Boundary Strategies

Have you been working from home and feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and stressed? 

Are you experiencing more conflict? 

Taking the necessary safety and health precautions for a global pandemic means many of us are spending more time than ever before in close proximity to our families, roommates, or partners…and sometimes, that’s not easy. 

We’ve been challenged to squeeze our work, school, and family life into one environment day after day for more than a year, so if it is starting to take a toll on your mental health, your productivity, and your relationships, it makes sense. 

There are things you can do to put more structure into place (even if you’re still sheltering in place) and it all starts with implementing better boundaries. 

In this episode, I’m sharing 3 proactive boundary strategies for more harmony and less stress in your home life.

What are boundaries? Think of them as the distance or closeness we create between ourselves and others. 

Healthy boundaries require effective communication. Letting the people in your life know how you feel, and what works for you and what doesn’t can be challenging, especially if you are, as author Brenè Brown says, “a pleaser hellbent on being easy, fun and flexible”…ringing any bells?

You can think about boundaries as a set of rules or guidelines to identify permissible ways for people to interact with you and behave towards you. Boundaries also include how you respond when someone steps over your line.

Boundary setting requires knowing where those lines need to be for you…because boundaries are unique to each of us. No matter what your current patterns are, it is possible for you to make changes that can positively shift how you feel in your home/work life.

Here are my top 3 boundary strategies to use right now for more peace and less conflict:

1. Set Up New Time Boundaries

Pre-pandemic, your time and your schedule were likely dependent on external circumstances. Working from home, even if you have Zoom meetings and/or virtual school to wrangle, you are much more in charge of setting your own schedule and managing how you spend your time.

Structuring your day with efficient time boundaries is important to your ability to work when it’s time to work, play when it’s time to play, rest and replenish.

Without a schedule, it can be easy (especially for perfectionists or workaholics), to keep working all hours (and just check your email one more time while you’re in bed) and this can easily lead to overwhelm. There has to be a cutoff time for when you’re done and a clear delineation of your work time and the rest of your life.

2. Create Geographic Boundaries 

If you’re cohabitating with family, roommates, or your partner, physical boundaries are key. Have a meeting with your household and talk about your schedules and coordinate. Make some new agreements about who is going to be where and when.  

Enroll everyone in the process. You can have fun and get creative by making signs as gentle (or not if you’re from Jersey ?) visual reminders of your new geographic boundary rules. For example,  Shhhhh…Work in Process, Do Not Disturb, Genius at Work, or my personal fave, Hey, Keep it Down. I’m Workin’ Here!! Vic and I created a new system for me to signal him when I am filming (I hang a little red bow or my sign on the outside door) so he knows to quietly use the other door and it’s been working well. 

When there is no delineation of physical boundaries, there can be fear and anxiety running in the background of your mind around being interrupted. You might not even realize the precious energy and bandwidth you are losing. These feelings of unease, if left unresolved, can fuel more heated reactions or responses.

Do yourself a favor and get everyone on the same page with your geographic boundaries and use visual reminders to stay consistent. See what shifts! 

3. Put Mental Boundaries In Place

Mental boundaries refer to the internal boundaries you define and uphold for yourself. You can put practices into place to remind yourself of your mental boundaries and reinforce new behaviors.

Let’s say you’ve created your ideal work-from-home schedule and you’ve penciled in a 5 PM stop time for the workday. Set an alarm for 4:45 so you have 15 minutes to wrap up your end of the day, shut down your computer, turn off notifications on work apps on your mobile device, and physically leave your workspace. (If your space does not allow you to actually leave the area, you can make a symbolic change by putting the computer and work stuff away in a drawer.) 

You can make a little ritual of your transition from work to the rest of your life. Light a candle, use a calming essential oil, change into something more comfortable or take a walk in nature and reflect. With consistency, these simple activities can help retrain your brain and nervous system to shift out of work mode and into rest, relax and replenish mode. 

One of my favorite easy-to-remember wind down for bed tips comes from Brendon Burchard (Forbes named him the world’s leading high-performance coach so he is pretty sharp!). Here are Brendon’s 3-2-1 end of day rules for better sleep:

> 3 hours before bedtime – stop eating to give your digestive system time to process. 

> 2 hours before bedtime – no work. No emails, no DM’s, no social media, or anything else work-related. 

> 1 hour before bedtime – no screen time. This includes the TV, your laptop, and your phone. 

Why not try this routine for a week and see if your quality of sleep improves. It’s worked for me! 

I hope this episode gives you some new ideas for taking action and being proactive with your boundaries! Creating and maintaining healthy boundaries around your schedule, time, and space when working from home is a strategy that sets everyone up for success. 

Creating healthy boundaries in a locked-down home, your relationships, and within yourself can be confusing and challenging. The first step to mastering this art is gathering awareness about your personal boundary baseline. This is a set of beliefs and behaviors that has been informed by your childhood experiences, the cultures and community you grew up in, gender roles and societal norms, etc. 

To help you take the next right action on your Boundary Boss journey, I created a FREE Boundary Style Quiz which will reveal your primary boundary style and more!

Ready to take the quiz now and up your boundary IQ? Click here! 

I want to know what you discover about yourself, so drop me a comment below or connect with me on Instagram @terricole and tell me about your boundary style! 

I am rooting for you as you begin to set better boundaries this week and as always take care of you.

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