The pandemic has spotlighted the importance of prioritizing mental health, ushering in the buzzword “boundaries” in the process. With work-life balance shattered and people under immense pressure, setting boundaries — such as saying no to extra obligations that don’t serve you, keeping certain topics off-limits, or stepping away from grueling relationships — is a cornerstone. have become of many good practices. It is no coincidence that therapist and boundaries expert Nedra Glover Tawwab’s Instagram account, where she gives advice to protect yourself from outdated and useless people and behavior patterns, has a whopping 1 million followers.
For the Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) community – marking this month BIPOC Mental Health Month Boundaries have become especially crucial amid a year of racial unrest and the disproportionate deaths of the community from COVID-19. It has played out in countless ways, from everyday interactions limiting one’s availability – see new bride Issa Rae reportedly set her auto-responder for vacation vakantie to “I’ll be unavailable, unreachable, and uninterested for the next two weeks” so she can enjoy her honeymoon in peace—to important, self-protective stances designed to avoid potentially triggering or toxic stories. Example: Tennis champion Naomi Osaka refuses to submit to French Open press conferences and eventually withdraws from the tournament due to her mental health.
Author and writing supervisor Alexandra Ellea, who often encourages her 1.1 million followers to set boundaries, tells Yahoo Life that what’s happening is less about an increase in interest in drawing these lines and more about an “increase in practice.” Elle credits setting boundaries by helping her find “clarity.”
“I think that’s very nice and important, because practice is really what makes the border or self-care. You can be interested all you want, but if you don’t put that interest into practice, it doesn’t matter,” she says.
Ife Kehinde, a licensed mental health therapist in Brooklyn’s Heal Haus, attributes this increase in practice to quarantine. With many working from home in the past year, it has become more difficult to escape the toxic workplace culture, which is especially hard on black women. According to a 2018 Women in the workplace study, 40 percent of black women said their judgment was questioned in their field, while earning just 67 cents a dollar compared to what men earned. These factors and other cases of discrimination in the workplace can have a major impact on mental health and create the demand to separate work from other areas of life; unfortunately quarantine made that much more difficult.
“The boundaries of work and play, home and rest — even the boundaries of family and socializing — are all distorted because we’re stuck in the same place,” Kehinde tells Yahoo Life. “You have to push boundaries and renegotiate, and you shouldn’t use space or physical distance as an excuse,” she adds, noting that the blurred lines between work and home today have left many people feeling like they’re constantly be on call.
It’s just work stress at play, she says.
“Combined with everything that’s going on and more awareness around police brutality and racial and systemic injustice, I think it’s become really important for people to navigate what their boundaries are and how they can really help maintain and share their identities.” take in the world around them.’, says Kehinde.
According to Rheeda Walker, a licensed clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Houston, it is especially important for people in the BIPOC community to set boundaries in their lives.
“These communities are disproportionately burdened with less access to education, housing, economic and political opportunities, while bearing more violence and health and wellness inequalities. These communities are resilient, but even resilience has limits,” Walker warns. . “We often get overwhelmed before we know it. When that happens, we feel like we can’t handle it mentally. Since we need our minds to achieve everything in life, it’s a good idea to protect it before we feel overwhelmed and even when we think we ‘can handle anything’. Everyone has a limit.”
Walker adds that setting healthy boundaries has not been a priority for many black women in the past.
“The African proverb says, ‘I am because we are,’ so it’s innate for some of us to take on the ‘things’ of others,” she explains. “Add to it that, understandably, we had to be there for each other to survive. That’s the culture we brought with us from our homeland. Unfortunately, there are some who may take on a lot more than others and the emotional weight of it all Boundaries are important for redistributing responsibilities.”
Stigma has also been a barrier for many people who have to take the crucial step of setting boundaries. Black women are often scrutinized if they want to protect their energy. For example, Osaka faced backlash after taking a step back from tennis tournaments. After blocking one such critic, Megyn Kelly, on Twitter in a move many saw as a border in itself, the 23-year-old was accused by the former Fox News host of being overly sensitive.
Likewise, many black women have found themselves getting angry when they set boundaries. Kehinde explains that black women should see their anger as justified.
“I think when people perceive a black woman to be angry, it’s not random,” she says. “A lot of times, anger is a healthy response to someone who is overstepping your line or being dismissive… because we all have a right to be heard. And I think it really impacts black women and how they engage, especially the work I think in social environments [where] Black women and black female-identifying individuals associate with others like them, there is less fear of being angry at being heard and understood.“
So, how do you put boundaries into practice? For starters, Kehinde suggests making a list of one’s boundaries for different situations, which can help pinpoint issues that need to be communicated. You may enjoy your friend’s company, but not their habit of showing up unannounced, or having your coworker contact you regularly on weekends about non-emergency work matters. Whatever it is, she stresses that people don’t owe an explanation.
Walker, meanwhile, says that by asking yourself questions, you can determine when you’ve reached your limit and need to step back: “Am I behaving in a way that’s not in line with my character? Am I snapping at friends or my kids? and do I regret Do I regret having to get out of bed in the morning? Have I lost my sense of joy and peace? Maybe they don’t remember the last time they felt a sense of peace.”
And for Elle it was difficult, but ‘necessary’ to learn to respect her own limits and not give in to pressure.
“I can’t expect people to respect the boundaries that I don’t honor myself. And that started happening a lot in my work life, where I would be, ‘I don’t want to work after 6 or after 7’. [But] if anyone wants to call [I’d say] “I think I’ll squeeze them in.” That’s not respecting the line I’ve set,” she explains. “They sometimes feel uncomfortable, especially when we set them with loved ones or family. They require a lot of self-awareness and the ability to hold ourselves accountable. And so we have to learn how to manage and set them up because if you don’t, we’ll just be exhausted at the end. And it’s not easy…but eventually it’s necessary.”
Holding on to those firm boundaries ultimately brought her ‘more freedom’.
“[It meant] emotional freedom, physical freedom, saying more ‘yes’ to the things I want to say yes to and ‘no’ to the things I want to say no to – that’s really given me that space and the freedom to stay true to myself ‘, she admits.'[It’s] was challenging, but it was also liberating. Frontier work is liberation.”
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