Setting boundaries to avoid burnout

Setting boundaries to avoid burnout

How often have you said yes to something, or someone, and then immediately felt regret? Or has the feeling developed into resentment over time? Pay attention to your feelings because they are a signal that something is not right. You might be a people-pleaser.

When you’re afraid to disappoint people and you take on personal and professional responsibilities that you really don’t want to own, you are not taking care of yourself. When you put yourself last and don’t set boundaries, you risk burning out. If you find yourself in crisis mode, where your body is forcing you to slow down due to illness, it’s time to start saying no. Ideally, you will learn how to set boundaries before you go into crisis mode.

You teach people how to treat you

Setting healthy boundaries isn’t something you are taught in school. In the school of life, you often will have a negative experience, such as feeling overwhelmed, which causes you to reset and revisit what you have been saying yes to. 

If you are that person who everyone asks for favours, then chances are you have built up a habit of saying yes. Some people will take advantage of your helpful nature, sometimes intentionally.

If you are a person who has healthy boundaries, i.e. you will take time to think about your own needs and others before saying yes, then you are teaching others that you are not a doormat. People may think twice before asking you for the next favour. 

Give yourself permission

Give yourself permission to take a break from the daily grind. Don’t give in to guilt, or negative self-talk that says you don’t deserve a break. If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a day off. Do something nice for yourself; such as have a nice meal, get outside in nature, read a book – do whatever helps you to feel calm and relaxed. Your responsibilities can wait for one day.

Manage your time

Before you say yes to someone, take a closer look at how you currently spend your time. Eliminate unnecessary tasks that don’t add value to your life. For example, do you spend a lot of your time online answering emails, on social media, or watching tv? It may be time to eliminate unnecessary information from your life. 

Look at your calendar. Are there meetings on there that have little or no purpose or outcome defined? If there is no clear goal defined for your meetings, then look to define one, or else remove the meeting from your schedule. 

Identify your limits

With self-awareness of your own habits, you are better able to say no to others. I’m not suggesting that you need to say no to every request, rather that you take time to evaluate what you are saying yes to. It’s time to be more purposeful in where you invest your time and energy moving forward. 

When communicating your limits, be clear, direct and honest in your response. For example, your boss asks you to work late for the third time this week because of an urgent report that is suddenly due tomorrow. Instead of making up an excuse, or saying yes (even worse), you can respond by saying that you already have put in extra time this week, you are feeling tired and need to take care of your well-being in order to remain a happy and productive employee. If working overtime consistently is common practice in your workplace, it may be time to have a conversation with your employer, or consider a new job!

Saying no to your boss may sound scary. Take small steps and practice saying no to smaller requests. Learn how to navigate difficult conversations. It may take practice to build up the courage to say no, but in time you will be able to do it. Build upon your successes and notice how you feel when you put yourself first. 

Be consistent

Be consistent when changing your behaviour and resetting boundaries with other people. It’s no good if you initially say no, then you fall back into old behaviour and say yes. If you are feeling riddled with guilt for saying no, then examine the root of why you feel guilty, instead of saying yes to avoid complications. 

You cannot control what others ask of you, but you can control your responses to others. Changing your behaviour begins with self-awareness. It’s important to take care of yourself first before you can help others. Setting boundaries is a sign of self-respect and of healthy relationships.