We’ve mentioned before that the biggest barrier we hear when it comes to self-care is finding time for it. But sometimes not having enough time isn’t about the number of hours in the day, but rather about carving time away from other demands, obligations, and responsibilities. In a previous post we identified some strategies you can use to find a little bit more time.
All of these strategies have something in common: They require setting boundaries, both with yourself and with other people.
This is where self-care can get really hard! Especially if you are the kind of person who likes to keep the peace and keep others happy – sometimes setting boundaries is going to inconvenience or upset other people (ugh!).
But First – You Guessed It – Values!
You know us, we’re constantly preaching about couching your self-care choices in your values. (For a refresher on why, check out this past post here). Your values are a great source of intrinsic motivation. When you are moving toward things that are incredibly important to you, it is easier to make them happen – even if it requires displeasing someone else to do so.
Values will help you figure out your “why,” but boundaries are about your “how”.
Here is an example: Jorden has always been the kind of person who needs 9-10 hours of sleep at night to feel rested and at her best. Jorden really values being rested because it gives her the energy she needs to prioritize her other values (like being a present parent to her child and mentoring her students). However, getting that much sleep every night requires going to bed early – in fact, most nights Jorden has to go to bed not too long after her child does!
Sometimes setting boundaries is going to inconvenience or upset other people.
Come bedtime, there are lots of other things that would like Jorden’s time like washing the dishes, Netflix, or scrolling through the news on her phone. Some nights Jorden gives in to these other demands (we’re not aiming for perfection here!). Other times Jorden alters this plan to pursue other values – like her weekly movie night with friends online).
But for the most part, when bedtime calls, Jorden reminds herself that sometimes it sucks to go to bed early, but doing so is in service of her values, will honor her plans, and leave her feeling more rested than if she looks at garden ideas on Pinterest for another hour (we’ve been there!).
Honoring Yourself By Setting Boundaries
First, let us provide some reassurance: It is completely normal for your mind to begin noticing all of the stuff you “should” be doing when you put a pause on it to do self-care.
Your job is to gently acknowledge your mind and then… commit to self-care anyways! “Thanks, mind! We hear you – we have a lot of things we could be doing right now! But we’re going to do self-care.” Just because your mind thinks of something else you should be doing, doesn’t mean that you have to do it.
Consistently setting boundaries with yourself not only honors your wellness and your autonomy to make your own choices, but it also flexes your “honoring yourself” muscle.
Letting Go of Worry About Others
Setting boundaries around our self-care with others can be even harder than setting them with ourselves, especially if you are swimming upstream against a culture that promotes overwork, or when your self-care conflicts with someone else’s values or tasks.
While it’s normal to be worried about making a good impression on others, we are often in situations where we must set boundaries in order to protect our self-care.
We have a few practical tips:
- Stay in touch with your values. Knowing your “why” can give you the courage to set boundaries in difficult times.
- Set boundaries assertively but respectfully. Provide as little or as much information as you feel comfortable with.
- Remember that other people’s reactions are not your responsibility – you are only responsible for your own behavior.
- Remember, the more you flex your boundary-setting muscle, the easier this will get.
Self-care is hard work. Barriers are inevitable. But knowing your “why” can provide meaning and purpose behind deciding to commit to self-care anyways. Just like building a muscle, setting boundaries requires practice and gets easier with time. Eventually, you might even set some boundaries without even noticing you are doing so – it will just become a habit, and part of “what you do” (more to come on this!).
In self-care solidarity,
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