How to Set Boundaries to Protect Your Mental Health   

We all know that boundaries are crucial to having healthy relationships and maintaining one’s identity. What about when it comes to learning how to establish boundaries and reinforce them when the time comes? These tips from The Healthy show you how.


Why it’s vital to set boundaries

Friends and family, and partners, are important anchors in one’s life that help during rough patches and vice versa. But what happens when your loved ones go overboard and emotionally “dump” their problems on you and you’re not in the proper headspace to help? As hard as it can be, it’s important to set boundaries to protect your emotional wellbeing.


Babita Spinelli, licensed psychotherapist and psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City and Northern New Jersey, said that the pandemic has made it harder than ever to set boundaries in relationships and work — during a time when people need to protect their mental and emotional well-being the most.


So, how does one go about doing this? Some professionals share their advice.


Why boundaries matter

Boundary-setting is an important part of taking care of your mental health.

“If you don’t set boundaries, you end up doing a lot of things you don’t want to do and other people end up draining a lot of your energy and time,” Stephanie Roth Goldberg, a licensed clinical social worker psychotherapist and founder of Intuitive Psychotherapy NYC, told The Healthy.


It can also have serious repercussions on your relationships.


“When we have unhealthy boundaries, we end up feeling like we have to hold everyone else’s feelings but our own, and that leads to resentment, anger, anxiety, depression and stress,” says Spinelli. On the flip side, setting boundaries—and not allowing others to make decisions for us or dictate how we feel—is empowering, she said.


Practice self-awareness

“The way I think about setting boundaries is that you have to set them with yourself first, otherwise, they’re really hard to enforce,” Goldberg says. If you know you’re not in the mental space to emotionally assist someone, you have to realize that yourself first so that you can effectively communicate it. “Otherwise, it’s really easy to give up on that [boundary] and end up feeling depleted when you knew you didn’t have the emotional capacity to begin with,” says Goldberg.


Next time someone reaches out, look within and choose what boundary you need. “The first part is recognizing that it’s feeling like a bit much,” says Spinelli. “Take a pause and breathe and get in touch with what you need.”


Protect your mental health

“Remind yourself that you do have a right to self-care,” says Spinelli. “A lot of people think they’re being selfish [when setting boundaries].” But it’s not selfish to give oneself time to breathe and keep their mental health above other things when dealing with others.


Also, a friend or family member should respect that.


Be honest and firm

If someone calls or texts and you’ve decided you don’t have the emotional capacity to talk to them right now, let them know. Be understanding, but also honest and firm. Goldberg suggests saying something like: “I saw you called. I’m really sorry I can’t call you back right now, I’ll call you when I can.”


It can be vague, she adds, or a little more revealing: “I’m having a hard day of my own and just need some space to clear my head.”


If someone pushes back, don’t apologize

There will always be those people who push back when someone sets a boundary and says they can’t talk or take on someone else’s problems right now. “This is the part where it’s important to not apologize. Be empathic, but don’t say sorry,” says Spinelli. Remember that you cannot control their reaction. You don’t need to apologize for being honest and setting a boundary that works for you just because someone else is mad or trying to make you feel guilty.


Try to set time-based boundaries

“If you’re feeling so overwhelmed and depleted because people are just constantly texting you to talk, but you don’t want to completely disconnect, try structuring a boundary to be a certain time of the week,” says Spinelli. She says this can be an especially good tactic for family members.


Be aware of—and respect—other people’s boundaries

Treat others the way you want to be treated. If you want your friends and family to respect your boundaries, make sure you’re doing the same for them.

Both Spinelli and Goldberg say it’s a good idea to check in and ask if someone has the emotional space for you to vent before you jump into it. “When you do something like that, you’re mirroring how you want to be treated, so the person might do the same thing for you,” Goldberg notes.


Content provided by

From the Web