Work Stressing You Out? These 5 Tips Can Help

A man wearing glasses talks on the phone and uses a laptop while working from home.

Keeping your work life and personal life separate, and showing up for both, can be so hard to do. Especially right now, at a time when more of us are working from home, things tend to get a little bit messy. The division between work time and “our time” can get blurred.

I’ve always been lucky to work for employers who recognize the need for work-life balance. My husband has not been so lucky.

Over the last 18 years, we’ve raised 3 wonderful children and have navigated many transitions. I’ve watched him juggle having a family while feeling the pressure to always be available for work.

He’s passionate about both. So together, we’ve created some tricks that allow him to be present in each role and protect his emotional well-being.

Below are our top tips for setting workplace boundaries. I hope they help you feel a little less burned out and a little more in control of your time.

5 ways to set workplace boundaries

Set realistic limits. Decide when, where, and how long you work. Then follow those “rules” as much as possible. Doing so will help reset expectations so you can put your personal life first.

If you can’t escape weekend emails, try setting aside 1 hour to step away. Give your brain a break by doing something with your hands. Consider baking, playing video games, or drawing. You get the idea. Adjusting your phone notifications or delegating tasks can also make a huge difference.

Be intentional with your time. Ask yourself what your values are and how you can honor them as you move through your day.
For example, if you are a person who needs more connection, schedule time to have a phone call with a friend. I know, it sounds a little counterintuitive, but we have found that if it’s on the schedule it’s more likely to happen.

Know that it’s okay to say no. It’s easy to feel like you need to do it all. But if you’re like me, it’ll leave you feeling exhausted and maybe even a little resentful. So take a moment before committing to a request. Consider whether you need to come up with another solution or ask for support. Or maybe you need to explain that you’re too busy to take on another task.

Practice effective communication. This has been the single most important tool in setting boundaries for me and my husband. It helps set realistic expectations at work and at home.

For example, if your to-do list is getting too long, talk to your manager. Hopefully, they can help you prioritize and delegate tasks. And you’ll walk away feeling more supported and less overwhelmed.

Quiet your inner critic. Do you ever have a voice in your head that says things like, “You’re blowing it”? Or, “You’re going to get fired”? These types of thoughts can leave us feeling stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed.

The good news is, these thoughts aren’t facts. Try noticing them as they happen. Then, offer yourself the compassion that you would show a friend.

Patience and support are key

These changes didn’t come easily for my family. And they definitely didn’t happen overnight. The same may be true for you. So be patient. Take small steps that feel doable for you. Lean on your support system as you figure out what strategies work best for you.

Once you start setting boundaries and feeling better, it really will get easier. We’re here to support you along the way.

By Jamie Ellis

Jamie Ellis is a Behavioral Health Coaching Lead at AbleTo. She knows the challenges that can come with taking the first step toward better mental health. She helps members break down those challenges and find the internal motivation to take that first step. When not working, Jamie enjoys spending time with her husband and 3 teenage kids. She loves to kayak, travel, and explore the outdoors.

Clinically reviewed by Maritza Contreras-Rivera, LMFT, AbleTo Program Therapist.

Photo by Rymden/Adobe Stock. Individuals in photographs do not represent AbleTo participants.