Boundaries Are Self-Care

How good are you at recognizing when you need to set boundaries with yourself or others?

Because I work with a lot of women with anxious, people-pleasing personalities, I notice that the same problems pop up over and over again. A common one is the struggle to say “no” and set boundaries for yourself and with other people. People pleasers have a tendency to say “yes” to everything.

  • Yes I will drive you to the airport

  • Yes I will help you finish your work

  • Yes I will cut off my right arm and lend it you

OK. That last one was an exaggeration but you get my point. People pleasers will say “yes” even when they want to say “no,” and even when it comes at a great personal cost to their own wellness. Which is why learning to set boundaries with yourself and others is a valuable lesson in self-care.

Boundaries mean more time for yourself

If you constantly feel like you’re on the go, have no time to relax, and can’t complete your to-do list, you’re probably saying “yes” too frequently. For most people most of the time, there is no good reason why you have to run yourself into the ground on a regular basis just to get all your tasks done.

When you prioritize how you’re spending time and how much of your time you will devote to helping other people, you will suddenly find you have WAY MORE time to relax and engage in self-care.

Here’s what you do:

1. Prioritize your own bleeding neck problems first.

If nothing terrible will happen by not completing a task (and I mean truly terrible - like ending up in the hospital or failing a class kind of terrible), then it isn’t that big of a problem. Your time and energy should go to solving these kinds of problems first.

2. Prioritize the tasks that will be really inconvenient for you if you don’t do them.

This is stuff like doing your laundry or getting your car inspected. There is no immediate terrible consequence to wearing dirty clothes or getting a traffic ticket (both of those things suck, but they don’t qualify as terrible problems), so we don’t have to panic about getting them done immediately. But those are the kinds of tasks that need our attention and we should do sooner rather than later. Because eventually, there will be some consequences for us if we don’t.

3. Reserve time for your self-care.

Once these more important tasks like solving major problems or completing your homework are done, you absolutely have to reserve time for self-care. Don’t clean the kitchen. Don’t organize your closet. Go have fun. You get to decide what fun is. Maybe that’s staying inside, talking to no one and watching Netflix. Maybe that’s going out with your friends. Do whatever you feel you need to recharge your emotional and mental batteries.

4. THEN you can take care of the extra stuff

Extra stuff includes basic chores, cleaning, social events you aren’t that excited about, and helping out with your friends, family and co-workers. Extra stuff is EVERYTHING else besides your most important problems, tasks, and self-care needs.

Notice how I said helping out comes last?

I am not anti-helping. I’m pro putting your own oxygen mask on before helping the person next to you. The key to preventing burnout and enjoying your life is making sure your most important needs are taken care of before you help other people with their needs. And I’m including self-care as a very important need.

There will be times in your life when you have a lot of time for “extra stuff.” There will be times in your life when you have no time for extra stuff. And that is ok.