Boundaries & Mental Health: Why Setting Them Can Lead to a Fuller & Freer Life
Have you ever been around someone who seems to ask the world of you?
They always need favors, want to hang out or ask you to do things you don’t really want to do.
Being a “yes” person has its benefits. After all, trying new things can lead to fun opportunities, exciting adventures, and life-changing experiences.
But saying yes all the time can take a toll on your well-being. Constantly agreeing to requests and demands can leave you frustrated, exhausted, and feeling like your life is out of control.
Why We Say Yes to Everything
Different upbringings, cultures, and dynamics tend to shape how we view boundaries (1). Depending on how you were raised, you may be more comfortable setting boundaries than others.
Part of our innate human makeup is the desire to belong. But other than wanting to belong, what makes us say yes to things we don’t necessarily want to do (2)?
- Lack of self-confidence: When you’re still trying to figure out who you are as a person, you may not have the confidence to say no to people or situations that don’t align with your mission, purpose, or values.
- Convenience: It’s often easier to say yes than no, because if you say no you will typically have to explain why. You also want to avoid any confrontations or conflicts.
- Fear of rejection: Saying no may come with repercussions like rejection or ridicule, and you’d rather not deal with them, so you simply say yes.
- Empathy/Compassion: You might say yes to a person because you feel for their situation. You’re moved with compassion and want to see them in a better place.
- Unspoken expectations: If you have a job and your boss asks you to perform extra tasks outside of your job description, you may feel you need to say yes to keep your job.
- Fear of missing out: There is a certain element of the unknown that many of us are curious to explore. We don’t want regrets, so we often say yes to things because of the experience we may get from them.
- Personality: Some people are naturally gifted in wanting to serve and make others happy.
Whatever the reason is for you, it’s important to recognize your “why’s” so you can move forward with intentionality.
Why Boundaries are Important for Mental Health
In the most general sense of the word, boundaries are markers that divide one thing from another. But in a holistic sense, boundaries are guidelines you create to protect your time, energy, mental health, and resources.
It also fosters respect and communicates with others how you wish to be treated (3).
Boundaries can take on many forms, but the overall goal is the same.
Not only does establishing boundaries help you avoid burnout, anxiety, and stress, but health authorities agree that it’s a part of self-care.
For these reasons, deciding on what kind of boundaries you need to set up can help you live a full and free life.
Ways to Create and Maintain Healthy Boundaries
If you know you need to start setting boundaries but don’t know how there are a few ways you can get started that are both practical and effective (4):
- Remember that you matter: Having a strong support system is ideal, but many of us feel we have to be there for everyone. It’s ok to remind yourself that you matter too and that you can’t be always everywhere. You are only one person, and that’s completely ok.
- Know thyself: Take some time to sit down with yourself and dig into times when you felt disrespected, anxious, resentful, or obligated to do something for someone. What was the circumstance? What could have been the outcome if you said no instead of yes? Learning more about what triggers you can help you establish firm but healthy boundaries.
- Write them down: It’s time to get specific with your new boundaries. If it helps, take a piece of paper and a pencil and draw a diagram of a circle. Inside the circle, include things that help you feel safe, seen, and heard. Outside the circle belong the things that don’t. While trying new things is important for growth, write down any patterns where you’re consistently feeling trampled on.
- Be Consistent: People aren’t mind-readers, and there will be plenty of times when someone crosses a boundary unintentionally. Graciously and calmly stick with your boundaries and plan out what you’ll say in advance if you feel you’ll be too nervous in the moment.
- Start Small: Learning to say “no” can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. You have the right to decline events and activities without explanation, and with a little practice, you will be able to do so in a way that provides the best possible outcome for both parties involved.
Why do people get upset when you set boundaries?
Note that not everyone will understand your boundaries, and some may even get upset.
This can happen for a variety of reasons, like unspoken expectations or past interactions with you.
In these cases, try to stay calm and remember that everyone is on a journey. Changes in relationships happen, and if they want to continue a relationship with you they will have to respect your boundaries.
Supporting Mental Health Naturally
If setting boundaries gives you anxiety, consider that this is an area that needs to be addressed as well. Anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns can be alleviated with a healthy diet and specialized supplements.
Some of the best approaches to wellness can be found in nature. Herbs called adaptogens can help your body process stress, and making sure you get plenty of antioxidant-rich foods can help lessen the impacts of stress on your physical body as well (5).
Boundaries may sound constricting, but they offer freedom and enjoyment we don’t think is possible.
Setting healthy boundaries can protect your mental health, energy, focus, and relationships. With a little determination, clarity, and consistency, you can set limits to how you respond to invitations, events, and expectations, knowing that you are worth it and can say no without needing to explain.
Do you know someone who needs encouragement in the boundaries department? Share this with them today!
✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author