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Boundaries and Mental Health

In a quiet suburb at night, Jake, a burglar with experience, looked at houses to find an easy target. He found two houses next to each other, and when he tried the locks, the first one was secured with one average-sized lock. The second house had lots of locks on both the main and inner doors, making it more challenging. 


Jake stood there contemplating which house would be a better option to break into. As anybody would assume, Jake decided to go for the easier option—the house next door.

He quickly opened the lock and sneaked inside without anyone noticing. Disappearing into the darkness, he left the heavily locked house untouched, keeping its secrets safe from the sleeping neighbourhood. 


Quite like how Jake broke into the house with one lock, many people in our lives tend to break into our personal spaces or capacities and take advantage. Therefore, it’s essential to have multiple doors and secure locks to maintain healthy boundaries and in turn, a healthy mental well-being. 


Boundaries serve as invisible lines that define the limits of what is acceptable and comfortable for the various aspects of life- be it relationships, work, or personal life. Our mental health and well-being thrives when protected by well-defined boundaries since it creates a sense of safety and provides necessary framework for emotional stability and resilience. 


Boundaries in Relationships

In interpersonal relationships, boundaries guide individuals through the ups and downs of connections. It’s crucial for romantic partners to communicate their needs and expectations distinctly, to foster clear understanding and mutual respect. In terms of relationships with family, friends and relatives as well, establishing healthy boundaries ensures balance and reciprocity.


Boundaries at Work

The professional realm is a crucial sector where boundaries play a pivotal role in safeguarding mental well-being. It is essential to strike a balance between dedication and self-preservation. The fundamental steps to maintaining a healthy mindset at work are setting a realistic work schedule, learning to say ‘no’ when necessary and creating a distinct separation between work and personal life. 


Priority to Self-care

These boundaries are not only meant for external environments but also extend inwards. Recognizing when to step back, gather emotional resources, and protect one’s own mental peace is a crucial part of boundary setting. It includes setting time for oneself, one’s own hobbies, and activities that bring joy. 


Consequences of loose boundaries

A varied set of mental health challenges may begin to occur if one fails to establish and maintain healthy and appropriate boundaries. When external pressures are allowed to breach personal limits, serious concerns like anxiety, burnout, feeling of being overwhelmed may manifest. Recognizing the signs of boundary violations is important in addressing such challenges before they expand.


Assertive communication to set boundaries

One of the most valuable and effective ways to set boundaries is the skill of Assertiveness. It incorporates expressing one’s needs and desires while respecting others opinions. Being assertive involves the following traits


  • Maintaining eye contact.

  • Clearly stating one’s needs and desires.

  • Having a confident body language.

  • Maintaining adequate tone of voice and appropriate speaking volume.

  • Patiently listening to others without interruption.

Learning assertiveness skills would empower oneself to navigate situations with confidence while having a positive impact on one’s own mental health. Here are some tips that one can follow to move towards being assertive:


  • Identify and prioritize one’s own needs, wants and desires.

  • Take responsibility for one's own emotions and thoughts, and express them in a factual and calm manner.

  • Plan and think before expressing one’s own perspective. Frame words and sentences appropriately. Try beginning with “I feel…”

  • Say ‘no’ when required. One must feel free to say ‘no’ without lying about the reason. While doing so one can also offer an alternative solution.


Art of ‘I’ Statements

These statements turn feelings into verbal messages. They are a direct way to express feelings and describe the associated behavior situation. Additionally a direct explanation of the expected behaviour or situation can be added. It looks like the following:


I feel (emotion) when (describe behaviour/ situation) and I would like ( expected behaviour/ situation)


By using “I” statements, one can tackle and resolve situations appropriately while maintaining healthy boundaries and mental peace. Using these statements and keeping in mind the previously mentioned assertiveness tips shall help one to navigate difficult situations adequately. 


In conclusion, the various complexities that come up in life can be managed by setting well-defined boundaries. Mental health should be prioritised by establishing emotional, time, material, interpersonal, and physical boundaries. Subsequently, self-care should be an on-going practices that paves way for a balanced life. 


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