So by now I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase “You can’t pour from an empty cup”. As cliché as this phrase is it resonates significantly with me. Every day there are a variety of entities competing for our time, money, attention, and my favorite…ENERGY. These competing sources may come in the form of work, neighbors, Netflix, shopping, friends and family.
It is not hard to let our commitment to work (or at least the money), friendliness to neighbors, pleasure derived from entertainment and shopping, as well as love and loyalty to friends and family drain us to the point of detriment. This seems to be particularly true for women who seem to be naturally wired for nurturing and attempted multi-tasking.
I will say that I’ve been told that I’m not the typical girly-girl. I guess this is supposed to mean that I am not as graceful and warm as your “typical” woman. People have even gone so far as to label me an alpha woman or Type A personality ( insert eye roll emoji). Nonetheless, I do have a true commitment to loyalty towards close friends and family. In addition, contrary to the self-centered bad wrap that Type As and Alphas have, I am actually highly sensitive to the emotional state of those around me; especially close friends and family. This sensitivity to the general well-being of those around me has occasionally caused me to feel the need to emotionally over-extend myself leading to eventual drain with minimal energy leftover for my kids and self. Or even worse-when it came time to “cash-in” on MY need for emotional support from friends and family I’ve sometimes been left empty handed. That’s literally a whole other blog post by itself. This is where the importance of boundaries come into place.
Now boundaries aren’t only necessary, occasionally, for family and friends but in other areas in life as well. Take leisure and sedentary activities for example. There is a big difference between taking a moment to relax and decompress by enjoying a favorite TV show versus letting two days of a binge-watching session rob you of productivity. The same can be said when it comes to how much money and time we exert on retail therapy, happy hour, or #girlsnightout. There is a such thing as too much. So, to keep from allowing the competing sources to strip us of precious resources-time, money, and energy, it is necessary to establish boundaries. Here are a few signs that you may need to establish and enforce boundaries in your life:
- Drained-Frequently feeling exhausted, tired, sleepy, apathetic, hopeless.
- Zero ” Me time”-Are you giving all your time to others or work? So much so that you don’t have time to yourself to recharge?
- Guilt. Feeling guilty for wasting time or for not spending enough time with yourself or family?
- Financial Strain-I think this is self explanatory.
- Lost Productivity-This kind of relates to # 2. The difference is aside from ” me time” you find you’ve frequently lost time to get the essentials done. Laundry, dinner, and family time all suffering may not be a simple consequence of having too much on your plate.
I know #5 is one I’ve been especially prone to. Sometimes my priorities get neglected simply due to deficient boundaries. What that has looked like is spending six hours on social media, or binge-watching a season of Insecure before realizing, “Shit! I’ve got grocery shopping to do!” and then entering full-on panic mode as I realize my long list of “to-dos” have turned into “to-should-haves”.
Now if I’m honest with my reflection I’ve noticed that some days of binge-watching is a small reward for working three shifts in a row or just doing some bad-ass single-momming. Yes, I just made that word up. Anyhow, more often than not, my loss of productivity is usually a consequence of my lack of boundaries elsewhere (remember those competing sources I mentioned?). This in turn leaves me mentally and physically drained to the point of excessive non-productivity (see sign #1). A lack of boundaries in one area left unchecked can quickly lead to a domino effect of poor boundaries elsewhere.
So, what’s the solution? From personal experience I’ve learned to take occasional inventory on where I stand emotionally, mentally, financially, and even productively before I extend myself to any of the mentioned sources. Other times it’s not so cut and dry and I have to establish AND enforce boundaries. The following are a very few ways I’ve learned to enforce boundaries:
- Unplug– Some days (when practical since I have kids) I’ll leave my phone on do not disturb for hours. This is usually done to keep me from answering calls from friends and family that can lead me to unproductiveness or emotional drain. By now my people already know the deal when they call me and immediately get the voicemail. They also know how to bypass that feature if absolutely necessary—Boundary enforced.
- Budget-Having a budget has really helped me put my finances in perspective. I loosely follow Dave Ramsey’s principals when it comes to budgeting. I’ve noticed that when I visualize where my money is supposed to go for the month and how much expendable cash I may or may not have left over I tend to be less inclined to aimlessly “browse” the shopping tab on IG, or treat myself to drinks after work because I “deserve” it. I simply look at my budget and goals then usually realize I deserve financial freedom one day—Boundary enforced.
- Just Say No…To Work-I’m not gonna lie. When it comes to work, that is the one thing I have the LEAST difficulty with when it comes to enforcing boundaries. I don’t do overtime or sign up for multiple committees and projects unless I want to. My time is my time and I won’t let a company guilt me into leaving my kids, relaxation, or self care in order to go into a place that can, and will, replace me quickly if I need to take a leave of absence due to burnout. I also believe this makes me a more mentally and emotionally present nurse when I am at the bedside or joining a project or committee that I’m actually passionate about which, research shows, leads to better patient outcomes. I know there are plenty of people that have a hard time enforcing boundaries when it comes to work, and to those people I say; read my previous two sentences—Boundary enforced.
- Get Busy!-Now leisure is the hardest competing source for me to enforce boundaries with. I’m a highly sensitive, self-proclaimed, introverted empath. So naturally I require down-time in order to effectively engage with the world around me. However, if I’m not careful I can easily spend multiple days relaxing in the house, watching TV, napping, journaling or studying IG. I’ve already mentioned the toll that personally takes on true productivity so let me skip to the good part. When I’m at my best I get up and go to the gym early in the day which helps energize and motivate me to continue on with more productivity. Other times I’ll make sure that I set an itinerary for the next day with an alarm going off every few hours to remind myself of each next task for that next day. For example; ” Ok, I know tomorrow I need to grocery shop, do laundry, prepare for content, go see this man about a horse, cook dinner, check the girls homework, blah blah blah.” So I’ll set a time frame to allow for each task to be done and schedule alarms to go off when it’s time for each task. It’s hard for me to sleep, or binge-watch through endless alarms without feeling guilty so that tactic usually works well for me. Not to mention, the added joy of crossing something off a to-do list is almost orgasmic—Boundary enforced.
Our time is our most valuable resource, with energy running a close 2nd. Although it is our God-given duty to function harmoniously amongst each other which requires time and energy, it is also important to be good stewards of our short time here on earth as well as the energy, and money, needed to fuel our productivity. Established and enforced boundaries are key to good stewardship. I’ve mentioned the many competing sources for our time, energy and money as well as some easy methods for enforcing boundaries. I’d love to hear how you’ve established and enforced your boundaries. I may or may not be vetting some new ideas lol…so share below! If you found this post helpful please let me know! Please like, follow and subscribe. Shalom!