Creating Boundaries to Decrease Stress at Work

Aug 12, 2019

Janelle, creator of Hey J. Nicole, in a yellow suit for work

Boundaries are Healthy & Appropriate

It’s true. Some jobs and professions are inherently more stressful than others. But even in those high pressure environments, you have a lot more control over your stress and temperament than you probably think. Over the last few years, I’ve learned that my stress at work is directly correlated with the boundaries (or lack thereof) that I have in place at the office.

Boundaries are healthy and appropriate, but for some reason, most of us are afraid to put them into practice. I can say this from first hand experience (if you don’t believe me, remind me to tell you a little story about my cleaning lady finding me on the floor of my office crying on Thanksgiving Day 2015).

We All Need Boundaries – In All Areas of Life

Whether it’s work, family, friendships or relationships, if you don’t set boundaries, you’re setting yourself up for an emotional home invasion.

I’ve truly learned that people are good at respecting your standards when you set them. So, who are you protecting by not setting any boundaries? Below, are some of the tips and tricks I’ve found most effective when instilling boundaries at work to help decrease my stress on the job.

Tips For Better Boundaries at Work

Decide what’s important to you outside of work

If you’ve followed me at all over on instagram, you know I harp on wanting you to create a happiness list and prioritizing it above all else. Well, the first step in creating proper boundaries at work is figuring out what the heck is even on that list.

When I first started to build boundaries at work a little over a year ago, I was great at creating the list of things that made me happy. However, I found it very overwhelming to go from having zero boundaries to trying to protect every, single thing I was passionate about. So, I started with just one. I was going to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. Period. Which leads me to my next tip…

Have a hard start and stop time

It took me 3 1/2 years to realize that my first job out of law school had no incentive to implement and enforce healthy boundaries for their employees on their own, so if I wanted to enjoy some boundaries, I needed to put those in place for myself. In order to meet my goal of seven hours of sleep per night, I had to create an adult bed time for myself.

So, that’s what I did. At 12:10AM every night, I shut that thang down and went to bed, regardless of what was left on my to-do list. And after a couple weeks of enforcing this boundary, you know what I realized? I could have stayed awake for 24 hours and the work still wouldn’t be complete. So why was I killing myself in the first place?

You know a second thing I learned: as I started to exercise my first two boundaries (sleep and a hard cutoff time) without major repercussion, I felt more and more confident to build other boundaries too.

Now, I work a much less stressful job, but I still have hard start and stop times. Very rarely will I get to work before 8AM and very rarely will I leave after 6:30PM. I make a few exceptions, and I’m flexible here and there, but for the most part, I guard all of my time outside of that 8AM-6:30PM window as sacred.

Remember: You Don’t Live to Work

I see a lot of my lawyer friends struggling here. A lot of us have spent so long being defined by what we do. “Hello, my name is Janelle, and I am a lawyer.” Well, actually Janelle, no. You are a daughter, a dog mom, a damn good friend, an expert at matchmaking, a connoisseur of good Trader Joe’s and Costco finds, a spin class aficionado and a lot of other things. Lawyer is not who you are. Lawyer is the method that you have decided to pay for all the things you enjoy.

Remember that you and your life come first. Your interests, hobbies, loved ones, and so many other things. Work is just a means to support your life. You don’t live to work. Do NOT allow yourself to constantly and continuously put your obligations at work before the life you want to live.

Other People’s Opinions Are Not Your Problem

As you start to build boundaries and put yourself first, others may feel some type of way about that. Provided your boundaries are compliant with all professional and ethical standards, anyone’s taking offense of your taking care of your well-being and mental health is truly a reflection of that person’s external coping with their own lack of boundaries. Ignore those folks. Chances are, they’re miserable anyway.

I described all of these tactics (and a few more tangible tips for boundary setting) in August’s edition of my monthly newsletter, The Juice. If you’d like more tips like this (and to get in on next month’s self-care initiative) submit your info and hit the “Join Now” button below. You can also always head over to the blog for more tips and tricks about work, health and living well in general.

How do you moderate stress at work? Let me know in the comments below. And don’t forget to subscribe to next month’s edition of The Juice in this box right ‘chea!


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  1. Jasine says:

    I recently got more duties at work and felt like it required me to spend more time at work as well as work on the weekends and after hours during the week. That stopped when I began to lose sleep over work and was working more than hanging out with my family. Boundaries are SOOO important! Thanks for this!

    • Janelle says:

      Yes, girl! Boundaries are EVERYTHING. I’m learning that in all areas of life right now. I’m so happy to hear that you realized the imbalance on your own so quickly. Keep me updated!

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