The Student
Learning to cope and look after mental health with coping techniques, like meditation
Voices
How I am learning to set boundaries with my anxiety
by Chloe Hulse, 9/04/21

CW: Anxiety, Stress

Anxiety is experienced by different people across all walks of life and comes in many shapes and forms. I have experienced anxiety and depression almost my entire life, it started in early childhood and has followed me into adulthood. I worry about everything, even though worrying is normal, I realised it was getting to a point where my worrying and anxieties were stopping me from doing things I wanted to do. What most may consider tiny and mundane could set my anxiety into a spiral lasting, sometimes, for days. Feeling as if my brain were working overtime, the cogs turning so quickly that it is both mentally and physically exhausting; it drains my energy, so I am constantly tired and wears my body out completely. 

These excessive and intrusive anxious thoughts that interrupt my life have caused me to put myself into situations I’m not comfortable in, always to cater to other people’s feelings: I once chose not to go to a birthday party of a friend because the thought of being in a room with people I didn’t know made me feel physically sick with anxiety. I worked up enough courage to tell the friend I couldn’t make it to their party, thinking this would alleviate my stress, however, it actually amplified tenfold. I convinced myself they would stop being friends with me because I wasn’t going, and I felt very intense guilt and worried for hours afterwards. This is how I knew I needed to start working on myself in order to change the way I viewed and put boundaries in place. So, this is how I started doing it and hope to help others do the same: 

  1. Knowing Your Limits 

The first step I have taken in setting my own boundaries is finding out my limits. Unfortunately, you cannot set a boundary without knowing what situations you can and cannot handle. If I am feeling anxious or stressed about a situation, I listen to my mind and body and ask myself “why I am feeling this way,” I want to identify what is making me uncomfortable and can begin to set a boundary from there.

  1. Feel 

It is important to let yourself feel what you are feeling. I cannot speak for everyone, but you cannot move on from a situation if you downplay your emotions. My anxiety can trigger a “fight or flight” response, and my “flight” response is blocking out and suppressing feelings that I don’t want to feel. This is not a healthy way to deal with anxiety and reminding myself that it is okay to experience the stress without shutting down has helped me start to break this habit over time.

3. Practice Coping Techniques

It is impossible to feel both stressed and relaxed simultaneously, so changing the body’s response to stress as relaxation can help to alleviate anxieties. One thing that can help is deep breathing, which can reverse physical symptoms of anxiety like dizziness, breathlessness, sickness. Practice breathing in for four seconds, holding the breath for four seconds and then deeply exhaling for six seconds. 

Alongside this, practicing grounding techniques, such as the 54321 method – finding 5 things you can see, 4 you can feel, 3 you can hear,2 you can smell and 1 you can taste–it can distract the mind and help diminish your anxiety. 

Practicing relaxation for me has involved connecting with my spirituality. Meditation, yoga, reiki videos on YouTube and crystals have all helped me become more connected to myself when trying to understand my anxiety. 

4. Be Direct

Be direct with what you want and how you feel. Other people will not know what you are thinking and feeling if you do not voice it. This is the area I have been struggling with a lot. 

5. Take Care of Yourself 

Self-care must become a priority as looking after yourself is so important. A good way to start is to make a delicious breakfast every morning so that the mind and body is nourished. But this can also mean a regular sleeping schedule, reading a new book, caring about hygiene. Too often we take care of other people’s needs before our own, but self-care is vital when maintaining a healthy relationship with ourselves. 

6. Practice Makes Perfect 

It is important to remember to start small. Like any skill or hobby, tuning into yourself to know what you do or do not need and setting boundaries takes practice – it does not happen overnight. Although I have started the process of learning to put boundaries in place, I am by no means an expert or even close to the finishing line. But I do hope that as I am learning, others can learn with me from the tips I have written in this article. 

Image: via Vecteezy