Do you know how to set boundaries to prevent burnout in your day-to-day life? Have you ever experienced this? You’re cruising through a busy week, and you’ve got a whole lot of balls in the air you’re juggling. The project(s) you’re working on, your multiple auditions to put on tape, your quirky co-workers, your friends needing to chat, and your family commitments—no matter what has been thrown at you, you are making it work.
Suddenly, your back starts to hurt. A migraine sets in. You can’t really concentrate. You’re feeling really fatigued. Then the excuses start… “Maybe it’s my chair causing my back pain… I have been in front of the computer too long, I should get blue light glasses… I just need more coffee, no biggie…”
That is the sneaky thing about burnout; it’s very specific to your body and can manifest in subtle ways. Stress can play dress-up as ambition, and in our #thestruggleisreal culture, it is very easy to brush off an S.O.S. from your body as just an annoying interruption. And instead of setting boundaries to prevent burnout, we just keep pushing through.
And if you work in a creative field or as a solopreneur, it’s especially common. We’ll rationalize that we need to be more accommodating to clients or always be working on new content, even if you’re already burned out and overcommitted.
Don’t wait until it becomes painfully obvious (and I mean that literally!) that something is not right with your health! You can create boundaries around your time NOW, so that you’re managing stress before it becomes burnout.
Burnout Prevention Basics
Finding that slight overlap between ambition and exhaustion is the key to identifying your burnout. That is why it’s so important to create boundaries so that you’re managing stress (and burnout) even when you cannot see it.
If burnout is the result of persistent exposure to stress, then the key to identifying when you’re hitting your limit is to uncover where the line between being a go-getter and straight-up exhaustion lies for you.
Reiki expert, and author of Burning Bright: Rituals, Reiki, and Self-Care to Heal Burnout, Anxiety, and Stress, Kelsey Patel offers some signs to look out for:
- You’re hyper focused on how much there is to “always” do, to the point of anxiety or overwhelm.
- Your mind is always racing through your to-do list.
- You immediately start the next task as soon as (or even before) you’ve finished the first.
- More often than not, you feel unfulfilled in your job, and your performance may also be suffering.
Patel recommends slowing down your pace and building in short breaks between tasks. This gives you time to celebrate your small wins throughout the day. Taking a quick walk outside after a big project, meeting or event is a great way to pump your body with nitric oxide —”a vital molecule that increases blood flow, optimizes the immune system, and acts as a signaling molecule for the brain.”
How Boundaries Can Help Prevent Burnout
According to Licensed Therapist Nedra Glover Tawwab, MSW, LCSW, there are six types of boundaries: physical, emotional, time, sexual, intellectual, and material. Perhaps because it is so intangible yet so precious, time is the area that people tend to struggle with the most.
Most people also have a hard time determining how long something will take before diving in. It is SO easy to say yes to something and then realize later how much the task stresses us out and leads to burnout. By then, we feel stuck.
Tawwab puts in plainly: If you don’t have time for something you want to do, you don’t have healthy boundaries with time. So not only is good time management a must-have skill—you need to be aware of how you allow others to use your time too.
I’m sure you have experienced at least one of these common scenarios:
- A last-minute text for a “quick” yet “absolute emergency!!!” favor
- Multiple calls for total non-emergencies when you’re under a deadline
- Colleagues who ask you to barter or work for free
- Your boss asks you to work late without compensation #teamplayer
- Emotionally-draining conversations with a friend in need when you’re super busy
To help you prepare to navigate those sticky situations, Tawwab recommends journaling. Think of a time when your time boundary was violated. If you didn’t handle it well, write out a script for what you wished you had said. Try focusing on what happened and how it made you feel.
Be sure to include the best way for someone to respect your boundary in the future (because they might not know!) Then brainstorm what actions you will take if the person continues to overstep your boundary (just in case).
Scenario: You’ve got a lot going on at work today. Your friend keeps calling to talk about her day, and she’s annoyed you seem distracted.
Script: “I would love to catch up with you, but I work from 9AM until 6PM. So I’m not available to chat throughout the day. Let’s plan a time to chat one evening this week. When are you free?”
At the end of the day, you can only control your response to a situation. So this process will help you express your feelings and set a clear boundary without losing your cool.
(P.S. Tawwab runs an amazing and ultra popular Instagram account @nedratawwab that is a must follow. She’s dropping nuggets of wisdom on the daily, and she literally wrote the book on setting boundaries. 😉)
Honor Your Time
When it’s time to put your scripts to use IRL, here are a few steps to consider:
- Before you say yes to a request, make sure you have as much information as you can to make a decision. You don’t want to be surprised by a sudden deadline or a time-consuming element you didn’t realize you were agreeing to do.
- Take a realistic look at your calendar. Step into the mindset of your future self, and ask, “Will adding this new item to my plate cause too much stress for my future self?” This will help prevent you feeling resentful later about squeezing something in.
- You don’t need to respond immediately if you’re busy. As the expression goes, “Poor planning on your part does not necessitate an emergency on mine.”
Do you struggle to set and maintain boundaries around your time? Is it causing you extra stress?
If you’ve been experiencing burnout lately, give these tips a try! Let me know how it goes in the comments below or by posting in The Badass Beauty Club.
LOVE + plenty of free time!