Within the peripheries of mental health, 10th October is an annual World Mental Health Day which focuses on raising awareness on mental health problems around the globe. In addition, to rallying efforts in support of mental health.
With that background setting healthy boundaries as a pathway to safeguard one’s mental health is explored. Imperative to this notion is that we encounter daily challenges which inadvertently have an impact on our mental health. In taking responsibility for one’s mental health it is therefore, crucial to have boundaries, especially to support yourself in areas where you haven’t muscle resilience to cope with life challenges or simply to navigate your life.
The geographical world we live separates one country from the next, and one continent from the other for reasons that may we approve or not but are yet still in place because it serves a purpose. Similarly, people also need boundaries. Boundaries are conscious and healthy ways to protect ourselves from emotional harm. It’s basically psychological limits that marks the difference between a behavior that does not cause emotional harm and behavior that causes emotional harm. There are various boundaries such as physical, emotional, material, mental, sexual, time, spiritual and intellectual. The application of these boundaries will depend on the context. For example, if you’re someone that is always giving to others whether it’s your time or money at your own detriment and perhaps feel some resentment afterwards; or you realized that you keep prioritizing other people’s emotional needs yet neglect your own as you feel drained emotionally afterwards. But when it’s your turn to receive any of your needs met by your social circle, friends, family or colleagues then, and no one is available or meeting your needs perhaps it’s time to set healthy boundaries to communicate your limits but also your needs.
As human beings, depending on our socialization, cultural background, childhood experiences or upbringing, some of us may have difficulty expressing our needs or saying no because we may think that it’s rude to assert yourself or that we might hurt other people’s feelings. Or the challenge could be that could be that we don’t know ourselves or our rights or have never learned to have healthy boundaries. Hence, we become people pleasers even we are bothered by someone who is demanding, controlling, pushy, criticizing, abusive, invading or smothering us with kindness.
To set healthy boundaries it is imperative to communicate respectfully.
· Name your limits- identify the areas in your life where you need boundaries. Anything that makes you uncomfortable or stressed causes for introspection.
· Engage with your feelings- most common red flag that serves as a signal that you may have loose or no boundaries are discomfort and resentment.
· Be direct- sometimes when we don’t share similar cultural background it is important to be direct in communicating your limits. For e.g. in one household open communication might be encourage whereas, in another it may be discourage because it is associated with disrespect.
· Give yourself permission- even if we fear about the response we may get in setting limits, especially in a power dynamic relationship we still have to give ourselves permission to set limits. Having personal boundaries is just not about maintaining good relationships but it’s about self-respect.
· Practice self-awareness- when we are constantly being aware of our feelings we can easily noticed when we may have lost grip of our boundaries.
· Reflect on your past and present- these situations influence our boundaries but also determines if we should maintain them. For e.g. as a parent it may be suited to have some control over a young child, but as they grow older or become adults’ parent’s involvement may be regarded as invasive or crossing boundaries even if intentions are good.
· Prioritize self-care- often times we neglect ourselves in caring for others’ but it is our responsibility to care for the self. If we don’t, no one else will and also is oblige to.
· Seek support- since setting boundaries is a challenging task, seek help from those whose judgment you trust and can be vulnerable with, either in informal or formal settings. Self-help books good be useful too.
· Be assertive- simply express your needs in a respectful manner and be conscious that others can challenge or counter your limits, especially, in the beginning stages. Therefore, consistency is key.
· Start small- as with any new challenges/changes that we take on it requires courage, practice and support. Remember learning to set boundaries is a skill so start small and be kind to the self.
Take charge of your mental health and be aware of the situations, people, places, events that may affect your mental health negatively during the Month of October.