Setting Boundaries at Work When You Have Depression

February 28, 2018 Virginia Boyles

Setting boundaries at work is important for your health, but it's hard to do. If you have depression and need help with setting boundaries at work, visit HealthyPlace and learn how to get what you need to succeed with depression at work.

Setting boundaries at work is important, but, as someone with depression, I have often struggled to set boundaries. It’s an important part of self-care when you’re depressed, but it’s not always easy, especially at work. You need to advocate for yourself, but you also don’t want to risk being fired, and if you also have an anxiety disorder like me, that might be a very real fear. That being said, if you are proactive and communicate clearly and professionally, you can successfully set boundaries at work and be happier and healthier for doing so.

Why Is Setting Boundaries at Work Important?

Low self-esteem is a common symptom of depression, and when you feel worthless, it’s hard to connect with your own needs. Setting a personal boundary requires an amount of confidence and courage that is difficult for a lot of people to work up, and if you have a hard enough time getting out of bed in the morning, the idea of setting boundaries at work may feel impossible.

That being said, setting boundaries, even at work, is important for your mental health. When you don’t set boundaries, the people in your life freely ask you to do things that may actually have a negative impact on your mental health. When you set boundaries, you become empowered, which helps you manage your depression symptoms.

At work, a lack of boundaries might manifest in your boss asking you to work way more hours than is expected from your job description, or a coworker dumping a project on you that is not your responsibility. These types of situations drain your energy and make work a hard place to be. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to learn how to set healthy boundaries at work.

How to Set Boundaries at Work

Identify Your Boundaries

The first step to setting boundaries is knowing what they are. However, this step can be particularly difficult for someone with depression. It will take some reflection to determine what’s most important to you. Spend some time thinking about your work life. Answer these questions:

  • What do I wish my coworkers/boss would stop doing to me?
  • What do I wish my coworkers/boss would stop saying to me?
  • What do I wish my coworkers/boss would stop asking me to do?

Tune Into Your Feelings

Your feelings are your barometer in understanding where you need to place boundaries. The three feelings to pay the closest attention to are: guilt, resentment, and discomfort. These usually indicate that a boundary is being crossed. For example, if you often find yourself feeling resentment towards your boss, think about when this feeling pops up. Maybe they are asking too much of you, or they aren’t showing appreciation for your efforts.

Speak Up

Now, for the tough part: you have to communicate your work boundary. The important thing is to give yourself permission to express your needs. You are not being unreasonable. Remember that it’s in your employer’s best interest to listen to and respect any concerns you bring to them—otherwise, they stand the risk of you leaving for another job.

The key is to keep it professional and concrete. For example, if your boss is asking you to do work outside of your job description, you could calmly and politely say, “I want to be a team player, but this task is not part of my job. I need this time to focus on this other project.”

It may be uncomfortable at first if your boss is used to you just doing anything he or she says, but keep in mind that you are doing nothing wrong.

Do you have experience setting boundaries at work? What happened? Let me know in the comments below.

APA Reference
Boyles, V. (2018, February 28). Setting Boundaries at Work When You Have Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 19 from

Author: Virginia Boyles

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