Healthy boundaries and carving out time for you

A friend of mine is like me, a people pleaser. Nothing wrong with that as long as you don’t overdo it. She’s almost at the cusp of learning to care for herself first. I have been gently giving advice, to empower her, yet respecting her choices.

Image credit goes to Pexels @ www.pexels.com

I wrote an earlier post on self care which goes over getting enough sleep, good nutrition, and examples of do’s and don’ts for saying no. This post is shorter and to the point for those who are almost but not quite there in terms of having good boundaries. Situations like the one with my friend help bring things into focus for me. I hope it gives you the knowledge and support you need to say ‘yes’ to yourself first. Everyone will be happier this way. The energy is better for everyone, especially you!

Cardinal Rule—The caregiver needs care first!
In order to care for others, you need to—you must—care for yourself first and foremost! No matter how tough, full, or frantic your schedule seems, you come first. It’s like when you are in the airplane and their safety speech includes “Put your oxygen mask on first, then assist your child.” You make a much better caretaker for others, if you are in tip-top shape. This is especially true of people who take care of others that are sick, elderly, or disabled. You need to be in good shape to properly care for them. 

GETTING FEARS AND GUILT OUT OF THE WAY

Fear of Hurting Others
There is a saying: “Disappointing myself is easier than disappointing others.”  That’s what an over-the-top people pleaser (who is a doormat) says to themselves. I lived much of my life that way so I’m not trying to shock or insult anyone. I was always seeking love, but like many, I was mistaking acceptance for love. They are not the same thing. Besides, love should come from you, not to you, in order to feel whole.

Urgency is Overrated
It is not an emergency. You do not need to give to every single person who needs a poster, a cake, fixed plumbing, or babysitting. I can assure you, the world will not end. I’m here to tell you whatever you are dealing with, it’s not an emergency. There are hospitals, police, urgent care places, professional plumbers and electricians out there for a true emergency. I find a lot of people who are running around frantically putting out fires—ignoring themselves and their home life—think everything on their list is an absolute emergency. This is not true. They give all kinds of ‘but, but…’ excuses. Take the but, but out of it. You are not the world’s savior. (Read on.)

You’re Not a Superhero
I’m pretty sure if you look behind you, you will not see a cape flying in the non-existent wind. So don’t feel you have to save the day. You cannot possibly save everyone on the planet, so don’t try. Prioritize. Delegate. Let go of the rest.

You’re Not a Doormat
Say no when you need to. Someone else’s lack of planning is not your emergency. Otherwise All those people that depend on you to help them in an emergency think, “Insert-Your-Name will do it!” Because the expectation is you are a pushover and you always say yes. That short and simply is lack of good boundaries on your part, and the other party as well.

No Guilt
You cannot help everyone in the world. It just isn’t possible. (See “You’re Not a Superhero”) So don’t feel guilty for not being able to help somebody. There are only 24 hours in a day, love, and you have to get at least eight hours of sleep, eat well, take care of your home and family life first.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE

What’s Your Ripcord Phrase?
Find a phrase that works for you when you’ve had enough. My phrase is “I am on overload” for in-the-moment needs. State it clearly and then immediately take a break, or hang up, whatever the situation calls for. Get a cup of tea, get outside for five minutes. Or use it to tell someone you can’t help them. “No I can’t help you, I’m already on overload.” I find this works for times when I have had it, and I don’t mean when I’m mad. I sincerely mean, I am on overload! Too much going on, at the computer too long, too many fires to put out, brain fog, working on a problem too long, and needing a break. It works wonders!

Find wording that you are comfortable with. You can even say “I need a time out!” and put your hands out in that time out sign language “T” we all know from watching football. Yes, you can use this on co-workers and you should be comfortable enough to tell your boss this as well if you need to. Because, if you are on overload, you are not going to be a good worker, in a good mood, etc. Be kind to yourself and get a good ripcord saying and put it in your pocket for emergencies. 

Know What Energizes You 
For me it is not sipping a cup of tea. That’s for relaxing. I work from home so a quick break that is energizing is getting away from the computer and getting outside. I might walk the dogs around my property a few times. It only takes about 10 minutes to do that. Or I might kick the ball for them, or do a really quick chore like put away five of those patio bricks I have been meaning to move. If you are in an office, get outside and go around the block, or for a very short walk. You’ll wonder what took you so long to feel so good.

For me, physical exercise in the outdoors does wonders for a quick and refreshing break. I must be physically active and ideally outside. Find out what energizes you. For goodness sake, shut off that phone for five minutes! You will live! No one is going to perish if you don’t answer that chat, nudge, or call.

Your Day Off
Take one day or evening where everyone needs to steer clear of needing you. Spouse and kids included. Sunday 6pm is my time. When my divorce was over and I was building my life from the ground up, I took the entire day of Sunday as my day. I would say, I’d love to come over and do xyz, but it’s Church of Patty day. That phrase, Church of Patty, means they can’t bug me, or expect me to be out and about. I don’t use it as often these days, but it does come in handy. My friends started using this tool for their own self care routine. 

Practice Saying No
When you can’t do something, or wish not to, you should be able to kindly but firmly say no. Say it with a big smile on your face and a huge dose of sunshine in your voice, knowing your refusal will be better received by the other party. I learned over the years how to say no. One way to think of it is that every time you say yes to someone else, you say no to yourself and your family. You will feel good about gently but firmly enforcing your boundaries.

Never Make Excuses—Ever
When saying no, don’t say, “Well I have to count the fleas on my dog” or “I have to sort out my socks at home, otherwise I’d love to help you.” Just say, “Gosh I would really love to help you but I do not have the time.” Period. End of sentence. Big smile on your face. Otherwise people will take your excuse and turn it around on you. “Well after you’re done sorting out your socks, I’ll come and pick you up.” They will squeeze their need into your schedule and you won’t even know what hit you.

Volunteering Your Time
Don’t let someone volunteer you because you have skills they need for their organization or hobby. As a graphic artist (or cake baker, or babysitter) people constantly are in need of (poster, cake, babysitter). And they have to have it because it’s an emergency! Refer back to “Urgency is Overrated”. If you are volunteering for something you enjoy like working on a newsletter for for a fun organization, be careful as others will volunteer your time. When people would find out I did graphic design, voila! I’d be volunteered to do acres of time-intensive newsletters, posters, flyers. Every single time.

I joined a weaver’s guild to have fun. I ended up writing stories, designing ads, and working on the entire newsletter, getting them printed, finding advertisers, communicating with the post office, and sorting bulk mailing. That was not what was supposed to happen! Each of those items should have been handled by us a group. Because I could not communicate how much time I wanted to serve, I was saddled with almost a full week of my time each month. I had a full time job on top of it. It was no longer fun. And those were the nicest folks you’d ever want to meet. It was not their fault. It was mine for not being proactive in my own needs and desires.

Think in Terms of Hours
After learning that hard lesson with the weaver’s guild, I got some good advice. Have a number of hours in mind per day/week/month to give back to the world. Communicate that clearly to your hobby organization and stick to it. If it’s something time sensitive like babysitting, or helping with a chore or an event, stick to days/times you are available. “I’d be thrilled to help set up and work at your incredibly huge rummage sale! I am available Saturday from noon to 4pm.” I found this tip to be the most helpful tool in my search for independence and regaining personal power.

Be Proactive—Don’t get boobytrapped!
What are you doing today? What are you doing this weekend? Hey what are you doing right now? Usually when people start out a sentence like that, I can see a request coming in hot and heavy on runway one! It’s a boobytrap. 😉 My mother taught me to say, “Why do you want to know?” Put an “I am busy” in front of that answer. “I have plans for this weekend. Why did you want to know?” Then they can tell you what they need. You have already asserted up front that you don’t have time. If it ends up you do want to help, tell them how long and when you are available. You are in charge of your schedule, not the other person. The scope and length of their event does not set the stage for how much time you offer up. Plus the person asking will have received clear communication from you. Otherwise they will assume you can help all day long with…whatever.

Say it With Sweetness
Any sort of ‘no’ said with a big smile on your face and sunshine in your voice usually goes over well with the other party. Say it with pure love in your heart. I don’t mean be sarcastic. Be truly sweet. Come from a place of love. Put honey on every word. 🙂 Otherwise believe me people will figure out that after you were done sorting out your socks at home you can come and help them set up tables for the cotillion ball that will only take you a few hours! You know that will turn into an all day event.

Choose a Role Model
Think of someone you know and admire, whether it’s a family member or a friend or someone in the public eye. Use them as a role model and ask yourself “What would that person say in this situation?” When I need strength, I think of Katherine Hepburn’s strength and confidence, with a bit of Julia Child thrown in for good humor. If it’s something straight forward, I might channel the cold but unarguable logic of Mr. Spock. “We are 2.5 light years away.” “I can help you for 2.5 hours this week.” Get it? Role models can inspire, and you can dial them up in a second.

Head and Heart Balance
Spend time in your heart, and try and get enough heart time in your day. This gets you out of your head and will be like a breath of fresh air in your day. It does wonders for dispelling exhaustion and brain fuzz. I have found sweeping the floor for a few minutes is relaxing and heart centered. The activity is calming, and it helps to have a neutral task that takes you out of your head and puts you in your heart. Washing a few items in the sink is also gently relaxing but good for that neutral heart space that helps you to switch tasks or focus. It’s time for a good brain break too and helps get rid of brain fog from being on overload. I find for me being non-verbal helps.

If you are at work, get up out of your chair, walk around, get a glass of water, cup of coffee, or empty the break room dishwasher. All by yourself without asking for credit. 😉 If you can get outside for even a few minutes to walk, or people watch, do it! You’ll feel so good about yourself, and it is a great way to be more heart centered and less in your head. Getting out of your head will lead to much more balanced days, less exhaustion, more energy, and better quality Spiritual juju.

The Advice Given Here
My advice is gained from years living on planet earth, trying to get it right. It is not to get you to say no to everything someone asks of you. It is to give you insights into behaviors you can change to better protect your time, and give you tools of empowerment. If you have that Ripcord phrase, are prepared to sweetly decline a request, watch for boobytraps, never use excuses, take some time for yourself, realize you can’t help everyone, know what energizes you, have heart centered time, all without guilt, you are on your way to being a healthy caregiver for yourself, and others. And this wisdom only took me 61 years to acquire! (insert belly laugh here.)

Comments are welcome. “Likes” tell me someone is listening. Love and Light, ❤ Patty

Boundaries, encounters, reflection, and a new path

Do you have friends that once you are off the phone with them, you wonder why they are in your life? Do you wonder why you still hang out with someone who is not good for your energy, your mental health, who doesn’t bring much to the table? Yet they don’t have a mean bone in their body? After all they just want to be friends, and they deserve company too. There is nothing wrong with just wanting to be friends, right? Recently more and more is happening to make me aware of the fact that I need to take some action, one way or the other, instead of settling for the status quo. I resist visits or chats because I think…why oh why am I going to let my vibe go back down to this level? This is not said or thought of in a privileged way at all. It’s more of a state of self protection for the good vibe I’ve worked so hard to achieve.

How do you tell someone to stop looking at their phone (texting or talking) during your time together? How do you tell someone that you’d like it if just once they ask how you are doing? I have a friend who knows I have been through a challenging year, and they never ask how I am feeling, what’s up, what’s going on. If I tell them I had a bad experience, they skip right over what I say without an acknowledgment and keep talking about their life. Or worse they gossip about someone else’s life. (I can’t abide gossip.) That makes me sad, and makes me feel like I am the entertainment committee. Which leads to me feeling selfish for even having that thought.

Now the questions start. I wonder about the many facets of this problem. I am protective of my alone time. I live out in the sticks because nature feeds my soul and it keeps me sane and grounded. But it keeps me away from being social. Always a double-edged sword to live so far out. Does spending a lot of time on my own make me snotty, stubborn, or exclusive? Maybe it is smart that I protect myself as much as possible from the wrong type of encounter. Or that I feed my soul as much as I do with time spent alone, or with quality people. Does it seem I am being exclusive? Rude? Stubborn? Hoity-toity? I have worked so hard for my safety and security.

However being more open (less stubborn) might be called for because I could be losing the openness to be wrong, to stumble on something new, to have an open heart. Balance is key here, and I know stubbornness is my stumbling block. By being ‘safe’ out in the sticks, living my life without much contact am I missing out on another type of companionship, camaraderie, and social connections? Maybe the effort to feel safe is not serving me anymore? These are questions I ask myself. It’s the flip side of the protect thyself coin. In hopes of finding an answer, I ask myself a ton of questions to make sure I’m not being a jerk. I call it a ruthless self-evaluation. This is during a time where I want to be more social and get out more. As irritating as the problem is, I think it is good timing. 

There always seem there is a bit more work to be done to have healthy boundaries. I’ve come a long way. For years I was the world’s doormat but I’m not in that place now. So maybe this is one more whorl of the river. It’s a tricky place. You can’t shut people out of your life unless they are totally toxic. Then it’s a must, but I have found that to be rare. Boundaries should be flexible enough to let the new and unexpected in, while feeling respected and honored by the presence of others. Good boundaries also means respecting others in your life. It means giving them the respect they deserve as well. It’s a two way street. It calls for more minute, fine maneuvering in the river of life. 

Even though some people may be ignorant of their social trespass, the problem remains. Ignorance does not excuse bad behavior. It must be handled somehow. I guess it’s one more level of detail I have been missing in terms of gentle communication. Here comes the lesson on runway two! There must be one more way for me to negotiate the river and find the best way make it clear, in a compassionate way, how I would like to be respected. That’s better than just dumping someone, isn’t it? It’s more humane. More detail in a finite matter. This is good. These tiny gray areas are where we learn about ourselves, and do a kindness to others. That kindness can be information they didn’t know before, that helps them negotiate their way through life. This is growth for both parties. Growth is good. 

An example of gentle and helpful communication was many years ago I was still in a bad marriage. To cope and come out of a depressed state, I was on a popular anti-depressant. Let us say it woke me up a bit and I got rather chatty. Feeling I had a voice. I was elated! I went to a party with a dear and trusted friend. At one point my friend tugged me on the sleeve and whispered in my ear,

“Maybe you are not aware, Pat, but you are interrupting every person here. I know you are excited and have a new found voice, but you have to let others speak. Tone down your excitement and listen a bit.”

Oh my I was stunned to learn what I was doing. I thought I was joining in joking, laughing, and sharing. But I could see his point. Since I was told this in a gentle and loving way, I was able to better manage my enthusiasm and channel it into listening and replying at a more appropriate time. The advice didn’t get my hackles up because my friend used a gentle tone of voice. He was sincere. This is advice I still take with me today. I also learned to ask about the other person a lot more than I talk about myself. People like me that live alone tend to get chatty when we meet other human beings! 😉

Compassionately communicating to those I feel disrespected by, gently telling them what I would like in my life is being true to myself, and helpful to the recipient. Sound and words have power. Speaking words that need to be spoken in your own defense must have great power. I need to speak out loud the words that outline what I need for the basics of feeling respected. I guess now that I put it that way, it doesn’t sound so bad. Not so black and white. Not so terrible to tell someone you need a little respect during a friendly visit. I just need a little courage. Already a new path forward is being forged. All from an irritating thorn in my side and then some good old fashioned investigating and evaluating of the self.

Comments and dialogue are encouraged and welcome. Likes tell me someone is listening. ❤ Love and Light, Patty.