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Five steps for creating boundaries & sticking to them

By Ness Stonnill, Founder of Job Pair & Flex Coach

Boundaries are essential for healthy relationships (with your family, your work, other people), and a healthy life. Often it is during a time of change or significant event, like moving to part-time work hours, that a person realises they need healthy boundaries, or to maintain their boundaries.

Having healthy boundaries means knowing and understanding your limits. Setting and maintaining boundaries is a skill, and like any skill can be learnt. Here's our tips on creating and maintaining healthy boundaries.

1. Self awareness & respect

Know yourself, your body and tune into your feelings. Consider what you can tolerate and accept, and what you can't. What makes you feel uncomfortable, stressed, resentful? These feelings help us get to know ourselves and identify what our limits are.

Having a healthy self respect is important. If you don't respect yourself how can you expect others to treat you with respect. Boundaries are representative of how much or little we respect ourselves.

2. Know your core values

Your boundaries are your values. You must make your boundaries about you, not about a difficult relationship or situation. Who are you? What do you value? When you are clear on what matters to you most then you can create and live your boundaries.

As an example, one of my core values is quality time with my family. I want to be present and enjoy our time when we're together. I use my out of office auto reply message to help manage my boundary that on my days off work I won't check email, but I am available by phone for urgent matters.

3. Give yourself permission

Guilt, fear and self-doubt are unhealthy and unhelpful feelings when working with boundaries. I know this from personal experience.

It can feel uncomfortable putting yourself first, speaking up, saying no to a family member or colleague. Boundaries are about honouring yourself and what matters to you so give yourself the permission to do so.

4. Decide the consequences and follow through

What will you do when someone tests, pushes or disrespects your limits? It's not a matter of if, but when, so figuring out in advance consequences to overstepping your boundaries will make them easier to sustain. Sit somewhere quiet and write down how to honour your needs and what the consequence is to testing or disrespecting your need.

For example, close family and friends know between 5-7pm is a hectic time in our house and I can't speak on the phone so if they call during this time I don't answer my phone.

5. Walk the talk, and talk the walk

Firstly, let your behaviour do the talking. Live your boundaries and in doing so you'll feel healthier for doing what matters most to you. The more you do it the better you'll feel.

Finally, clearly communicating your boundaries with others is essential to setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. If you are not used to doing this it may feel uncomfortable at first. The important thing is to say what you mean constructively.

For example, if a friend calls me at 6pm during my no phone time I won't pick up. When I call her back later I could explain that during 5-7pm I don't answer my phone because I'm spending time with my son so she knows this for future and the expectation is set. An unhelpful way of approaching this is to give someone an ultimatum, like "I won't speak with you if you call me again during 5-7pm".

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