Mental Health Monday: Create Healthy Boundaries and Reduce Your Stress

mental health, boundaries, emotional wellbeing

Setting healthy boundaries in your life is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and those around you. Boundaries can help you promote meaningful and healthy connections with others.

But what does a boundary look like? Tisha Bayless, a manager with Memorial Behavioral Health, described a boundary as a limit we set around our valuable resources like time, energy and money.

“A boundary allows you to identify and create reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave toward you,” she said. “Boundaries also define how to respond should those limits be breached. That alone is a key skill for relationship stress management.”

A lack of clear boundaries invites others to be overly intrusive and often creates a situation from which it’s challenging to recover. At times, we encounter others who do not respect or recognize boundaries we set, and this can be very difficult. Below are some tips on how establish, communicate and enforce personal or professional boundaries:

  • Ask yourself: How does this make you feel? Will you say yes outwardly but be internally resentful?
  • Identify the root cause: What in your past or childhood taught you to relinquish your boundaries? Were others asking you to help them out of binds, and if you didn’t, they threatened to withdraw their affection?
  • Identify the need: Fear of abandonment? Guilt? What causes you to give your power away?
  • Respond graciously: Take a deep breath to collect yourself. Then respond. “It sounds like you had a tough week with that unexpected problem. I understand you are in a tight spot, but I won’t be able to help you on such short notice. I’d be happy to help next time if you ask at least two workdays in advance.” 

Here are common healthy boundaries to consider:

  • A teacher or coach who chooses to keep their personal life and professional life separate by not sharing personal information with their students.
  • A new mom who asks her partner to care for the baby so she can have more time to herself.
  • A colleague who requests to meet later in the day because of a pending project on deadline.
  • A parent asking children to not enter their bedroom without knocking first to promote privacy.
  • A grandparent setting expectations for which days and times they can help babysit.
  • A friend who is present and available but who also doesn’t take responsibility for every aspect of a friend’s life.

Bayless stressed that the goal with healthy boundaries is not to keep everyone in your life at arm’s length and refuse every request. Letting others grow closer to you in a healthy way is actually the goal of boundary setting.

“It is up to each of us to establish and maintain the limits we set for ourselves,” she said. “When others struggle to abide by the limits we set, it’s an opportunity for us to communicate and re-enforce the boundaries we have, rather than allowing resentment or anger to fester.”

Memorial Behavioral Health provides outpatient behavioral health services for children, adolescents, young adults and adults. Programs address emotional, social and behavioral needs of individuals and their loved ones who experience difficulties across home, social and community settings.

Call Memorial Behavioral Health at 217-525-1064, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to be connected with services. Or dial 988 if you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis for a connection to free, 24/7 confidential support.