Setting Healthy Boundaries for Self-Preservation
There should be no shame in putting yourself first, right?
There should be no shame in putting yourself first, right? Well, it sounds selfish and sometimes almost unrealistic when you factor in kids and all the responsibilities that come with them. But for the sake of your own mental, physical and spiritual health, you must choose yourself, first. And you’ll be better for it. This is not by any means a selfish act, it’s the act of self-love and self-preservation. Self-preservation is defined as preservation of oneself from harm or destruction. It happens to be our strongest instinct; and while it may be natural to protect ourselves physically, maybe not so much emotionally. We trust that fight or flight will kick in when our life or the lives of family members are threatened, but what is our trigger for emotional stress? The trigger that tells us our emotional tank is empty and it’s time to refuel. Stress affects our mood, self-esteem, and our behavior. Exposure to excessive loads of stress leads to burnout, depression, and emotional anxiety. If you’re a working wife and mother, you are likely the machine that keeps things going; you are everything to everybody. To others, you do what you do flawlessly and without much effort or complaints. That’s why they call on you. But you know the mental and emotional gymnastics you perform daily to continue that juggling act. It’s time to reverse the gears on autopilot and tune into a different channel. The channel that signals you to pay attention to your emotional needs and start setting some healthy boundaries.
While your family members and friends mean no harm, they have likely grown accustomed to taking advantage of your emotional strength and availability. And can you really blame them? If you are a giver, you have consciously or mostly unconsciously created this unhealthy pattern. You’ve set yourself up to be an emotional dumpster. You are the fixer, the listener, the logical thinker, and the voice of reason. And while others appreciate your emotional strength; you also wear it like a badge of honor. So here is the emotional catch 22, which leads you to be an emotional mess. It’s important to create emotional space to preserve your own value, self-love, and well-being. With that said, self-preservation will require you to cut people out of your life that are energy zappers. These are the people that wear you down emotionally. You may not feel comfortable or it may not be possible to cut them completely out of your life, but establishing limitations is also effective. And by doing so, you are not lessening the value of the relationship. In fact, those limitations put the relationship on a path that leads to mutual respect, consideration, and appreciation. Those three attributes are reason enough to start blazing the trail.
So when the next crisis strikes, examine how you feel in that moment or conversation. Take immediate notice of your mood and your energy level. You are likely to go into overdrive because by nature you are a real problem solver, but what do you feel afterwards? Are you drained, has your mood shifted, can you concentrate? What are the physical changes? Are you clinching your teeth, shoulders tight, headache, feeling anxious? The physical effects of stress are the first that we become aware of, however our emotions trigger the physical response. Emotional awareness is an opportunity to escape the physical stress that causes havoc on our health and well-being.
As the problem-solver and fixer you demonstrate extraordinary courage. Healthy people set healthy boundaries and healthy boundaries lead to healthy relationships. Today use that same courage to protect and preserve what you value. Hopefully that is you.