Setting healthy boundaries in relationships is key to strengthening them. Meanwhile, maintaining relationships that are grounded in love, respect, and consent isn’t possible without being open, honest, and communicative. But being both upfront and kind in delivering boundaries can be hard, especially if you’re not used to sticking up for yourself when conflict arises. Passive aggression can lead to resentment, and coming from a place of anger can be just as destructive to any relationship.
Boundaries are also an important part of mental wellness. They help us to feel heard, safe, and connected to people in a genuine way. When you’re able to identify your needs and limits, communicate them, and have them honored, you’re more likely to create secure attachments. Honoring your instincts also creates a sense of empowerment and esteem. That “gut feeling” is real!) At Charlie Health, creating boundaries is one of the first things we teach our patients in our personalized, virtual intensive outpatient program. We believe that when you’re able to establish boundaries and communicate them effectively, you are more likely to handle stress with ease; to regulate your moods and emotions; to find deeper fulfillment in your relationships with both others and yourself.
Conversations around boundaries may come up in all sorts of relationships–with friends, parents, teachers, and even followers on social media. Here are some ways you can establish healthy boundaries:
Tell others what you need. You can’t assume that people know what your boundaries are if you don’t tell them! It can sometimes be intimidating or awkward to speak up for yourself, but establishing boundaries is a lifelong skill that will benefit you and your relationships for the rest of your life.
Practice ahead of time! It can be helpful to rehearse what you’re going to say before you say it. Repeating your boundaries to yourself in a mirror is a great, simple way to start!
Be intentional with your words.
“I feel sad when you make fun of me, even if you’re joking. Please don’t do that.”
“Please do not comment on my body or eating habits.”
“Please ask me if I’m available to talk or to listen. Sometimes I’m not in a headspace to give advice or support. I always want to make sure I’m honest with you about that.”
Share what your boundaries mean to you and why they’re important for your wellbeing, whether it’s mentally, emotionally, physically, or even spiritually.
Know when to ask for help. Reach out to loved ones, friends, or your therapist for guidance on boundary setting. Sometimes they can help you navigate what you need from a more objective perspective.
Check in with yourself regularly to see if your boundaries needs tweaking.
- Is this still working for me?
- Do I need something more? Less?
Acknowledge and appreciate your needs. This can be a tricky process, so be proud of yourself for taking the time and energy to prioritize your wellbeing.
Set goals and stick to them. Boundaries are easiest to maintain when they’re clearly defined or measurable. “Is this person respecting my space when I tell them I need 30 minutes of quiet time after work/school?” If you realize they’re not, but you’re also not enforcing them, it might be time for a check in.
While setting healthy boundaries is an important part of building strong relationships and in fortifying your mental wellbeing, sometimes it’s not enough. If symptoms around your mental health seem to be affecting your ability to engage in things you used to love or other day-to-day functions, please reach out to us at Charlie Health. And if you’re the parent or caretaker of a loved one who seems to be struggling, we’re here to answer your questions too. Our admissions line is open 24/7 and you can find more information on our website.