Splendid Spoon Founder Nicole Centeno, shared her struggles to set boundaries at a recent Mother Honestly event, Take The Day Off—Food, Focus, and Boundary Setting.

“I was inspired to create more space for myself and for other working parents like myself by taking meal planning, cooking and healthfulness off of the to-do list. And yet, in the process of creating boundaries for my work, my ambition and this solution, I had this inner voice telling me I was being selfish,” she confessed. “It’s hard battling the feeling of selfishness even as you know it’s an important step in boundary setting.”

Yet without boundaries, it’s impossible to make time to care for ourselves—which is why they are so essential. That’s why we asked life coach Shirin Eskandani, who shared some great advice at the event, to reveal her best tips for enforcing boundaries:

The Fix: 3 Tips for Creating and Upholding Boundaries

What is a boundary? Boundaries are guidelines for ourselves and others that keep us mentally, emotionally and spiritually healthy. Like a plant with instructions, “grows best in direct sunlight,” boundaries are how we love ourselves and teach others to love us.

Most of us, especially caregivers, struggle with prioritizing ourselves over others. We know we need boundaries, but we are so worried about what others will think of us, or who we think we will be if we uphold them, that we are afraid to start.

Boundary setting is like a muscle—it can be extremely hard to work the first time, and takes repeated effort to make it stronger. While the work may always feel hard, in reality, we are getting further and further along each time. Here are some of my favorite ways to start flexing those muscles…

1. Identify what is holding you back from upholding your boundaries.

Try writing down what you need followed by “which means that.”

Example: I want to ask my partner to do the laundry every other weekend, which means that__________

What feelings or thoughts are coming up for you that could be holding you back from creating this boundary?

2. Establish, “If I say yes to this, what am I saying no to?”

Like so many things in our hectic schedules, boundaries come down to prioritizing and making a choice. A way to frame this is, “If I say yes to this, what am I saying no to?” It is OK to say yes to your relationship, your personal wellbeing and your family—even if that means saying no to taking on that extra project or stopping at three different homes on a holiday.

3. Ask for what you need.

We sometimes think that creating a boundary is cold and unfeeling—it’s just about saying “no.” However, there are really loving ways to create boundaries.

Her are four elements to creating a loving boundary and asking for what you need:

  • Get specific, e.g: I need help with the household tasks.
  • Describe what that looks like or means: I need help with the household tasks, and this would mean you take care of dinner two days a week.
  • Let them know what this would provide or give you: I would feel so much clearer, calmer and less overwhelmed if you could help with dinner two days a week.
  • Ask if there is anything you can do to help them do that: What is a way we can make this work together?

Shirin Eskandani is a certified life coach and the founder of Wholehearted Coaching. To learn more of her top tips for creating and upholding boundaries, watch Shirin at our virtual event, “Take The Day Off—Food, Focus, and Boundary Setting,” hosted by Splendid Spoon and Mother Honestly. Find her at @wholeheartedcoaching.