Setting boundaries is an important part of establishing one’s identity and is a crucial aspect of mental health and well-being.
Boundaries can be physical or emotional, and they can range from being loose to rigid, with healthy boundaries often falling somewhere in between.
Healthy boundaries allow each person in a relationship or family to communicate their wants and needs, while also respecting the wants and needs of others.
Types of boundaries
- Physical: Includes your body and personal space. Healthy boundaries include autonomy of your body.
- Sexual: Includes your sexual self and your intimate personal space. Sexual boundaries include choices around types of sexual activity, timing, and partners. These boundaries are crossed when someone pressures you into unwanted intimate affection, touch, or sexual activity.
- Intellectual/mental: Includes your personal ideas, beliefs, and thoughts. A healthy boundary respects that others’ ideas may be different. These boundaries are crossed when someone is dismissive, belittling, or invalidating your ideas or thoughts.
- Emotional: Includes your feelings and personal details. These boundaries are crossed when feelings or personal information you have disclosed is belittled, minimized, or shared without your permission.
- Material/financial: Includes your financial resources and belongings. These boundaries are crossed when you’re pressured to lend or give things away, or to spend or loan money when you would prefer not to.
- Time: Includes how you spend and use your time. When you have a job, relationships, and children or other responsibilities, it’s challenging to keep healthy time boundaries. These boundaries are crossed when you have unreasonable demands or requests of your time, or when you take on too much.
Advantages of having healthy boundaries:
- Good mental health
- Good emotional health
- Avoidance of burnout
- Developed autonomy
- Positive influence of other people’s behavior
In mental health, having well defined boundaries has positive impact in the selfcare of people suffering from mental illness. More often than not, most of the people who have mental illness their boundaries are often infringed and they get violated.
How then can we set healthy boundaries?
- Goal-setting: Ask yourself, what is the goal in setting a boundary or needing to set a boundary?
- Start small: Setting boundaries may be uncomfortable. The key is to start small and focus on one thing at a time.
- Be clear: Focus on what you want as clearly as possible.
- Practice: If thinking about setting a boundary makes you nervous, write out what you want to say beforehand or practice in the mirror.
- Keep it simple: This is a time when less is more. Rather than overloading someone with too many details, pick the main thing that is bothering you and focus on that.
By Patrick Nyagudi,
Chiromo Hospital Group.