Decrease Stress and Anxiety by Setting Boundaries

by Anne Windermere Patient Advocate

In my life-long quest to tame my stress and anxiety, I have learned a few things along the way as I am sure you have. I have a personal theory as to why so many of us get overly stressed. In a previous post I had written about the characteristics of a highly sensitive person for MyDepressionConnection. The highly sensitive person or HSP is an individual who has difficulty filtering out extraneous environmental and emotional stimuli. This means that we can become easily distressed whether the cause is the neighbor's dog incessant barking or the friend who dumps their problems on us every time they call. Some of us lack the filters to keep stress and anxiety at bay because we allow everything to penetrate our psyche. In this post we are going to discuss some of the ways that you can create the boundaries necessary to prevent a stress meltdown.

Here are some ways you can create filters and boundaries to prevent stress and anxiety from ruling your world.

  • Create relationship boundaries. How?

Know which problems are yours to solve and which problems are someone else's.

Sounds easy enough doesn't it? But for many of us, we are the problem solvers of our household or workplace. We want to make everything right, keep the peace, and make others happy. The truth is that these are impossible endeavors. And the more responsibility we take for other's problems, the more people will dump on us to fix things. For example, maintaining your friendships is your responsibility but your adult daughter's friendships are her responsibility. Finding a job to pay your bills is your issue. But finding work for a down-on-their luck relative is not your role. We can give support and help others but we can't solve their problems for them. When we take responsibility for other people's problems we are actually harming the other person as they will never learn to be independent. And too, when things go wrong, they will end up blaming you instead of thanking you. Learning to separate your problems from others will give you the time and energy to resolve your own issues.

  • Create boundaries to reduce information overload. How?

Schedule a break from using technical devices.

In our highly technical society we have more ways to access information and communicate with each other than ever before. Yet this constant bombardment of daily information can be stressful. We have become so obsessed with our gadgets and responding to our latest emails, text messages, voicemails, and updating our facebook and twitter that we are neglecting the people who are physically with us. We are also neglecting our peace of mind.

We are becoming so dependent upon our technical devices that many of us become very anxious when we cannot get our machines to work even if it is for a few minutes. The antidote to all this technical stress is to take a break from it periodically. Schedule times during your day when you turn off the computer, the TV, the cell phone, and video games. Have a real-time face to face conversation with someone. Get out into nature. Go for a bike ride. Take a walk. The point is to do something enjoyable which does not involve the computer or other gadgets. There is only so much information we can process in a day. Give your mind a rest and explore un-simulated reality.

  • Develop space boundaries. How?

Create a peaceful space in your home to relax.

If you are sensitive to environmental stimuli such as loud sounds, crowds, and general chaos, it may be essential for you to have a place to get away from it all. It isn't possible for most of us to take a vacation any time we like but we can create a respite area in our home. You don't have to take up an entire room. Find one corner that you can call your own and create nook to curl up with a book or listen to soothing music. Make sure your relaxation space is uncluttered and away from noise and other stressful stimulation. Add whatever elements are calming to you such as soothing colors, textures, and lighting. This is your special place to go to when you want to rest and unwind. Make sure to carve out some time each day, even if it is five minutes, to spend time in your peaceful space. There are many websites to help you get started in creating such a space for yourself. HGTV, for example, provides instruction on how to "Make Your Bedroom a Peaceful Retreat."

These are just a few ways to create some boundaries in your life to decrease your overall stress and anxiety. I am sure you all have other ideas of ways to put some limits on life stressors and we would love to hear them. Feel free to share your ideas in the form of a comment. We would love to hear from you

Anne Windermere
Meet Our Writer
Anne Windermere

These articles were written by a longtime HealthCentral community member who shared valuable insights from her experience living with multiple chronic health conditions. She used the pen name "Merely Me."