Superhero Self Care – Part 3

Ask, Tell and Let Gowoman running frantically

Have you ever found yourself totally overbooked, running from place to place, frenetically addressing your to-do lists and/or calendar obligations? How do you feel when that’s happening? Personally, I get very anxious, less likely to make thoughtful decisions, and more likely to be short with my loved ones. I’m also more likely to compromise my immune system, and during flu season this can be the nail in the coffin.

Even if you’re faster than a speeding bullet or can fly to your next appointment, every superhero needs to be realistic on how much they can do on any given day. One of the ways you can do this is to set boundaries for yourself and others.

We all have limits.

Even if you time travel, we all have just 24 hours in each day. The good news is that you get to choose what you’re going to do for every single minute of those 24 hours. You get to make sure that you have the work/life balance you want. You get to set aside enough time to move your projects forward. You get to learn just how long things take, how much travel time is necessary and how much thinking and planning time you need to achieve your goals. Prioritize your commitments to not over-extend yourself, and you will get better at allocating your time.

And of course, you don’t work in a bubble. You interface and interact with others, and as you coordinate your schedules and efforts, you may come across situations where a teammate has small children, a huge project due or a stressful situation in their life. And you? You want to help. So when these people reach out, of course you say yes.

There are ramifications to being a Yes-aholic.

If you are one of those people who always say yes, I bet you saw yourself when you started reading this post. You know how it feels to be pulled many different directions at once, trying to do it all, and being hard on yourself when you fail.

Saying yes all the time is a recipe for self-destruction. Not only are you making it more difficult to give your best to each obligation, but you’re setting yourself up for constant stress, which is a huge drain on your body and a known factor in most major illnesses. Are you really helping people when you are killing yourself?

Set realistic boundaries.

First, recognize that other people need you to set boundaries. No one wants to abuse you, stress you out or build resentment. You are doing them a favor by being realistic. If you can’t do everything for them, they will figure it out. That doesn’t mean you can’t be gentle, it just means you will be compassionate to yourself at the same time.

  • Communicate your needs and limitations without blame or guilt.

    • “I really need to make sure I get everything done this week, so I only have 2 hours on Wednesday where I could help.”

  • State how a request feels to you using your communication tools like “I statements” and “rephrasing”.

    • “It sounds like you’re really having trouble coordinating all the logistics for this event. I feel very sympathetic for what you’re going through, and I’d like to work with you to find a time that works for us both.”

  • And if it gets personal, stick to describing where you’re coming from and how you’re reacting.

    • “I don’t like how I feel when I can’t help people, but I know that taking this on right now could cause me to underperform or overexert myself.”

  • If you are able to, try to offer other solutions.

    • “If it helps, I’d be willing to spend the next 15 minutes helping you brainstorm other solutions.”

  • At the end of the story, stick to your “no”. You aren’t doing anyone a favor by doing what you don’t want to do.

    • “I’m sorry I can’t help you right now. I hope there is another opportunity in the future to show I value working with you.”

Be proud of taking care of yourself

To be honest, setting boundaries can be hard at first and something I continue to work on constantly. Thinking that superheroes should be able to do more than the average person has taught me the lesson of boundaries the hard way. I would like to support you in being present and focused on what you’re doing 100%, each and every time. The first step is to ensure you are not distracted and stressing yourself out by overcommitting.

It does get easier with practice. I promise.

I challenge you to say “No” to one thing in the coming week. When you are doing it from a place of self-care and honesty, you honor both yourself and others. And you make it more likely you will be able to save the day another day!

Share your experience of successfully setting a boundary in the comments section below. Can’t wait to hear from you!

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