The Eight Steps You Need to Set Healthy Mental Health Boundaries
Recovery from mental health issues can take a long time, and it may require you to make some significant changes in your personal and professional relationships. This process often involves setting new boundaries, which will allow you to control your social interactions and thereby create an optimal environment for healing. These boundaries will be there to protect you, not to hurt anyone else, as your loved ones will understand once they adjust to the new reality.
Your recovery from mental health issues will most likely be an ongoing process. To support it, you should create a structure for living that promotes robust mental health. This gives you the autonomy to do what you have to do to prevent relapse.
In your personal, work, and community relationships, you should establish boundaries that will help you achieve your long-term wellness goals. This means setting some limits or restrictions on your social interactions and the demands they place upon you to ensure others’ behavior and expectations won’t affect your mental health negatively, either directly or indirectly.
You won’t achieve excellent and sustainable health by being passive. Setting boundaries means taking responsibility for your recovery from anxiety, depression, or trauma , as you put what you learned during treatment into application.
Is setting boundaries something new for you? Here are eight suggestions that can make the process easier and more effective:
#1 Be Very Clear in Your Mind About What You’re Trying To Accomplish
Before discussing new boundaries with your friends, family members, co-workers, clients, employers, or anyone else you interact with, you should have clear ideas about the purpose of this activity.
What do you want or need?
- More privacy and space to help you unwind or recharge your emotional batteries?
- A noise-free environment, so you can concentrate better or lower your stress level?
- Extra time to complete specific tasks and freedom from being pushed to finish things faster?
- More cooperation and support from a life partner or your children to make sure you aren’t overburdened with responsibility?
- Greater independence and more free time to guarantee you’re able to stay up-to-date on your aftercare program?
You should know exactly what it is you want to accomplish as you go about setting new boundaries to protect your mental health. That way, you’ll make choices that really work. You’ll also find it easier to explain to loved ones why you won’t be available quite as often as you were in the past.
#2 Practice Setting Smaller Boundaries To Increase Your Comfort Level Gradually
You might find it difficult to say ‘no’ or to rule yourself off-limits when your loved ones want or need your assistance. You may feel guilty about putting yourself and your needs first, which can stress you out and add to your mental health burdens.
This is understandable, but it doesn’t mean you have to refrain from setting boundaries. To get more comfortable with the idea, you can start small, limiting contact or availability for a few hours or for one day only. Then, when you see that others can adjust and get along fine without you for a while, you can expand your boundaries to give you even more precious time to relax, recover, recharge, and regenerate.
Learning to set healthy boundaries is a habit worth developing. Doing so is not selfish at all and will actually be beneficial to the people who depend on you in the long run.
#3 Be As Open as You Can Be in Your Communications
You don’t have to disclose your exact reasons for asking people to give you more space or time. How much you want to tell others about your history of depression, your anxiety issues or your recovery recommendations from your doctors is entirely up to you.
Nevertheless, you should share as much information about your condition with your loved ones as possible, staying within your comfort zone while still being open and honest. This way, they will understand why you need boundaries and why you’ve customized them the way you have.
Their knowledge about your circumstances can help them make good choices in their relations with you. The people who care about you the most will want to contribute to your wellness in any way they can, and they will reward your openness and trust by supporting your efforts to overcome your mental and emotional health challenges.
#4 Customize Your Boundaries for Different People
In general, your need for mental and physical space can be defined as a need for privacy. You value your alone time, and when you’re facing significant mental health challenges, you should seek out as much of it as seems wise and necessary.
However, setting good boundaries doesn’t mean everyone should be treated equally. The people who bring you the most joy and happiness, whether your partners, children, parents, or close friends, can offer emotional and spiritual nourishment that will inspire and empower you. On the other hand, there may be people in your life that almost always cause you stress and discomfort or who undermine your determination to heal with their constant negativity and pessimism.
Your boundaries shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all. Some peoples’ presence will make you feel better, while others will make you feel worse, and your boundaries and how you apply them should be personalized in recognition of this reality. You should always be polite when establishing and explaining your boundaries. But you shouldn’t feel a need to treat everyone equally simply to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.
#5 Make It About Your Needs Instead of Their Failures
If you’re setting new boundaries, it means you aren’t completely satisfied with the way your relationships are currently influencing your mental health. When the time comes to explain to others why you’ll be making some changes, it is important to tell them in a way that emphasizes your needs and not their inadequacies or failures.
Instead of scolding or castigating them for how their past actions may have impacted you negatively, you should shift the focus away from them and onto you. Let your loved ones know as directly as possible what you need and desire and why. Explain to them why your boundaries are important for your mental health and why it is so vitally important for you to make some changes in your life in response to the challenges you’ve been facing.
When you take this approach, the people who care about you won’t feel judged or attacked. They will appreciate your honesty, and together you can work on setting more explicit boundaries that will prevent a recurrence of problems in the future.
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#6 Enforce Your Boundaries With a Light Touch
When you ask people you’re close to or involved with to change the way they interact with you, it can take a while for new habits to form. Consequently, they will slip up on occasion, violating your boundaries inadvertently and without malicious intent.
How you handle these incidents will go a long way to determining the success of your efforts to protect your mental health. If you react with anger or intolerance, the other person will respond with defensiveness and may be less likely to respect your boundaries in the future. You’ll also likely feel guilty about your response after you calm down, and that type of reaction is highly counterproductive in men and women who’ve struggled with mental health issues.
In these circumstances, the best response is to be as tolerant, patient, empathetic, and understanding as possible. If you gently and calmly explain to your loved one or co-worker why it’s important that your boundaries be respected, they will listen and take you seriously and try to do better the next time. You’ll also be protecting your own interests with this approach since you’ll be dealing with potentially sticky situations with warmth, maturity, and perspective of the type that will reinforce your efforts to preserve sound mental health.
#7 Don’t Be Afraid To Make Adjustments As You Go Along
No matter how much effort you put into creating boundaries that make sense, you won’t get it 100-percent right the first time. You’ll be trying something brand new, and as is often the case in such situations, you’ll need to experience some successes and some failures before you can figure it all out.
Some of your boundaries may turn out to be too strict, while others are too loose. You’ll know this because enforcing them will cause you persistent stress and discomfort, which won’t go away even after your boundaries have been in place for a few weeks. You may also discover you have mental health needs that still aren’t being met, meaning your boundaries weren’t extensive or inclusive enough.
You should view your boundary-setting activities as a work in progress. Honest self-critique and evaluation will help you decide what changes to make, and you should keep altering your approach until you’re completely satisfied with the results.
#8 Encourage Others To Set Their Own Boundaries
With respect to boundaries, your thoughtful efforts to create them and apply them will give you some excellent insights on what works and what doesn’t. These are insights that can definitely help your loved ones since just about everyone can benefit by doing more to look after their mental and emotional health.
If you’re motivated by the opportunity to be a role model for the people you care about, you’ll remain extra-vigilant about maintaining your mental-health-preserving habits. You’ll also open a discussion about the importance of setting boundaries among your wider social circle, which will help others understand why your boundaries really should be respected. This makes it a win-win proposition for everyone.
Your efforts to help your loved ones preserve their good mental health will be appreciated, and they will put you all on the same page as you work together to construct a wellness-oriented environment that is beneficial to all.