Healthy Mind, Healthy You: Self-care for Healthy Relationships

Healthy Mind, Healthy You is a weekly column written by Mental Wellness Coach Cynthia M. Each week, she will share insight on how you can be live a healthier life. You can read previous articles from this column here.

As you have been working on taking care of yourself a lot more from a holistic perspective, it’s time we move that out of just your sphere of control into your interpersonal relations. When we take care of ourselves, we are better in how we relate to others, and also because we are consciousness about self-care, we are able to shape these relationships better.

Types of relationships

There are many different types of relationships that we form in life, at work or in business with colleagues, clients or other stakeholders, with family, a romantic partner or a spouse or in your social life with friends.

As we form these relationships, life gets fuller and more fulfilling but it does also become more complex because you are not only dealing with yourself and what you want, you are also paying attention to what others require f you and navigating that space. This is what I will help you figure out in this article – maintaining peace.

Being true to yourself

This one is the core of self-care in relationships. You always have to be aware of who you are, what you value and what you aim to achieve in each of these types of relationships.  You must allow your internal compass to guide the people you allow into your life and the time they stay in as well as how they impact your life.

Many times we feel like we do not have options but there are some simple and subtle ways to ensure you get the best experiences out of your relationships. Understanding yourself and how you want to take care of your wellbeing helps you define the different needs you have in each of these relationships.

This self-awareness also serves as a self-regulator so you also respect others and become more perceptive of what they are trying to do. When you are true to yourself and always making sure to protect yourself, you are less likely to become a people-pleaser or a victim of abusive relationships. So start self-care by honouring yourself enough to know what your values and needs are, and surround yourself with places and people that do not harm this balance.

Setting boundaries

After you know who you are, a big self-care tool  in relationships is setting boundaries. I always encourage people to set boundaries and not build walls. When you set boundaries you are defining the parameters of what you are willing and not willing to do in any relationship.

These boundaries do not only keep you content in the way things happen in the relationship, they also safeguard your interests in the relationship. So an example is if you have just started dating someone and as per your values you would want to abstain from sex. Some boundaries like not visiting each other’s homes or only meeting in public places like restaurants etc., could be useful in safeguarding your interests and enabling you to achieve the goals of abstinence.

Building walls on the other hand would just mean you completely shut yourself off from dating because you want to abstain. This will help you achieve the goal of abstinence but if you do want to be with someone, it blocks you from any prospects. When you put boundaries you make others aware of your expectations in the relationship but when you build walls you just close yourself off from others. So self-care is about the boundaries to safeguard you and not cutting yourself off by building walls.

Great communication

Ever heard of a thoughtless comment? This is what happens when you do not consider what you are saying and how it will affect others or the relationship. By being more conscious of what you are saying, how you are saying it and the impact it will make, you start to communicate effectively. 

As you build on your communication skills , learn to say what you mean. Many people get hurt in relationships because they are unable to communicate their needs or expectations. Learning to assert yourself will help others respect your stance on things and your wishes in the relationship.

An example is if at work you have a colleague who constantly piles their work on you instead of doing it themselves, you will have to develop the backbone to voice your unhappiness with their behaviour. So rather than continuing to oblige them because you do not want to stir up conflict in the office, you will have to say exactly what you will and will not take from them. Therefore , effective communication is what helps us to maintain our boundaries because as long as we have boundaries that are poorly communicated, people will always step on our toes without even knowing it.

Saying no to status -quo

Whether it’s professional relationships at work or in business, social relationships with friends, or it’s family or a spouse or partner, many people tend to self-sabotage by just going with the status-quo in the environment.

I describe this as self-sabotage because by denying yourself what you would want from the relationship, you are not taking care of yourself. Going with the flow in order to maintain the peace often leaves you feeling drained and usually uneasy and unhappy about the relationship. You must always remember maintaining the peace should include you too and not just you performing an act of subservience to another’s needs.

An example of this is when the people in your family are used to using silent treatment as a way of showing they have a problem with something you did. This may be a norm but it is an unhealthy one which causes a lot of emotional baggage and so you are allowed to question this practice and prescribe something that would actually help you deal with your conflicts. So in this space, self-care means questioning some of the “norms” that people set around you and seeing whether or not they serve you just as well.

Keep in mind that although people can be difficult to deal with, when the relationships are handled well, people add a lot of lustre to our lives. So take care of yourself as you relate to others, so your wellbeing is not compromised.

Until next time remember, when you change your thinking, you can change your life.

Cynthia M is a Mental Wellness Coach trained in Psychology. She works with different individuals and groups to help them establish a more balanced state of emotional wellbeing so they can experience a better quality of life.

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