Most boundaries are designed to protect us. A fence may protect us from a dangerous animal or the edge of a cliff, a locked door keeps us safe at night, and the lanes on the road prevent us from bumping into the cars around us. Healthy boundaries between us and the people around us can protect our physical and mental health too.
What Does it Mean to Set Boundaries?
When we establish a boundary, we create a limit to the way our time, energy and emotions are spent on a particular person or in a certain part of our life. This isn’t about being exclusive or selfish. It’s about deciding how much energy to give so that we can be our best and give our best to the people and things that really matter.
They teach others how we want to be treated.
When we don’t set boundaries, we might burn out and be susceptible to being taken advantage of or overworked. Most times, people aren’t even aware that they’re crossing our personal boundary because we haven’t established a clear, healthy one. But we’re the ones left battling stress or bad mental health as a result.
The Benefits of Setting Healthy Boundaries
When we are successful in kindly, but assertively, creating a limit for how we spend our time and energy, we benefit in a number of ways. Some of the benefits include:
- Preventing others from using and abusing us.
- Retaining our own identity.
- Allowing us to give our best at home, work, and within our friendships.
- Preventing manipulation.
- Empowering us to reach our goals without pressures or hindrance from the unreasonable demands of others.
- Allowing us to have the energy and emotional resources to show empathy and kindness to others, but also to a reasonable degree that doesn’t leave us feeling drained.
- Better mental health.
When You Need to Set Boundaries
Limitations are a normal part of everyday life and every relationship we have with others.
In a work environment, we limit the physical contact or emotional connections that we form with colleagues, we expect them not to flirt with us or take our lunch out of the freezer. In a professional sense, it’s wise to establish boundaries right from the beginning, if possible; but you can start any time. Do this by:
- Switching off. Don’t reply to any work calls or emails on weekends or out of office hours.
- Let your family and friends know when you’re working and when and how they can contact you, if necessary.
- Use the auto-reply function on your email so that anyone that emails you out of working hours knows that you will receive their message but will only reply at a particular time.
- If you work remotely, have a dedicated office space, and ensure that others understand that it’s not open for friendly visits, kids’ playing, or long chats.
- Don’t allow anyone to touch you or speak to you in a way that is inappropriate for you. Simply saying, “That’s inappropriate” is often enough to set someone straight. However, if they don’t respect your feelings, warn them that you will report them, and then do it if they still don’t stop. Don’t let them bully you.
- Say no when you need to, and respect others when they say no.
This also means that you must respect that your “after-hours” time is dedicated to not working. So, don’t be tempted to cross your own boundaries. When you respect them, others are more likely to do the same.
In the Family
In our family, we expect our spouse to be faithful and our children to be honest and obedient. We expect each member to respect the home and the rules that have been put in place for everyone’s safety. We can set boundaries in the family by:
- Communicating clearly about the rules and expectations and being consistent in keeping them.
- Rewarding good behaviour but implementing consequences for anyone overstepping the healthy limits put on the family.
- Taking time for yourself to do the things that feed your soul and revitalise you. This also allows you to be better equipped to give to your family.
- Expressing yourself to the wider family and not tolerating abuse. For example, if you have an uncle that criticises your job, warn him that you won’t tolerate being criticised and, if he continues to do so, you will no longer welcome him to your home. And be prepared to stick to that commitment.
- Getting to know your triggers and preparing to handle them or avoid them (if possible). You can practice ahead of time if you know you’ll be in a situation that can trigger you.
- Learn to say no. You don’t always need to explain yourself, but you can politely decline. For example, if your sister asks you to babysit her kids and the idea overwhelms you, simply say, “Sorry, sis, not this time. Hope you come right! Try calling the babysitter I’ve used.”
In a Relationship
For a healthy romantic relationship, it’s important to set boundaries as soon as possible. You can do this by:
- Knowing what you want and need from your partner and expressing this early on. Don’t compromise on reasonable expectations because you fear losing them. If they can’t respect them from the beginning, it probably isn’t meant to be.
- Knowing and sharing your expectations of your partner when it comes to dealing with members of the opposite sex. This is personal and only between the two of you. Do what works for you.
- Taking time for yourself when you need to fill your own emotional tank. When you need to be alone, simply say something like, “I’m going to take a walk until 11h00 to clear my mind and get the blood flowing!” or “I’ve booked a massage on Wednesday as a treat for myself.” You don’t need to ask permission but be open and honest about what you’ll be doing.
- Being clear about your boundaries by explaining how certain behaviour makes you So, instead of saying to your partner, “You promise to call me and then you never do!” try putting it another way: “I feel worried when I don’t hear from you and I’m not sure if you’re safe.”
- When it comes to sexual boundaries, it’s crucial to chat about what you’re comfortable and uncomfortable with, and how you’d like to find a happy meeting point where both of your needs are being met. Communicate openly and honestly!
With strangers, we expect to feel safe and not threatened in any way. Don’t be afraid of telling someone that you need them to give you some personal space. You could simply say:
- I’m feeling crowded, would you mind taking a step back from me, please?
- I have a lot on my mind, I can’t talk to you right now.
- I need to be on my own at the moment.
- I’m going to keep my car window closed for now, so please don’t stand right here.
- I’ll call you if I need help finding anything, thank you.
How Setting Healthy Boundaries Affects Mental Health
Often, not setting boundaries for how others treat us leaves us feeling anxious, overwhelmed, depressed, stressed, useless, and hopeless. Conversely, setting parameters can help us to feel calmer, more in control, optimistic, and accomplished as we achieve the tasks we’ve set out to do. They help us to feel valued and valuable, and we’re empowered to say no to the things that will erode our self-esteem and energy.
If you’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed, remember that setting healthy boundaries is one great way of tackling this. But you may also need to speak to someone and add healthy supplements to your daily routine to combat these feelings.
Have a look at Nordens’ online shop, which has a wide range of supplements that are designed to help you to detox, destress, and find a place of calm and balance. Some of the best supplements for this include: