Importance of setting boundaries: Protecting mental well-being

Boundaries play a crucial role in aligning our actions with our values and protecting our physical and mental well-being. They define what we are willing to accept and safeguard us from overcommitting, which can lead to overwhelm, stress, fatigue, resentment and more... 


Boundaries are guidelines that reflect our values. Values are things that motivate us. For instance, saying "yes" to every ask can lead to neglecting our priorities and feeling overwhelmed. Constantly saying "yes" to others may lead to sacrificing personal time, self-care and projects that matter to us.

An interesting sign that you are not working within your boundaries is feeling resentful when people ask you for help, and being annoyed at yourself for feeling that way.

Not expressing our own needs is a lack of boundaries!

Establishing healthy boundaries

To do this, identify your values. Reflect on what inspires you and what makes you proud. Or perhaps what makes you angry, to come at it from a different direction.

Examples of values include honesty, integrity, kindness, and courage. You could look up a list of values and see which ones resonate with you. When you have identified some values you relate to, test them out - think of some instances where you might have either aligned with or ignored the value. This will help you determine if this is one of your values. As you think of potential scenarios, you might find slightly different values at play.

This exercise will help you to understand what drives you, what helps you to feel like you are being true to yourself, and what might present a conflict with your values and leave you feeling uncomfortable. You can use this information to start to consider what healthy boundaries might be beneficial for you to start to employ, helping you to avoid trying to please other people to define your own worth. 

If kindness is one of your values and a situation is constantly putting you in the position of needing to be mean to people, you might want to enforce a boundary of not having to be in that situation again or resolve the current situation. Thereby acting within your boundaries and in tandem with your value of kindness.

Kindness as a value also goes both ways - we want to be kind to others (so we feel aligned with our values), but this can create conflict if we are then being unkind to ourselves.

As you can see, boundaries don’t just apply between us and other people, they are essential to ourselves too. For example, managing finances without boundaries can lead to financial strain. How many times have you bought something on a whim, perhaps on a credit card, then this has caused difficulties as you have to budget for months to pay it off?

What stops us from holding healthy boundaries?

Holding healthy boundaries can be challenging, especially if we have a history of chronic people-pleasing. This can result in feelings of fear and guilt early on.

If you struggle with holding healthy boundaries, it is likely that at some point in your life, you have been advised to “just say 'no' more often”. If it was that simple we would all be doing it! Fear of saying "no" is a common driver in struggling to hold healthy boundaries and this often stems from concerns about losing relationships or opportunities. Actually, the opposite is true, as implementing healthy boundaries can result in huge benefits to ourselves and to others, earning respect from others and building our sense of self-worth in the long run, thereby strengthening relationships and increasing opportunities.

Interestingly, demonstrating alignment with our values through holding healthy boundaries helps others feel more secure in their dealings with us (whether personal, or professional) by providing clear lines between what is, and is not, OK with us.

Boundaries also demonstrate our integrity reinforcing the fact that we act in alignment with our values consistently and respect ourselves and others by doing so.

If you are experiencing fear at the thought of implementing healthy boundaries, take a few minutes to sit with that fear and understand what it’s about. Is it fear of losing friendships, or work opportunities? Maybe it’s a fear that people will think we are selfish or unkind? Understanding what the fear is can help us to work it through and support us in establishing and maintaining those healthy boundaries going forward. 

Healthy boundaries - getting started

It can feel difficult or frightening to start implementing healthy boundaries. But you can start small: instead of saying “no, thank you”, or “I’m unable to do that”, try buying yourself some time. When faced with an ask, try “I’ll need to check and let you know”. This gives you time to process the request, then you can let the person know when you are ready, rather than being caught on the spot.

Maintaining boundaries

Clarity and consistency are essential in maintaining healthy boundaries. We need to be clear on what our boundaries are to effectively communicate when we are not OK with a situation of an ask. When our boundaries are supportive of our values, it is easier to be clear and consistent in expressing and maintaining them.

Perhaps in a past attempt at implementing healthy boundaries, you found yourself thinking up elaborate reasons to justify saying “no”. I wonder if you then found yourself getting talked into the very thing you were attempting to say “no” to? When we over-explain ourselves, we essentially provide the opportunity to be persuaded into doing what we are trying to decline doing! For example:

‘I can’t go for drinks tonight as I’ve got to pick Max up from the station’.

‘Ah don’t worry! I’ll call Max and pay for a taxi for him. Now you can come out with me!’

It is far better to just say ‘I can’t go for drinks tonight.’ This doesn’t give any wiggle room.

You also don’t need to apologise for not doing something. If you apologise for not saying yes to something you don’t want to do anyway, you’re effectively telling that person that you are potentially up for the activity in the future, but not now. This means they might ask again!

In conclusion, setting boundaries is crucial for maintaining well-being, integrity and self-respect. They also help the people around us, providing clarity and consistency which is reassuring to everyone involved and helps to build trust.

As Ryan Holiday aptly put it:

‘A country without borders is not a country. A person without boundaries is not a person.’ 

Boundaries help to keep us physically and mentally safe and well and support our sense of self, self-worth and identity.

How can you start to define and implement some healthy boundaries today? 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Reading, Berkshire, RG30
Written by Paul Hradek, DipCHyp
Reading, Berkshire, RG30

Hi, I'm Paul, a practising Hypnotherapist and Coach, and my passion is helping people reach their potential and free themselves of any issues stopping them from leading a fulfilled life. I work online and in person.

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