We spend a third of our lives at work, which means it’s essential that we prioritize our mental health in the workplace. That being said, burnout and stress are rampant in the modern world, making it much more challenging for individuals to prioritize wellness. This has a real impact not only personally, but professionally. In fact, more than half of all workers report that stress and anxiety impact their performance at work.

Given the importance of this issue, many workers are being proactive about their mental health. They might adopt a mindfulness practice like yoga or meditation, see a therapist, or prioritize spending time on relaxing hobbies. While these are all powerful ways to promote mental wellness, one of the most impactful things you can do to help your mental health at work is to set boundaries. 

What are Boundaries? 

Simply put, boundaries are guidelines you create to teach people how to behave towards you. You set boundaries to protect your relationship with yourself and your own emotional energy. For example, you might have a coworker who expects you to answer their work-related questions after hours. This may cause you to feel unnecessary stress and cause you to resent your coworker. A boundary you might set is that you don’t check work email after hours. 

Why Is It Important to Have Boundaries at Work?

Boundaries are important to having healthy relationships with other people. When it comes to work, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid interacting with others. When you’re communicating with other people, it’s inevitable that you will have to set boundaries. 

For some people, this is something they do naturally. These individuals generally have a healthy sense of self. They have a good idea what they need and want from other people, and prioritize good communication. That being said, there are also many people who struggle to set boundaries. They may have been raised in families where they were discouraged or never taught how to set boundaries. They may have low self-esteem and on some level, feel like they don’t deserve to have their needs met. 

Unfortunately, people who don’t set boundaries have the most difficult time in relationships, and this most certainly has an impact at work. When you don’t have boundaries, it’s easy for people to take advantage of you, whether they mean to or not. You’re the first to volunteer to stay late, even if it really isn’t convenient for you. You listen to your coworker complain for 30 minutes even though you really need to get back to work. You take on whatever projects your boss wants you to even if you don’t have the time, energy, or resources to do so. This leads to resentment, anxiety, guilt, anger, sadness, and a host of other emotions that contribute to poor mental health outcomes and make it very difficult to complete your work. 

If this is a struggle for you, there is hope. You can change your ways to ensure that you have a healthier and happier work life. Stay tuned for our next article about how to set boundaries at work. 

At New Transitions Counseling Center, we have many clients who struggle in this area of life. If you could use some support in this area of your life, we would love to help. Contact us for cognitive behavioral therapy in Palatine.