May 30, 2023

Boundaries act as a protective shield, safeguarding your mental health and allowing you to prioritize your own needs, wants and values.

There might not be a hotter buzzword than “boundaries” in today’s discourse around mental health. But it is more than a hot topic. It is worth pausing for a moment to truly understand the depth and implications of boundaries in our lives.

Many people have a basic understanding of what it means to “set boundaries,” but exploring this concept further can reveal the profound impact they can have on our mental well-being. You might already have some boundaries in place, but there could be a need to fine-tune them or establish new ones that align with your changing needs and priorities.

The Basics

At its core, setting boundaries involves identifying and defining what is ok and what is not ok. They act as a protective shield, safeguarding your mental health and allowing you to prioritize your own needs, wants and values.

Physical

These boundaries are the space and touch interactions you are comfortable with. For instance, you may choose to give people handshakes instead of hugs or prefer not to be touched without consent. These boundaries help you establish and maintain personal comfort zones and ensure that your physical well-being is respected.

Emotional

Emotional boundaries revolve around the way you engage with others and share your emotions. They involve recognizing and communicating your emotional needs, as well as determining when and with whom you feel comfortable discussing certain topics.

For example, you may set an emotional boundary by separating personal discussions from the workplace— allowing you to create a space for personal reflection and emotional support outside of the stress of work obligations.

Financial

Financial boundaries could be summarized as the limits you establish for lending, borrowing or providing financial support to others.

One of these could be not lending money to family members or friends whenever they ask, particularly if it compromises your own financial stability. The goal is to protect your financial interests but also maintain healthy relationships based on mutual respect and understanding.

Getting Started

It is important think about the “why” behind each boundary you establish. They are not meant to be petty or vengeful. Instead focus on your own needs, establishing more control over your time and resources and building healthier relationships.

Here are a few tips to start building boundaries — the healthy way:

Start small.

You may feel awkward or uncomfortable initially, especially if you have not practiced boundary setting before. By focusing on setting one at a time, you can gradually acclimate yourself to this new habit. As you become more comfortable, you can expand your boundary-setting skills and implement them in different areas of your life.

Say it clearly.

When communicating your boundaries to others, it is essential to be clear and direct. State what you need or want to happen in a respectful and assertive manner. Avoid using language that may lead to defensiveness or arguments. Instead, emphasize your own needs and the importance of mutual respect.

Follow through.

In addition to communicating your boundaries, it is equally important to establish consequences if they are not respected. This does not have to be a dramatic, Hollywood kind of consequence, ending in a cutthroat gesture or an “or else”.

A consequence can be as simple as expressing that you feel disrespected when someone raises their voice during an argument and stating, “if it happens again, I will have to end the conversation.”

Alternatively, you might acknowledge someone who is struggling while asserting that you do not currently have the emotional capacity to provide support.

By clearly outlining the consequences, you foster an environment where your boundaries are taken seriously, allowing for healthier and more respectful interactions.

Stay consistent.

Consistency and firmness are key to effectively maintaining boundaries. When they are inconsistently enforced, it can lead to confusion and misunderstanding, making it less likely for others to respect them. Consistency will help you establish a strong foundation of self-respect and invite others to treat you with that same level of respect.

Boundaries play a vital role in safeguarding our mental health and promoting healthy relationships. By identifying and setting boundaries that align with our needs and values, we establish a framework for self-care, prioritize our well-being and foster respect in our relationships. Taking the time today to reflect on what lines you draw in the sand and take back control of your time and resources — one boundary at a time.

Want to learn more about setting boundaries?  Check out the resources below:

Weekly Recipe

Avocado and Shrimp Salad

Kayla Hsu

Authored By

Kayla Hsu, MPH, CHES®

Kinetiq Health Program Manager

As a Kinetiq Health Program Manager, Kayla provides businesses with customized health and wellness solutions to better manage and improve the overall health and well-being of their employees.

Prior to joining Apex in March 2022, Kayla worked at the IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center on a statewide grant initiative integrating evidence-based tobacco treatment services into behavioral healthcare settings. She also has experience as a quality improvement advisor with a nonprofit healthcare quality improvement consultancy and Medicare Quality Improvement Organization (QIO).

Kayla is a trained Tobacco Treatment Specialist (TTS) and earned the National Certificate in Tobacco Treatment Practice (NCTTP). She is a member of the Indiana Society for Public Health Education (InSOPHE) and a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES®).

Meet Kayla