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How to build better boundaries to protect your mental health

I recently came across a quote by American professor, lecturer and author, Brené Brown, which struck a chord with me in a way that I hadn’t expected during a wild, Friday night of study-time!

 

What resonated with me was how often we can ignore our own advice when it comes to preserving our well-being, and the various forms in which self-care and self-compassion can take shape. A key part of this is through Setting Boundaries, as highlighted below:

“Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.” Brené Brown

Brown’s quote reminded me how important it is to have strong boundaries to help practice self-care and self-respect, and to allow ourselves to make space for positive interactions. 

Why setting boundaries is important for our mental health

When you set boundaries, you focus on your own needs, which we don’t do often enough. Boundaries create a framework for how you expect to be treated, and how you treat yourself. First and foremost, boundaries help us feel safe, and that plays a huge role in our overall mental health.

 

Strong boundaries allow us to feel in control, to know what to expect, and feel confident in our ability to navigate unexpected situations. 

You may want to establish boundaries around your:

  • Personal space
  • Time and energy
  • Sexuality
  • Family life

 

Having strong boundaries helps increase our sense of agency, protects our mental and physical energy, and can build our self-esteem. All of these help improve our mental health, so setting boundaries brings many benefits. 

How to build boundaries to protect your mental health

Say NO without guilt 

Saying yes or being ‘agreeable’ in instances that make you uncomfortable can often stem from feelings of guilt, which keeps us from establishing a healthy boundary for ourselves.

 

Instead, I try to maintain balance to limit burnout/overload by rephrasing ‘yes absolutely’ to ‘I really appreciate that you thought of me for XYZ, but right now this won’t be possible…’ It’s not easy but practice makes perfect! Remember: you have the right to say no to things without feeling guilty. 

Allow yourself time to switch off

As important as it is to be in contact with loved ones who are afar during a time like this, too much virtual contact can start to become a little tiresome and overwhelming.

 

The more ‘plugged in’ we are, chances are that were also increasing our news intake and time spent on social media. Try setting boundaries with screen time for both work and social life. This can help to retain a sense of control.

Have designated work/study spaces 

Try to establish a home and work-life boundary: It may be useful to designate different areas of your home, in whichever way that you can, as ‘work/study’, relax’ or ‘privacy’ spaces. 

 

Perhaps draw up some rules with family members/housemates about different spaces i.e., office corner or alone corner.

Protect your emotional space

Boundaries are a deeply personal choice and can vary from one person to another. It is important to identify and define your set of values; honour these through assertive (firm, but kind) communication and reach out for support. You might have to break out of bad habits to do this, but don’t be afraid. 

 

Try and take some time out in the day to reflect on your own set of boundaries, and how you can implement these to ensure health and wellbeing: mental, physical, and emotional.

Remember that setting boundaries is an ongoing process, and you are able to change your boundaries whenever you need or want to. 

To leave you all with another quote by family therapist Jenn Kennedy,

“We all have limits, and boundaries can communicate that line.”

By Neha Gupta – Safeguarding Lead

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Author: HFEHMind
Posted on: 14th April 2021

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