The following post is about the concept of boundaries and the importance of setting them for our mental health. The Director of Psychological Therapies at Cardinal Clinic, Dr Kavita Deepak-Knights has spoken about her experience of teaching patients about the importance of creating boundaries as well as how to develop and maintain them.
For what felt like the 50th time of the day, I found myself repeating to a patient “boundaries, where are your boundaries”. The idea that a person has the right to set limits in their relationships, work and life is general, to some patients is an alien and ambiguous concept.
The risks associated with saying no (e.g. fears of rejection, abandonment, being fired, being unliked) to a friend or family member or pushing back at work because you are already at breaking point with your workload, seem all too overwhelming and catastrophic. As such, the person carries on, as they always have done – fulfilling other’s needs, all the while emptying their own resilience cup to zero. The end result is: emotional breakdown and burnout.
What are boundaries?
Simply put, boundaries are conceptual lines in the sand which you draw that should not be crossed. They are there to serve and protect you and also help provide others with understanding of where your limits are and what the parameters of the relationships stretch to. Having functional boundaries (boundaries that work), means that you take responsibility and accountability for your actions and behaviours, but you leave others to do the same for themselves. Boundaries allow you to be the gatekeeper of your own life and by doing so keep you mentally safe and well.
How can I develop and maintain boundaries?
1. Establish your own personal values
Values are things that really matter to us and boundaries tend to be value driven. You are more likely to maintain a boundary if it is in line with your personal values. With this in mind, consider what your life values are: do you consider relationships (friendships, romantic, family), work education, helping others, as being important to you ? If so, how do you feel when somebody you value (a family member, friend or work colleague), crosses that line in the sand and violates your boundary? Do you feel angry, unworthy, violated, disrespected? If you find yourself feeling any of these emotions then that is a clear sign the relationship needs some boundaries to be set.
2. Maintain responsibility
Boundaries (limits in the relationship) will help you feel safe, will help others understand you and will lead to more fulfilling relationships around you. Of course, if somebody repeatedly crosses that line in the sand, it is then your responsibility to act and decide if they are people you want in your life and what the impact of having them around, is having on your mental health.
3. Assertive Communication
Assertive communication involves expressing your wishes and points of view in a clear, unapologetic and direct way, whilst still respecting the viewpoints of others. Of course, setting boundaries and other’s respecting them, does not necessarily go hand in hand. However, if you have made your wishes clear and done so in an assertive manner and other’s continue to violate and step over that line in the sand, you then have choices…. do I carry on with this relationship /dynamic or do I make changes to better serve and protect my mental health. For example, if your boss keeps setting you unreasonable targets and overloading you, you have the right to tell them that it is unreasonable and you cannot carry on as you are. If they continue to do it, with no regard to what you have stated, then you have a choice to make about your future in that role.
To summarise, boundaries may need to change and adapt, as situations and relationships evolve. The most important point to note is that a ‘boundaryless’ existence will not serve you or your mental health well. You have the right to be heard and respected, you have a right to draw lines in the sand and assertively communicate them to these around you. Boundaries = self-respect.
We hope you find these tips on creating and maintaining boundaries useful. If you feel like you need professional help, we are a private mental health hospital in Windsor with nurses on hand 24 hours a day who provide expert clinical treatment. Research has found that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England and we are here to ensure you do not have to face it alone. For more information visit https://cardinalclinic.co.uk/ or call 01753 869755 for help and advice.