Many people expect life to be joyous and wonderful, but when difficult people are involved, stress can skyrocket. Handling demands at work, juggling financial concerns, dealing with feelings of loneliness or grief, and encountering toxic people can all be stressors that can threaten a person’s sense of well-being.
Overloaded with stressors, preexisting conditions can grow into unmanageable problems.Individuals who struggle with depression or anxiety may find that symptoms intensify when toxic people are present.
The magic of boundaries
This is why setting boundaries for yourself is so crucial for your well-being. You don’t have to experience days when you lose control, feel more anxious, feel depressed, or find yourself in conflict with family or acquaintances. Conflicts shouldn’t result in you being taken advantage of, manipulated, or abused by toxic people.
How do I set boundaries?
So how do you set boundaries with others–especially your relatives with whom you may spend time throughout the year?
Pro Tip: First you must understand that you are allowed to have boundaries with your family and friends. It’s not “wrong.”
You may not know it, but you teach people how to treat you by creating boundaries. Boundaries are the lines you draw that teach people how far they can push a situation before you will no longer take it. If there is a person or situation that is jeopardizing your mental health and well-being, then that is a sign that you need to do something different.
You must first decide what your limits are by determining when you feel your best as opposed to what situations exacerbate your anxiety, depression, and stress. Paying attention and being mindful of your thoughts and feelings can help you be aware of what boundaries you need to set or when you may need to reconsider a decision. For example, if your stomach clenches when your friend invites you to a party, you may need to think about it some more before automatically saying “yes.” This is a way to take care of yourself.
Pro Tip: Knowing your bottom line and understanding why you are setting a certain limit can help you stick to it.
When you are setting boundaries with others, you need to make sure that they understand what the limits are. You can do this by being clear and direct with them rather than trying to soften things. Remaining calm can also make it easier for you to express your reasons for setting boundaries and may better allow for the other person to understand and respect them without becoming defensive.
For instance, if you do not want to get into the same conflict with your mother about cooking when you come to visit, then change the dynamics. Offer to bring a side dish and not engage in the tradition of cooking dinner together in the kitchen. It’s human nature to want to put off difficult things, but it is actually much easier to just be direct and honest up front.
Pro Tip: It is important to let others know that you will not allow yourself to be treated in certain ways anymore, and if they want a relationship with you, they will have to live within your boundaries.
More coping techniques
If you find yourself overwhelmed by stress or other negative feelings and cannot explain what you need, take a breather for your own mental health. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone–without distractions–may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do and to go back to interacting with others.
Find some things that reduce stress such as clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. Some practical options may include: taking a walk, doing meditation, journaling, taking 10 deep breaths, listening to soothing music, getting some sunlight, finding a way to exercise or reading a part of a book.
Throughout the year, these coping techniques are important to integrate into your routine for your own self-care. Any time you have a trying person in your life, you can exercise boundaries. And any time you are stressed or worried, you can take a break and do something to feel more relaxed.
Just take care of yourself
When you learn to say “no” and you acknowledge that you can’t control or satisfy everyone, you save your energy to better be able to take care of yourself and to connect with the people that matter. In addition, the unhealthy people in your life who have been pushing your buttons may also start to see that these triggers don’t work anymore.
Setting boundaries clearly, calmly and with love means that you affirm your love for the person, but you also make it clear that you will no longer tolerate being treated badly or be in situations that jeopardize your mental health.