If you’ve ever paid attention during the safety demonstration on any airline, you would know that they always tell you to secure your own oxygen mask first, before helping others. In that moment when cabin crew members issue this instruction, it always makes perfect, logical sense – we cannot help others if we ourselves can’t breathe. It’s a pity this logic seems to escape us in our everyday lives.
Most people I know, are running themselves ragged every single day, giving more and more of their personal energy to their jobs, their friends and their extended families and neglecting their own health and well-being in the process. Too many of us are facing exhaustion or burnout because we are trying to DO too much and BE too much.
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. Here are the top 3 things you should be doing to set those boundaries and protect your energy and your health:
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’.
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. Make better decisions about how you spend your time and who you spend your time with. 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.