The Art of Healthy Boundaries: Building Fences, Not Walls

Boundaries: More Than Just Work-Life Balance

Have you ever felt completely drained after helping a friend, even though you genuinely wanted to be supportive? Or maybe you struggle to switch off from work emails, letting them bleed into your personal time. These situations might be signs that your boundaries need some attention.

The term “boundaries” can feel a little abstract. Maybe you’ve heard it thrown around in discussions about work-life balance, but it’s not always clear how it applies to our everyday lives, relationships, and even our mental health.  On top of that, there can be a misconception that boundaries are selfish. But the truth is, healthy boundaries are essential for creating a balanced and fulfilling life.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the concept of boundaries in detail. We’ll discuss why they’re important, how to identify areas where boundaries might be lacking, and most importantly, how to build healthy fences, not walls, in your life.

[VIDEO] Watch Psychologist Jessica’s Video on Building Healthy Boundaries

Prefer to watch a video? Click the link below to watch as Body & Mind psychologist, Jessica shares tips for building healthy boundaries. For best viewing, watch it in full screen. Alternatively, you can watch or listen to the video on Facebook here.

Important note: The information shared within this article and video is not a replacement for professional help. Always consult your GP to discuss your unique situation and if you, or someone you know, is in a crisis, please reach out to one of the 24/7 helplines listed below: 

– Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
– Lifeline: 13 11 14
– Open Arms: 1800-011-046

What Are Boundaries?

Think of boundaries as an invisible fence around your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual space. They define what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour towards you, and what you are and are not willing to give of your time and energy.  

Importantly, healthy boundaries are not about shutting people out entirely; they’re more like a well-maintained fence. A fence allows you to control who has access to your property, while still allowing for healthy connections to flourish within the parameters you set.

For example, a physical boundary might be respecting someone’s personal space and not standing too close during conversation. An emotional one could involve not taking on responsibility for other people’s feelings. A mental boundary might be setting limits on how much negativity you expose yourself to through social media or news. 

Boundaries can be flexible too; you might have a more open and relaxed boundary with close friends, allowing for frequent communication and support,  but a more professional and clear boundary with a work colleague.

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Why Are They Important?

Healthy boundaries help you manage difficult emotions and protect your mental well-being.  In contrast, when they are weak, it’s easy to experience feelings of resentment, frustration, and even burnout. 

The effect of healthy boundaries can include:

  • Reduced Stress and Overwhelm: Clear expressions of what you are and are not willing to do can help you manage expectations and prioritise your well-being.
  • Healthy Relationships: Boundaries foster respect and understanding in relationships.
  • Stronger Sense of Self: By setting your personal limits, you are essentially saying yes to yourself and your values.
  • Better Mental Health: Healthy boundaries help you manage difficult emotions and protect your mental well-being.

What Can Healthy Boundaries Look Like In Action?

Now that we’ve unpacked the concept, let’s explore some practical examples.  Healthy boundaries can play out in different areas of your life, from your closest relationships to your mental well-being.

Here are some examples:

  • Relationships: Setting limits on phone calls with critical family members, or saying no to friends who drain your energy.
  • Work-Life Balance: Disconnecting after work hours and setting clear expectations with your supervisor.
  • Mental Health: Avoiding triggers and prioritising self-care activities.
  • Social Media: Setting time limits for social media use and unfollowing negativity.

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How To Make Boundaries Work For You

Now comes the most important part: how to actually implement them in your life. This can be especially challenging for people who identify as a people pleaser or those stuck in unhealthy dynamics. Here are seven tips to get you started:

  1. Start Small: Begin with small, manageable boundaries and celebrate your progress.
  2. Communication is Key: Clearly and assertively explain your needs when setting boundaries.
  3. Anticipate Resistance: Be prepared for some pushback, but remain calm and reiterate your needs.
  4. It’s Okay to Say No: Learn to say no politely but confidently.
  5. Focus on “I” Statements: Use “I” statements to communicate your boundaries, focusing on your feelings and needs.
  6. Allow Them to Evolve: Your boundaries can change as your needs and expectations do.
  7. It’s Never Too Late: It’s always possible to start setting boundaries, even in long-standing dynamics.

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Building Your Best Life: The Final Takeaway

Remember, this process is not about shutting people out, it’s about creating a safe space for yourself to thrive. By building those fences and defining your clear property lines, you can reduce stress, improve your relationships, and prioritise your mental well-being.

Like all mental health practices, building healthy boundaries is a journey, not a destination. So, be patient with yourself, celebrate your progress, and don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you need additional support in navigating this process.

To learn more about our mindfulness programs which include access to the World’s Happiest App, Calm, as well as regular consults with trained health professionals (like Jessica), click here.

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