Throughout ten years of clinical practice in the healthcare of women, I’ve had such a variety of experiences. Some of them were amazing, like witnessing childbirth. Others were deeply sorrowful; there’s no easy way to tell a woman she has a concerning breast mass and I’ve done that WAY too many times. Overall, though, when I look at what made the greatest impression on me, it is certainly the very prevalent theme of women feeling exhausted and overwhelmed and, yet, telling me that they simply could not see any place in their lives to make space.
Some years ago, several nationwide news agencies reported on a study indicating that women apologize far more frequently than men and they do so, apparently, because women perceive that they offend people more easily (i.e. men will apologize as readily as women when they think they’ve hurt someone but they just don’t find themselves as offensive). In reading those articles, I had to wonder if we women are so relentlessly prone to taking on too much and overbooking our lives to the point of exhaustion because we are simply afraid we might offend someone by saying “no.”
Certainly, for all of us, the more important news is that healthy child bearing, competent parenting and managing chronic illness all require that we embrace the idea that we can – nay, must – start saying “no” without guilt or apology. I have been working on this for several years and I can happily report that while my house is messier and my children’s school functions are occasionally short-staffed, I am happier, better rested, and more focused on the tasks I choose to take on.
Like all life change, this process of learning to set boundaries can start small and bloom. Rather than working harder to do more to make up for your perceived shortcomings or meet the needs of those around you, it may be that doing less is really the answer. You might work on keeping your obligations down to only one or two outside of the bare necessities of life. Commit to less, promise less, expect less than perfection at every turn and allow for more space and time around your commitments with a mandatory slot of time for self-care (whether that be staring at the wall, getting a massage, watching trashy t.v. or getting a massage). You will feel better and then, of course, you will be better at the things that matter most to you.
As for our bodies, even when they are stressed with pregnancy, sleep-deprivation or chronic illness, they have any amazing capacity to be pushed past their limit and keep going. However, they will rarely do this without sending us a message or a request. A useful tool to feeling better is to simply stop for a moment a few times per day to assess what the body needs and then work toward providing it. Often, a fifteen minute rest, a better pair of shoes, a dose of fresh air, some quick stretches or a serving of protein will give you more mileage in the long run.
If you’ve tried and just can’t seem to extract yourself from the weight of poor boundaries, please consider working with a professional. Licensed therapists and/or life coaches are often very good at helping people to learn boundary setting. Also, if clinical depression, anxiety or other mental health issues are preventing you from making progress, it’s time to bring this up with your providers and start on the road to recovery.
About the Author
Kathi Kuntz, RN, MSN holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree in Nursing from the University of Pennsylvania. Her specialization is in the healthcare of women and her graduate research thesis was on autoimmune disease in pregnancy. She has over ten years of clinical practice experience. Currently, Kathi is on an adventure living and traveling with her husband and two young sons in Australia.
This blog post was originally published by AutoimmuneMom.com, written by Kathi Kuntz, and first published on Oct 25, 2012.