As children, we are repeatedly reminded of the importance of caring about others more than ourselves. While this might seem like a noble thing to do, there are some consequences to pay.
The etiology behind this widely believed concept is not clear; however, some psychologists theorize that it is the result of multiple factors, including social status, cultural habits, and media influence.
Regardless, this teaches us to prioritize other people’s well-being ahead of ours. Unfortunately, neglecting your physical and mental health to please others is a terrible idea.
In this article, I will cover everything you need to know about self-care and setting boundaries to help you stay healthy.
What is #selfcare?
There is no consensus about the definition of self-care; however, it is simpler to think of it as the practice of any activity that may improve your physical, mental, or emotional health.
Furthermore, when you practice any activity, you must enjoy it in order to qualify as a practice of self-care.
So, what is not self-care?
Many people start doing weight lifting because it causes substantial weight loss, but when they get to the gym, they hate every minute of it. This activity does not belong to our definition.
On the other hand, if you are eager to that yoga session next week and you enjoy yourself during practice, it is eligible to get included as a self-care activity.
There are many types of self-care, depending on your goals; however, for the sake of this article, I will only focus on self-care in the mental health field.
Why self-care is important for mental health?
Over the past few years, the prevalence of mental disorders has skyrocketed. Diseases such as major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are affecting a significant portion of the population. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) describes depression as “a leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.”Although these illnesses are treatable, prevention is always a better choice.
If you have a strong memory, you might recall your grandmother saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Fortunately, there are several scientific publications that support the effectiveness of setting boundaries and practicing self-care in lowering the risk of mental disorders.
In a classic 2007 study, scientists found that teaching medical professionals how to set boundaries reduced their level of stress, anxiety, and rumination.
Why should you set boundaries?
As we mentioned earlier, setting boundaries has several benefits, including stress relief, improved mood, and reduced depression.
Taking a break to listen to your body’s needs is the best possible measure to prevent mental disorders.
Sadly, most people neglect the status of their mental health, which is really damaging. Just think about it; if someone experiences a physical symptom, such as fever or chest pain, would they ignore it?
They would probably go running to the hospital to get it checked out without feeling any shame or remorse, so why would that be different when it comes to mental health?
Self-care and setting boundaries should be part of everyone’s routine to reduce the prevalence and destruction caused by mental health issues.
Tips to set boundaries
1. Say NO more often
This tip applies to yourself and other people.
Say no to activities that you don’t enjoy anymore or that make you feel less valued, say no to toxic people who are always spreading negative vibes, and say no to the tiny things that bother you, such as picking up the phone during mealtime.
In short, learn to say no to everything that is making you miserable.
2. Say YES to activities that you enjoy
If you enjoy any type of activity but you avoid it because of other people, you need to immediately change that.
Doing what you love is part of setting boundaries. Excusing yourself from activities or demands of other people to get some you-time is an excellent way to promote your mental health.
Tell those who usually take advantage of you that you need some time for yourself and that you do not want to fulfill their demands anymore.
Freeing your mind from the anxiety of others is a key point toward psychological wellbeing and inner peace. It is simply one of the best ways to practice self-care and exclude some fake friends from your life.
3. Stay away from toxic people
While it is important to learn how to say no, it is even more vital to stay away from toxic individuals who negatively impact your mental health.
Learn how to hold your position when faced with pressure from these people; if you do not think that any relationship is doing good to your health, it might be time to reconsider it.
If you have a boyfriend or a girlfriend who is very demanding, toxic, and making you miserable, maybe it is time to have a serious conversation about what you are actually doing. You see, the goal of being with someone you love is to feel happy and appreciated. Therefore, if you are only experiencing negative emotions, it may be a sign that this relationship is not working.
The same goes for friends and family members who are forcing you into doing things that you would not do otherwise. Eliminating these people from your life can dramatically improve it. However, be ready to feel scared at the beginning since this step requires some courage.
Establishing boundaries and learning how to say no is a crucial skill to learn. By taking simple measures, you will reduce the risk of developing numerous debilitating conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal.
Hopefully, you have a better idea about the importance of boundaries and how they influence your mental health. A great book to get you started about setting boundaries is
"Boundaries, Updated and Expanded Edition: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life" by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. If you still have any questions about keeping boundaries with your entourage, feel free to ask in the comment section below.