting and maintaining boundaries, we have a wide range of providers who would love to help you. Give us a call at 844-867-8444, and we will give you the support you deserve.

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