Growing up, most of us were taught to work hard and respect others. ‘Tiger’ parenting and ‘kiasu’ culture pushed some of us into the direction of high-ranking universities and reputable companies, with no regard for our mental health. As millennials, the relentless pressure to succeed continued in adulthood with the rise of hustle culture on social media (being busy is now considered ‘glamorous’).

We’ve spent almost our entire lives listening to others, and comparing ourselves to others, when we should actually be prioritising ourselves. Boundaries can help us do this – they protect our health and wellbeing, and provide us with a sense of self. It’s not going to be easy, and you will feel guilty at first, but here’s why we must allocate time and space for ourselves: 

What are boundaries?

Boundaries are the rules we create to protect our needs. They can be applied within our relationships, career, and even online to communicate our limits and ensure our safety.

Why do we need boundaries?

How can we set boundaries?

  1. Identify your limits

What makes you feel uncomfortable? Check in with your body as well – what makes you tense up?

  1. Be assertive

When it comes to communicating your limits, be direct, but avoid being aggressive. Use ‘I’ statements, such as, “I feel overwhelmed when the house is a mess because I already spend so much time cleaning it. What I need is help to keep it clean”. This allows you to express your feelings without blaming anyone.

  1. Give yourself permission to say no

It can be hard to say “no”, especially in Malaysia where there is a face-saving culture. Let go of the fear of looking selfish or coming off as rude – you don’t owe anyone an explanation.

  1. Develop a support system

Boundaries take determination. If you’re having a hard time with them, turn to your family and friends for support – you can practice asserting boundaries together and hold each other accountable.

When we’re able to define our boundaries, we’re able to have more respect for ourselves. Boundaries can protect us from physical and emotional intrusion, and empower us to make healthy choices and take responsibility for ourselves. Setting boundaries is a process, but don’t let fear and guilt prevent you from taking care of yourself!

While working from home has its pros (like wearing PJs all day), it also brings with it some very real pains. Most of our workstations are now beds and couches, but as comfortable as they sound – their lack of support has caused a lot of discomfort. An uncomfortable sitting position is just one of the many distractions you have to deal with when you work from home.

So from improving your posture to tackling blurred work-life boundaries, here are some changes you can make for a healthier and more productive WFH experience:

For the Body

Without our walks to lunch, or even from the carpark to the office, working from home has made us less active. This can lead to stiff necks and sore backs, as well as a higher risk of sedentary diseases, such as diabetes and obesity. 

A healthier body begins with a posture-friendly work desk. Sit up straight, adjust the height of your chair so your feet are on the ground (or on a footrest), and raise your laptop until the top of the screen is at eye level.  

Check out this video for more tips explained by an ergonomics expert.

Your body needs to move to keep the blood flowing, and sitting in the same position for hours can take its toll. Schedule a reminder to stand up and move every 30-45 minutes – why not dance around your room to your favourite songs!

Regular stretches and exercises can help loosen tight muscles, strengthen them, and improve overall flexibility and mobility. Try following an online yoga class or these exercises for better back health.

For the Mind

If you find yourself struggling with concentration or working longer hours at home, you’re not alone. With the line between work and rest as fuzzy as can be, it’s easy for the mind to feel overwhelmed.

Just as your body needs breaks from sitting, your brain needs regular rest from the screen too. Take a break after completing every task or try the Pomodoro Technique, which rewards you with a 5-minute rest after every 25 minutes of work. There’s even a Google Chrome extension you can install.

At the end of the work day, log off and keep your laptop hidden in a drawer to stop the temptation of replying to emails at 10PM.

Write down a to-do list and estimate how much time you need to spend on each task. Having this fresh plan every morning keeps you focused and sets you up for a more productive day – it can also help you avoid the stress of rushing to meet deadlines later on.

From the comfy bed to your furry friend, distractions at home can make it hard to focus – identify what’s distracting you and remove it from your workspace. Is it your bed? Work in another room. Is your family talking a little too loud? Put on your earphones. Is it Netflix? Sign out of your account until you’re done for the day.

Share these tips with your friends who are hustling from home too!