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boundaries and mental health

boundaries and mental health

learn how setting boundaries and just saying ‘no’ can help protect your mental health

Picture this: you’re going through life juggling the demands of work, loved ones and personal ambitions. Striving not to burden others, you constantly nod ‘yes’ and take on more tasks, promises and challenges. Amidst the chaos, stress creeps in. Your energy levels plummet.

Sound familiar? It does because you have most likely felt it before. You could even be the one in five people who feel like they cannot balance life and work.

Maintaining mental health is crucial in steering through life’s challenges. One effective way to foster mental wellbeing is by setting boundaries and controlling the level of stress in your life. This guide will debunk common myths, explore the significance of boundaries and provide practical insights on setting them in various aspects of your life. 

common myths about boundaries

setting boundaries
is rude and selfish
 

Healthy boundaries are essential for self-care and maintaining overall wellbeing. They enable you to prioritise your mental health without compromising the needs of others.

boundaries create
distance in relationships

Setting boundaries does not mean cutting off connections. It involves creating a balance that respects personal space and needs. Healthy boundaries promote more authentic and fulfilling relationships.

I don’t need boundaries

Everyone needs boundaries. Constantly saying ‘yes’ to others can lead to burnout and negatively impact mental health. Establishing boundaries around time and energy is crucial for maintaining balance in your life.

what are boundaries? 

Boundaries are like the rules that outline your limits, setting clear distinctions between your needs, emotions and personal space and those of others. Think of them as your invisible guideposts, helping you understand what behaviour is okay and what’s not. Boundaries provide a practical framework for confidently reacting to various situations and managing relationships.

why do I need to set boundaries? 

There are many reasons why you should set boundaries. Here are a few reasons why:

Preserving mental health 

Setting boundaries is like putting on a mental health ‘armour’. Just as armour shields the body in the face of external threats, boundaries act as a protective layer for your mental wellbeing. It helps shield you from stressdepression and burnout, allowing you to face life’s challenges with resilience. 

Promoting self-respect 

Boundaries serve as a direct reflection of your self-worth, showing what you value in relationships and interactions. As you intentionally set and maintain boundaries, you communicate a message to both you and those around you—a message that highlights the value of respecting your needs and personal space. By setting these limits, you claim your right to be treated with consideration and dignity.

Balancing priorities 

Establishing boundaries is a practical tool for effective time and energy management, helping you prioritise tasks and commitments. Picture boundaries as a compass guiding you through your daily responsibilities. By clearly specifying what is essential to you, these limits become a tool for filtering and focusing your steps.

Encouraging effective communication

Boundaries prevent misunderstandings and conflicts by setting expectations and helping others understand your needs and limits. Ultimately, they cultivate a culture of respect and understanding within relationships and communities in which you coexist.

how do I set boundaries…? 

…at work?

Being upfront about your workload and deadlines keeps everyone in the loop about what you can handle. Saying ‘no’ when you must is being honest about your limits. When it comes to tasks, think of it as cutting through the clutter: tackle the important stuff first, the things that make a difference. It’s like having a game plan for your day that helps you stay on track and avoid drowning in unnecessary stuff. Find an appropriate time to discuss boundaries. Avoid bringing up sensitive topics during heated moments and choose a calm, private setting for the conversation. You can read more about maintaining good mental health in the workplace here

…at school? 

Keep your academic and personal life from turning into a juggling act by making a study schedule and setting goals you can reach. Chat with your friends about what you expect from group projects and make sure everyone’s on the same page. And don’t forget to carve out your own study time without any distractions—that’s your personal boundary. You can read more about maintaining good mental health at school here

…with my family?

Be straightforward about what you need and expect. Setting routines for personal time and having an open conversation about boundaries can contribute to creating a supportive family environment. By clearly communicating your preferences, choices and needs, your family members can understand you better. Frame your boundaries using “I” statements to voice your needs without sounding accusatory. For example, “I need some alone time” instead of “You always invade my space.”

…in a relationship?

Keep the communication channels open by discussing your needs and expectations without hidden agendas. Make sure to establish and respect each other’s personal space and time, creating a balance that works for both. It’s not a one-time deal; regularly check in and tweak those boundaries as your relationship grows and changes. 

dealing with the consequences

Setting boundaries in work, family and relationships leads to positive outcomes, but potential hurdles may arise. In work, colleagues may resist or misunderstand, affecting collaboration. In the family, initial discomfort may occur as dynamics shift. In relationships, partners might feel challenged by newfound limits. Here are some practical tips on how to deal with the consequences of boundaries setting:

Stay calm: Emotions may run high during boundary discussions. Stay calm and composed, focusing on the issue at hand rather than getting entangled in emotional reactions.

Seek support: Talk to a trusted friend, therapist, or support group to share your experiences and gain perspective. Having a support system can provide guidance and encouragement.

Practice self-care: Setting boundaries can be emotionally taxing. Prioritise self-care to manage stress.

Maintain open communication: Keep communication channels open. Encourage the people involved to share their thoughts and feelings and give them time to process and understand why the boundaries are being put in place. Don’t take it personally if it takes them a while to fully comprehend the situation.

Celebrate successes: When someone respects your boundaries, take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate it. This positive reinforcement will encourage them to continue to respect your limits in the future.

support

Our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs, including our Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies. 

Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at advice@changemh.org or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page. 

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