One thing I’ve started to learn and I intend on taking into next year is how to set healthy boundaries. Whether it’s family, friends or a romantic relationship, you need to learn to set boundaries for a healthy relationship and a healthy life.
When I say ‘healthy boundaries’, I mean knowing what your limits are. We all have ups and downs in our mental health and not setting boundaries, especially when you’re going through a mental health dip, only means adding to your own stress and not being able to cope.
Here are a few ways I’ve learned –
- Know your limits
Like I said above, we all have highs and lows. You’re not helping yourself by focusing on someone else’s problems. At the end of the day, you need to deal with your own issues before you begin to project on someone else.
- Be self aware
Learning how to deal with your own feelings is important both to yourself and the person/ people you’re dealing with. If you’re having a bad day for example, you’re more likely to take out your frustrations on your spouse so, just as you set boundaries for others, you need respect their boundaries and feelings too.
- Be clear in your intentions/direct
If you feel someone is asking too much of you or not giving you what you need, don’t beat about the bush. I’m not saying be rude (you may have to find a softer way of saying it in an African household…) but its not hard to say “sorry, I’m not in the right mental space to deal with this today” or “I need you to hear what I am saying”.
- It’s okay to ask for help
You can’t go through life dealing with situations alone. If there’s no one near you that you think will understand or you just don’t want them to know, there are many online forums that can direct you to the help you need. As they say “a problem shared, is a problem halved”. That statement is true when you share your problems with someone that has the capacity themselves to help. This may be a friend, a group or a therapist/counsellor.
- Mind your own business
If you’re anything like me, your friends will come to you for advise, which is normal. At some point you have to learn that you can’t fix everyone and/or every situation. Sometimes people like to repeatedly hit the self destruct button and you have to allow them to do it so that they can learn for themselves. It may feel unnatural but that’s part of the process…
- Practice self love
Part of setting healthy boundaries is learning your value. If you don’t learn to love yourself, how can you articulate how expect someone to treat you? It might sound simple but as I’ve sad before, doing things like having a night away from the world with everything switched off, going training or even doing my eyelashes makes me think about myself in a positive way.
- Not everyone will support your decisions
Setting boundaries for some of the people around you will be difficult because they’re used to you always giving and maybe very rarely taking. Not everyone is meant to be in your life forever, that isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes, it’s just a part of your growth process, so if you find yourself drifting from people you care about, appreciate what you’ve had and be happy you’re moving on with healthier relationships because lets be honest, some people can be draining.
- Setting boundaries doesn’t have to mean making huge life changes
Start small. Learning to set boundaries takes time and can feel extremely uncomfortable. You may start with something as simple as saying no to going out because you don’t want to and that’s still a huge first step.
- Accept no relationship is 50/50
This goes back to self worth again as I believe you have to know what you bring to the table to know what you expect from a relationship. If you know you’re constantly there for someone and yet they’re not always there for you, you may decide that’s okay because they’re there for you in other ways you’re happy with, or they bring something into your life that makes that dynamic okay. You can’t force someone to give you exactly what you give them because no one else is you so don’t waste your time arguing about it.
- Just because a boundary is set doesn’t mean it’s set in stone
Be flexible. Sometimes people react to your change when setting boundaries. You’re changing and lets be honest, change is scary for most so you may need to work with those around you to meet half way. Again, this has to be in a healthy way for all parties.
- Setting boundaries for me has allowed me to focus on myself both physically and mentally, improve my self esteem, save me wasting emotional energy and allow an independency I’m happier about. This has allowed for both happier relationships and new relationships with people that enter my life already knowing what my boundaries are.