If you’re often described as “selfless” by others and you find yourself saying yes when you really want to say no, you may need some help setting boundaries. This is especially true if you feel anxious and depleted most of the time.
According to behavioral science professor and clinician Kristen Lee Ed.D., LICSW many of us have trouble setting boundaries because of FOMO (fear of missing out), perfectionism, and social conditioning in which our tendencies are tied up in what we do for other people.1 Setting boundaries is even more difficult for women, who often feel the pressure to overperform due to gender, cultural or religious norms.
While doing good deeds for others is admirable, there comes a time when selflessness can lead to stress and burnout. Find out how to detect when you’re overworked, signs you need to set stricter boundaries, and what you can do to reinstate balance in your life.
How to Detect When You’re Overworked
One of the hardest places to set boundaries is at work, even if you work from home. A recent study revealed that 47 percent of remote workers in the US were concerned about the blurred boundaries between their jobs and personal lives, leading to more working hours and more stress.2
You may be overworked if you find yourself:
- Having trouble disconnecting when your work day is done
- Working overtime on a regular basis
- Feeling like you’re always playing catch up
- Getting sick more often than usual
- Not being able to fall asleep
- Missing out on time with family and friends
- Feeling like you’ve lost your passion for your work
Signs You Need to Set Stricter Boundaries
For some of us, the difficulty in setting boundaries occurs in our personal relationships. From having trouble saying no to feeling tired all the time, here are some signs you need to set stricter boundaries:
- You feel anxious, irritable, and stressed out all the time
- You constantly feel exhausted without knowing why
- Making decisions is a challenge
- You hate letting people down
- You’re overly focused on what other people think of you
- You tend to overshare
As a result of the stress and anxiety that comes with giving too much of yourself, you may also experience the following symptoms:
- Muscle tension
- Digestive issues
- Lack of motivation
Setting boundaries takes practice, but the following steps may help:
1. Practice Self-Awareness
You may not even realize how tense or agitated you get when you answer every phone call that comes in, or when you give in to yet another request from that friend who depends on you too much. But practicing self-awareness can help you identify this tension or agitation by tuning into your mind and body. Too busy to take that call? Instead of answering and feeling overwhelmed, try letting it go to voicemail. Instead of giving in to your friend’s request and feeling secretly resentful, simply apologize and decline.
2. Give Yourself the OK to Focus on You
Initially, saying no when you’re so accustomed to saying yes can make you feel a bit guilty. But this guilt is a result of putting the needs of others first and denying that your own needs matter too. Give yourself permission to focus on you, what you like, and what you need.
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3. Sit with Your Feelings: Identify Your Needs
Setting boundaries helps teach others about your values, needs, and limits. Even more, it helps people understand how you want to be treated. But you cannot teach this to others if you don’t know what your values, needs, or limits are. Take some time to sit with your feelings and simply decide what matters to you. Try to let go of judgment and worry about what others might think of your needs while letting yourself be truly honest about who you are.
4. Start Small
Don’t pressure yourself to change overnight. To make boundaries sustainable, start small. By enforcing boundaries a little at a time, you have more opportunity to reflect on your needs, the changes you desire, and the relationships you value. If you’ve gotten in the habit of taking on too much at work or working overtime regularly, you may want to have a talk with your manager about expectations and what changes you will be making.
5. Be Direct in Your Communication
Clear communication is essential when setting boundaries. You may be used to skirting around topics to avoid confrontation, but there are ways to communicate your needs without being confrontational. According to U.K.-based psychologist Dr. Tara Quinn-Cirillo, a statement like this might help if someone in your life messages you nonstop: “I can see you really wanted to get hold of me, but the best thing to do is drop me a message, and I’ll get back to you when I can.”3 This gently highlights their inappropriate behavior while asserting your boundary.
6. Stay Consistent with the Boundaries You’ve Set
Boundaries only stay in place if you’re consistent about them. Being firm one day but lenient the next sends the message that your boundaries are not to be taken seriously. Try your best to follow the rules you’ve laid out so that others do the same.
7. If You Need Extra Support, Seek Help
You don’t have to do it all alone. Seeking extra support from a counselor or therapist can help you get to the root of why you have trouble saying no. They can also help you identify what needs you’ve been denying yourself in striving to please others.
If overextending yourself is causing stress and anxiety, you can also use a homeopathic medication like Brillia to help. Free from harsh, synthetic chemicals and harmful side effects, Brillia helps to reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress through targeted antibodies to the S100B protein, which plays a key role in many different intracellular and extracellular brain processes. Without causing drowsiness or lingering in the body, Brillia enhances clarity and focus while helping you feel more mentally and emotionally balanced.
Brillia is part of a holistic approach that encourages healthy lifestyle habits as a first line of defense against stress and anxiety. The medication works best in tandem with proper nutrition, adequate sleep, controlled screen time, and mindfulness practices.
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