5 tips for setting boundaries

The holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year, which challenges our personal boundaries. Most people are getting ready for the holidays and many are also battling with the end of the school year. 

The end of the school year has challenges for children of all ages. Some people have children who received their  ATAR score and are pondering the course of their adult life–which course to choose, whether to go to university or TAFE, whether they should do a trade or take a gap year.

Other families have children going through major school transitions like moving from grade 6 to year 7 and/or changing schools. Parents may also be going through some major life changes: some parents are changing jobs in the new year and others are questioning their career and life trajectory as the new year fast approaches.  

Then there are all the festivities work functions, bbq’s, family reunions, Christmas parties, and the list goes on! Some families may be preparing for trips or weekends away others are getting slammed wrapping up a busy work year. I am exhausted just thinking about it all! As our calendars fill up and start to burst at the seams, it’s important to take some time to reset/recommit to the one thing that helps keep us feeling balanced and sane: your boundaries

Setting boundaries during this time feels incredibly difficult and yet is extremely important. If you’re not used to setting boundaries, it can be quite a challenge. But all it takes is practice.

Does this sound like you? The moment someone asks you to do something, you say YES even if you know you can’t do it or you know it will push you over the edge or maybe you didn’t even hear the question properly. It just seems easier to say you’ll do it and somehow you’ll work out how to do it later. 

It’s ok, I can finish the pavlova after work, then sew together the costume for the school presentation, sleep at 12, then get up at 5 to finish the pav, clean up and have it all ready before work…’’ sound familiar?

Why do we do this to ourselves? 

The fear of letting people down

Saying no can fill us with shame. We may have an internal dialogue that says

‘’I’m not a good friend’’

‘’I’m not a good mother/father’’

‘’I can’t let the team down, what kind of team player would I be?’’

‘’Who are YOU to take a break?! ‘’

People who always say yes often base their worthiness on the approval of others. We think we need to keep them happy, it’s all about the kids, I need to do this for work. This is a sure way to empty your battery.

Setting boundaries is hard, but it will get you closer you are to being your most authentic self.  It’s also brave. It takes courage to fight our internal dialogue and some deep-rooted fears about whether people will still like you or whether you will be rejected for saying no. 

We need to prioritise and love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others. We need to believe we are enough and not rely on the approval of others to feel worthy. Then we can start to say ‘’enough!’’

It’s important to think about the cost of saying YES all the time. What happens when we say yes to everything?

  • We run out of battery
  • It feeds resentment

My 5 tips for setting boundaries

Take a moment to think about it

There are so many demands placed on us during the holiday season, so when someone asks us can we attend this bbq, could we help repair a broken item, help them move house this weekend or could we make our famous pavlova, it’s ok to say, “Let me check my schedule and get back to you.” We don’t need to say “YES!” straight away.


Have a few go-to sayings that you can use in times of stress or when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Like many things, saying no and setting boundaries takes practice. You can practice saying things like,  “I can’t take that on right now.” or, “My plate is full at the moment.” 

Have a personal mantra 

I need something to get me through those awkward conversations when someone’s just asked me to do something I know I just can’t squeeze in. At that moment the whole world feels like it’s moving so fast and yet I can hear my thoughts with crystal clear audio, “Just say yes’’. In these moments I need a mantra to get me through it.  “Lean into the discomfort, it’s ok to say no.” My mantra reminds me that I’m making a choice that’s crucial for my well-being.

Some other mantras you could use:

  • ‘’It’s ok to say no, my self worth is more than the approval of others’’
  • ‘’ I’m a great friend/mother/father etc, those who truly love me, want me to take care of myself’’

‘’You can sprint a marathon, I need to take it easy to make the distance’’

Keep track of your feelings

Whenever I’m laying in bed, with thoughts swirling in my mind, with my internal voice swearing like a sailor, I grab a post-it note from my bedside table and write down what’s going on. I’ve noticed that I’m most resentful when I haven’t looked after myself when I’m tired, overwhelmed and taking on too much i.e not setting boundaries.

Make self-care a priority

The word self-care has been capitalised and labelled as a luxury item and people think it means a fancy day spa or a meditation retreat. If you do those things, that’s totally fine. But true self-care is not a luxury item or package, think of it as recharging your phone battery, restocking your fridge or filling your car up with petrol. You NEED it to keep going or your phone will switch off, your fridge will be empty and your car will probably stop on a busy freeway when you’re already running late and rushing. Check out my self-care tips here

You can see that having good personal boundaries are really important for our sanity and surviving these busy times of the year. I hope these tips help guide you towards a more balanced holiday season.  If you’re finding it hard to set strong boundaries to get in touch with me for a consult.

What do I tell my kids if I’m separating from my partner?

Going through a separation or divorce in your family is hard enough, then you have to try to work out how to tell your children. How do you tell your children that you’re separating?

Children develop different ideas as to why their parents are separating and may blame themselves. It’s important to tell the children it’s not their fault – even if they haven’t verbalised it. You may need to say this a few times. They may not mention it because it’s a shameful feeling – so they will keep it very well hidden

Try to keep the conversation

  1. Age-appropriate
  2. Non-blaming of the other parent
  3. Tell the children it’s not their fault.

Try to avoid

  • Playing blame on the other parents in front of the children.
  • Don’t say things like mum/dads had an affair
  • Don’t need to tell them the reasons why

3 points that are essential for telling children about parents separating

  1. Keeping the language unified – we still love you.
  2. Telling them that even though you may not love each other (the other parent) anymore,  we can never stop loving you.
  3. It’s not your fault

What to look out for in your child.

Sometimes they may behave in a way that’s different from usual, avoiding things they never avoided, having trouble at school. Some may be very well behaved because they don’t want to upset the parents. Parents might think they’re doing really well, sometimes they’re trying to protect each parent and internalise the pain. If you notice something out of the ordinary chose a time and place that’s comfortable for you both and mentioned the things you’ve noticed. “I’ve noticed that ….(you have been avoiding school, talking to this friend, etc).’

Children can find it difficult to name their feelings – so giving them that open-ended question so they are invited to talk about it. Remind them you love them, it’s not their fault and you will always be there for them.’ Let them voice their concerns and ask questions.

If they come to you with questions, you can say simple things like ‘ we are working on it’  take the pressure and responsibility off them. As parents, it’s ok to say ‘’we’re finding it very confusing too but we’re working on it.’’

It’s ok to be scared and anxious during this difficult time. Make sure to take care of yourself too. If you need some additional support you can go to your GP and discuss a referral to a mental health specialist.  Family therapy can also be helpful to support you to have some of those difficult conversations and find ways to better support each other and resolve conflict.

Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14 –

Crisis Support and Suicide Prevention

Kids Helpline

Phone Counselling Service | 1800 55 1800  Call 1300 78 99 78

MensLine Australia is a telephone and online counselling service for men with family and relationship concerns.  Call 1300 726 306 PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia supports women, men and families across Australia affected by anxiety and depression during pregnancy and in the first year of parenthood.

This podcast was written following an interview conducted on the Inside Social Work podcast interview Verity Best and Josette Gardiner from focus counselling

To listen to the episode check out the Inside Social Work podcast page

Click here for the episode’s show notes

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7 relationship red flags

  1. You seem to be arguing over and over again about the same things, it feels like its getting worse.
  2. You find it difficult to connect and find it difficult or uncomfortable talking about your feelings or concerns about the relationship.
  3. You’re not really talking, you may be living parallel lives with minimal interaction or silence has become the norm.
  4. You’re intimacy is suffering and your sex life has slowed or stopped.
  5. You may be considering pursuing another outside of your relationship.
  6. Balancing work and looking after children has taken priority over your partner.
  7. You feel exacerbated and defeated.

If any of these points sound familiar to you, we urge you to consider seeking relationship counselling so that your relationship doesn’t deteriorate further.

Introducing the Inside Social Work podcast, hosted by Marie Vakakis

The Inside Social Work podcast, hosted by Marie Vakakis provides information on are range of things related to social work. The information will be useful to anyone in a helping profession (including psychology, nursing, psychiatry, counselling, and education). The purpose of this series is to engage and inspire practitioners  and encourage lifelong learning and to promote research and theories to practice.

World Social Work Day

Today I attended a national social work day event, this years theme was ‘Promoting the Importance of Human Relationships’. A topic so relevant today in our current climate of fear, hostility and political turbulence. The keynote speaker was founder and CEO of the ASRC, distinguished social worker and human rights advocate Kon Karapanagiotidis. This quote I scribbled down during Kon’s speech stood out to me. His speech was moving and inspiring, calling us into action, to systematically advocate for structural change and to challenge the political and social frameworks that keep people ‘small’. He acknowledged the challenges we may face as social workers advocating for clients and the systematic barriers and the fear we must overcome and encouraged us to work together to survive the broken system , that has tried to keep up small and quiet. He remind me of my social work values and idealistic dreams that got me into the profession. I echo his sentiments of wishing the world was a place where my job didn’t have to exist

What’s holding you back? My top 5 tips to overcoming fear, perfectionism and a little procrastination.

In my first ever blog post I shared my fears about starting something new on my own. I have been a social worker for over 10 years and after close to a decade working in non for profits I have decided to start branching out and working with clients in private practice and delivering training. Soon to come is a website, youtube channel and various social media platforms aimed at discussing mental health and wellbeing as well as sharing real life tips and tricks to improve mental health and bust myths.

It has taken a lot of courage and strength to move forward and just start it.

So I wanted to share my top 5 tips to overcoming fear, perfectionism and a little procrastination.

1) Remember your why ?

During difficult times when I was overwhelmed with learning web design and trying to get a logo done I had to remind myself about why I was doing this. What was my purpose and bigger picture.

2) KISS Keep it Simple Stupid

This good old phrase popped into a podcast I was listening to and stopped me dead in my tracks. Originating in the 60’s I believed in the context of the US Navy, its been thrown around alot here and there but for me really struck a chord. I was able to give things a go and the result was my last (and first ever) post on fear.

3) Do one small thing each day towards your bigger goal.

For this one classic saying comes to mind How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Yes it’s big, yes it’s tough and it may seem impossible at times, just take it one bite at a time.

4) Find your crew and listen to those that count. Not the critics

I mentioned in my earlier post I was debilitated by fear and anxiety and the judgment that can come when creating things online. As a huge Brene Brown fan I went back to my old books and took lessons from her stories. I found those who matter to me and sought there wisdom and support. Their constructive feedback helped get me going. For a little Brene inspiration here’s one of my favourites

5) Self care

This was more important now than ever, after hours chipping away behind a laptop after a full day at work my brain felt tired, I felt fatigued and it was impacting my relationships. I needed to prioritise eating well and staying active. I started waking up early (for those who know me you won’t believe it but yes, 6.10am the alarm would go off) to get in a walk with the dog, sitting down for a cup of tea to relax before riding to work.

If you’ve got tips of your own that have worked for you I’d love to hear them!

Do you know how to ask your son, daughter, student or friend if their mental health is OK?

We are often afraid to ask for help and often just as afraid to check in with someone we work with, live with, hang out with or care about. Sometimes we’re not sure when is the right time to ask and sometimes we’re afraid if we ask we’ll make it worse. It can be confusing and it can be stressful but there are things you can do to help you know what to look for and learn techniques to help you get someone they support and assistance they need. Learning Mental Health First Aid is one way you can learn some new ways to support someone you know.

’I really got quite a lot out of completing the course, I feel a lot more confident to assess and assist someone who is showing signs of deteriorating mental health.’’

I’m running several public courses focusing on Youth Mental Health First Aid over the coming months to learn more or book check out my event page.

If you want to run a private session for your workplace feel free to contact me for a quote. For other courses and additional dates and locations check here