Set Your Boundaries & Protect Your Energy!

By Stephanie Sullivan

As you may already know, April is Stress Awareness Month globally. Now, as I mention that, I know that many of you are thinking or saying, “thanks, but I am already AWARE that I am STRESSED!”. I hear you and I can completely relate! I think what we are all more interested in, is what we can do about it.

In my view, there are two (2) key things that we need to do to help prevent becoming overly stressed, AND to best prepare ourselves to deal with the demands that come our way. The two key things to focus on are to SET & PROTECT YOUR PERSONAL BOUNDARIES and OPTIMISE & SACREDLY PROTECT YOUR ENERGY.

All of us encounter stress in our lives, and unfortunately, AND fortunately, managing that stress mostly falls upon us as individuals. I say “fortunately” because this means a lot of it is within your personal control and ability to influence.

What is particularly important in doing so, is your personal ability and discipline to SET & PROTECT YOUR PERSONAL BOUNDARIES AND ENERGY. If you have no boundaries, or no strategies in place to adhere to them, then it is very easy to become that person that is “always there” and “always available”, who will always take on more, always stay working late; and also, you become the person that other people tend to “dump on” or take advantage of, draining your energy.

All of us encounter stress in our lives, and unfortunately, AND fortunately, managing that stress mostly falls upon us as individuals. I say “fortunately” because this means a lot of it is within your personal control and ability to influence.

Here is a little story and a BREAKTHROUGH TIP that someone once told me, which I love to pass along to others….

When I was much younger, I was working in the corporate business and consulting world, and I was this person described above. I was doing 120% at work, was always the one staying back working late, and was working 80-hour weeks consistently, sometimes even more. A person in senior management took notice, and one day he asked me, “Why are you the one who is always staying working late in the office?”. Of course, there was a logical explanation. I replied explaining why everyone else had to leave by a certain time. For example, someone had a dog they need to let out; someone else had kids that they needed to get home to see; someone else had an event to get to. And, his response to me was, “Well then, it seems like you need to FIND YOUR REASON to get out of here.” Wow! That hurt a little, because frankly, it was true. He didn’t even know me, but he was spot on! He had no idea that I had recently been through a relationship break-up after 6 years together, and that I was single, with ZERO interest in dating or getting back into a relationship anytime soon, and I had no children at the time. In reflection, I subconsciously poured myself into work as a way to occupy and distract myself from the pain and loneliness after the break-up. And other people took advantage of that, especially as I had no boundaries. I would take on more and more work, never saying “no” or “enough”, and I would work as late as necessary to get it done. You couldn’t say I wasn’t dedicated, but you also couldn’t say I was healthy or happy. I wasn’t taking good care of myself in terms of stress management and self-care (sleep, health, etc.). And he was right, I had no reason, not one, in my life that made me want to leave work to spend time pursuing. It’s not that I didn’t have any personal interests, certainly I did, but many of those had also got put aside or lost during that unhealthy relationship, where I lost sight of my own personal interests and somewhat my identity.

Now, you may or may not be able to relate to pouring yourself into work like I did; however, I suspect that many of you can relate to losing touch with your sense of identity or personal interests at some point in your life. It is quite common for people (particularly women) to lose that sense of identity or their personal interests at some point, often at pivotal times in your life, such as while in an unhealthy relationship, or after becoming a new mum with the additional responsibility of caring for a beautiful new human being. And it is also fairly common for people who are unhappy in their personal lives to throw themselves into their work (whether that be an office job and/or parenting). But here’s the thing, that’s not sustainable, and it will not serve you or your loved ones in the long run. I guarantee you that you will eventually burn out, which no one wants to happen.

Now, you may or may not be able to relate to pouring yourself into work like I did; however, I suspect that many of you can relate to losing touch with your sense of identity or personal interests at some point in your life.

So, BREAKTHROUGH TIP #1 is GET A PERSONAL LIFE, INTEREST OR ‘REASON’ OUTSIDE OF WORK/HOME that brings you joy. It can be anything really. If you’re single, it could be getting a dog/pet, or making time for dating again, or making social plans with friends. Or, for anyone, you can make family/social plans, or take a class of personal interest (say cooking, painting, music, dancing or athletics). You are much less likely to miss it if it’s a commitment you’ve made and something/someone is counting on you to be there at a certain time, and/or if you are paying $s for it. Personally, soon after I got the advice to “FIND YOUR REASON”, I got a dog as my reason to leave the office every day by a certain time, and also to bring me some joy and companionship at home. That advice has stuck with me over the past 20 years, and has motivated me to regularly sign up for a class of interest outside of work and home, such as ballroom dancing, Flamenco dancing, Pilates, exercise, and music. Now I have a child who is my ‘reason’ and keeps me busy, but I still try to participate in some personal interests as well. I am incredibly thankful for receiving that advice many years ago, and I have passed it along to many others who I have coached both inside and outside of the corporate world.

So, to recap, the BREAKTHROUGH TIP #1, first and foremost is to GET A PERSONAL LIFE, INTEREST, OR REASON OUTSIDE OF YOUR PRIMARY WORK/PARENTING. It can be anything really, but ideally you should choose something(s) that you really enjoy and brings you energy and/or stress relief.

See next page for more…
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.