Updated: Apr 18, 2020
Do you agree that certain rules and regulations are necessary to keep the flow of life smooth? I think the common answer to this question would be yes. It is logically convincing that life can get miserable if some of its areas get too enmeshed with each other. To ensure a sense of independence in life areas, we put some limits on ourselves, on others, and on the world around us. What some do not realize is that by doing, so we are actually setting boundaries. These boundaries are very important to guide our interactions with the world. They come in many forms including physical, emotional, and/or psychological. Each one is equally important. A boundary helps us in forming the basic identity of ourselves. It serves as a place or clear demarcation of oneself and the other person. Overall, it is important when it comes to maintaining your mental health. Lacking certain boundaries will eventually make you feel frustrated and overwhelmed, as a human you cannot manage to do everything. Setting boundaries makes it easier to define whether something is acceptable to you or not. It also guides other’s interaction with you. It can help you in defining your self-worth and forcing others to recognize your worth. Though it is good to have boundaries, remember, not all boundaries are healthy. Some are rigid, some are non-existent, and some are even too flexible. Rigid boundaries could hinder your growth because if you are too restricted in certain aspects of your life, you may eventually be deprived of good things. Boundaries that are too flexible could cost you your peace of mind. For example, being too available for someone will make you feel tired, emotionally. Another example is when you are off work (vacation or sick) and your job still calls you to assist with job duties. Key point to remember is, you cannot fill from an empty glass.
So, then what is the definition of a healthy boundary? Answer is pretty simple, any set of rules or limits that is helping you to enhance and maintain your self-worth and working to prevent you from burn out, making certain areas of your life smooth and definable, comes under the definition of healthy boundary. It is all about recognizing your triggers and knowing what is needed to keep yourself in a healthy head space.
The process of setting boundaries requires a lot of effort, for several reasons. Sometimes the other party is not accepting to the idea of boundary setting and sometimes you are unable to be consistent during the process. It even gets more difficult when you are already having a tough time dealing with depression. Many times, depression is social isolation and inability to seek pleasure from previously pleasurable things, therefore, setting boundaries in such a mental state can be difficult yet vital. The most important thing to do in this state is to take “small steps”. If you are setting a boundary with your social contacts, you can start with making contact with few family members or friends during specific hours (be mindful that including too many people on the list will make you feel overwhelmed). All you need to do is to be very specific about whom you are letting in, inform them of the boundary, and keep reminding yourself that it is perfectly ok to start small. As long as you don’t stop, it does not matter how slow you are going. Chances are you are going to feel guilty in the process as the one who is depressed and is already vulnerable to guilt. Especially, if those that you are boundary setting with aren’t perceiving it well. Some people might judge or attempt to make you feel guilty for setting boundaries for yourself. Don’t let that happen!
Here are tips to fight these guilty feelings:
Always believe that you are worth it.
Setting boundaries is important for your mental health and you have the right to protect it.
The beginning of anything new is going to make you feel uncomfortable. Be patient.
Eventually, it is going to make your relationships better than ever before.
Be consistent. Giving up will make it worse.
Give yourself permission to walk away from those who do not respect your boundaries.
Consistency is Key
Being consistent is most important while setting boundaries. The more you practice it, the easier it will get. Allow yourself time to plan, beforehand, what you are going to say while communicating your boundaries. If you are well-prepared, then you will be saved from awkward interactions. Living with depression comes along with a lot of challenges; among which is being self-critical. With that noted it is okay to discuss your personal limits with someone you trust, i.e. a therapist, spouse, friend, openly and who can guide you through the whole process by giving solicited feedback when/if necessary.
While dealing with major life stressors the most important thing is to take good care of yourself. It is totally ok to say no to an event or gathering if you feel like you are not ready for it. You do not need to judge yourself at this. Saying no, has nothing to do with your worth as a person. Take time to communicate your boundaries. Be concise and clear while communicating, in an unapologetic yet respectful manner. Remember, it is not your job to get everyone on board with accepting the boundaries you set. Control what you can control. If they are not willing to respect your boundaries it may be worth reconsidering their role in your life. You can’t always control how others treat you, but you can always control how you allow others to treat you!