Having boundaries is one of the most important elements to managing stress but I find as women we often neglect putting them in place or enforcing them out of the fear of disappointing others. We put so much pressure on ourselves to be the best at everything and trying to please others that we end up feeling used or like our needs are not being met.
Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits.
My past with boundaries
I personally lived for years without boundaries, giving more and more of myself to my career which eventually ended in burnout. My relationships suffered for it as I didn’t have enough energy to give to the people closest to me, let alone on looking after myself.
Due to this my health started to suffer, and I went from being one of those people that was never ill or off (as I would also go to work regardless) to going to the doctor regularly for various ailments from being run down.
We often forget that as we get older or grow that our needs change and what was working for us at one stage of our life may not work at other stages. However due to various beliefs I had running, I continued to push myself regardless.
My big burnout
I rewrote this part of this post several times out of the fear of seeming ungrateful or weak, but I feel this is something that needs to be discussed as so many of us are burning out and doing so in silence.
I burnt out a couple years ago. I had been doing more than one job at work, travelling and managing a troublesome file which was getting a lot of attention from management. At the same time, I had also moved countries, was organising our wedding, and just trying to keep my head above water trying to live the rest of my life.
In the build-up to the burn out, I would get so angry and snappy from feeling overwhelmed all the time. I took everything so personally as I felt I was giving so much of myself and I didn’t even recognise myself anymore.
I knew that the situation was unhealthy, I had been telling myself I would stay in my job for one more year for the previous few years, but I kept pushing myself to continue even though it clearly wasn’t working for me anymore.
How did I recover?
I feel that you don’t fully recover after a burn out. Even now after doing a lot of work on myself, from time to time I can still find situations to be more stressful than they are. However, the burnout I had was a blessing in disguise, as it was at that point that I decided that I had to put boundaries in place in all areas of my life.
As anyone working for an employee will know, even if you do voice your concerns, you can’t always enforce the exact boundaries you want in the work place. I did however manage to change the following, which made a world of difference:
- Leaving at a reasonable time and only staying late if I really had to;
- Organising my travel in way that it was less hectic, so I was still able to spend more time at home with my loved ones;
- Ensuring that my team were trained properly and handing more work to them (wanting to control everything is a story for another day!);
- Then I also worked on an exit strategy as I knew it was time for me to move on and to follow what I really wanted to do.
I am not telling everyone to leave their jobs, I am just saying that you need to access your situation and decide how much you are willing to give of yourself. If you find that things aren’t working, make the changes that need to be made as no one else is going to do it for you.
If I hadn’t decided at that point to start making changes, I know I wouldn’t be where I am now, which I can honestly say is a much better place. People have even noticed the difference in me as I physically look less stressed and I am more open than I was before.
We need to know what our limits are and listen to our bodies and emotions, instead of just pushing through, which ends with us feeling resentful. This goes for all areas as the same happens often in our relationships where we are allowing people to take too much of us, or willingly giving too much of ourselves and not putting any limits in place.
Some tips for setting boundaries
Here are some tips for setting boundaries:
- Get to know yourself – only you can decide what your limits are so take the time to access what is causing you stress and why, then put those limits in place;
- Learn to recognise limiting beliefs within yourself – there is so often underlying beliefs that are making us to continue allowing certain situations or people to take more than we can give. Often it can be that we don’t feel that you are worthy or good enough but there are so many more beliefs that make us react the way we do;
- Ask for help – this is a big one, we often want it to appear like we have everything under control and not show weakness or vulnerability, but we need to stop this and start leaning on the people around us for support. If there is no support, look to get it from outside your circle;
- Learn to say no – we often over fill our lives by saying yes to everything and not taking time to recuperate. We don’t want to offend or disappoint people, or worse not be asked again, however the people you want to surround yourself with will understand;
- Take one step at a time – you don’t have to change your whole life in one go, take baby steps and start making small changes which will eventually lead to you feeling less overwhelmed.;
- Continue to access – keep checking in with yourself as you go into different stages of your life to see if you need to change your boundaries or put new ones in place.
I hope the above has been helpful and would love to hear if you have any issues with boundaries or any further tips for setting them?