If you have ever paid attention during the safety demonstration on any airline, you will know that the cabin crew always tell you to first secure your own oxygen mask before you attempt to help others. In that moment, it makes perfect, logical sense that you cannot help others if you can’t breathe properly. Taking care of yourself first and protecting your energy and your well-being before you set out to help others, is not selfish. It’s necessary to ensure that you both have the highest chance of survival.
So why then, does this logic seem to escape us in our everyday lives?
Every single person I know – myself included – battles with creating and maintaining a balanced life where they are not running themselves ragged every single day and negatively impacting their physical and emotional wellbeing because of all the stress they are constantly exposed to in every sphere of their lives.
We have demanding and stressful jobs, we have concerns about finances and debt, we feel like we don’t have enough time in a day to get to all our tasks and to still find time to exercise and to relax. We need to constantly be learning new things so that we can remain relevant and competitive in our ever-changing world. We need time for spiritual practice and self care and we are torn between taking care of ourselves and taking care of so many others in our professional and personal circles. We are all facing utter exhaustion and burnout because we are trying to do too much and be too much for too many people.
If you want to be healthier and happier and ensure that you are living a more balanced life, you need to set some healthy boundaries.
Gain some Perspective
Working with coaching clients on their leadership development journey, I have found that most of us tend to naturally take on more than we should. We want to help others and we want to do a good job – admirable traits, until we take on too much and we start affecting our own health and wellbeing.
I always encourage clients to look at everything they have on their plate and to assess whether it’s really their responsibility to be solving a specific problem. Every client I have worked with, usually finds that more than 50% of the things they are stressed about on their ‘to do list’, isn’t actually their responsibility and shouldn’t be on their list in the first place.
Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kind and caring nature, or manipulate you into working for their approval. Learn to recognize toxic people at work and in your extended family and steer way clear of them. If someone is draining your energy or they aren’t actively encouraging you, supporting you and helping you be a better version of ‘you’, they don’t belong in your inner circle
Learn to say No
Being ‘nice’ really does have a downside in that so many people ask for stuff all the time. There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying ‘no’, especially if you do not have the time or resources to assist. You don’t need to feel guilty about this and you also don’t have to explain yourself. It is impossible for you to do everything and be everything for everyone and for your own sanity, you need to learn where to draw the line and when to say ‘no’. You need time for your own relaxation, for your own health and wellness and for your own personal development. It’s ok to put yourself on your agenda and to schedule time to do the things that feed your soul and make your heart sing.
If you don’t – trust me – you will be emotionally and physically exhausted and you will eventually become resentful of the people you’ve committed to helping.
Be Selfish with your Time
Once you have gained some perspective on what and who you are spending your time on, and you are aware of the need to say ‘no’ more often, it is only logical that you will realize that you need to be more selfish with your time. You only have so many hours in a day and you need to make that time count. Schedule your time carefully and make sure that your schedule includes time for exercise, personal development and relaxation or leisure activities. If you are scheduling time with a friend or a relative, you have the right to protect your energy and wellbeing and only spend time with people who don’t drain your energy. If they’re an energy vampire, just say ‘no’.
Do you see how these 3 tips all work together? Setting healthy boundaries is all about being mindful of how precious your time is and how important it is to take care of yourself and your wellbeing and not sacrifice too much for the sake of others. Be kind, but be realistic and don’t allow yourself to be manipulated into taking care of everyone else at the expense of your physical and mental health. Take care of yourself first. Nobody else is going to do it for you.