Sometimes our days get so hectic, and we forget to slow down enough to take care of ourselves. We erase our personal boundaries and believe if we just give more, all will be okay. But this mindset can lead to burnout.
Anne Helen Petersen, author of Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation, writes:
“…the burnout condition is more than just addiction to work. It’s an alienation from the self and from desire. If you subtract your ability to work, who are you? Is there a self left to excavate?
We aren’t infinite creatures of energy. We need to have limits so we can refill. Which led me to think about personal boundaries. Then I asked myself these four questions:
I turned this into a journal writing exercise to see where my inner wisdom would lead me.
#1. What stirs my imagination?
"Imagination is the beginning of creation. Without imagination, there can be no creation.”– Pearl S. Buck
Long walks help me to get out of my head and to notice the signs of Nature. I love to daydream and follow the trails of thought bubbles. Often that leads me down a creative path of prose or poetry.
Mental note: factor in more walks throughout my week.
#2. What brings me passion?
“A well-composed book is a magic carpet on which we are wafted to a world that we cannot enter in any other way.” ― Caroline Gordon
Poetry, writing, and music are a must. I also love to learn and read. I enjoy taking a topic and discovering ways to understand it. I’m so excited when I take a new course and study. When I’m too busy, I stop doing this. Then I notice how tired I am. I’ve lost the zeal and vitality of living.
Mental note: I need to carve out time to write. What book(s) would I like to read next? What courses would I want to take and when?
#3. How do I reset myself?
“Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.” ― bell hooks
I reset myself with stillness and quietness. I take semi-naps, meaning I don’t often fall asleep, but I rest my eyes. This self-care action helps me to reset. In the evenings, I find reading, watching a movie or a show are nurturing. I’m delighted with my alone time and need it. Being too social drains me.
Mental note: alone time and quietness are essential to regain emotional regulation and more apparent heart space.
#4. Why is it hard to slow down and take breaks?
“Is there a place you can go to break away for a little while? If you haven’t yet built your treehouse, it’s never too late to start.” ― Gina Greenlee
I am an overachiever and a perfectionist, so slowing down is hard for me. However, when I do take a long weekend off, I’m more refreshed and creative.
Mental note: Schedule regular breaks throughout each month from now until the end of this year. Keep a note at the top of each week to not overschedule.
After completing this writing exercise, I felt calmer and more in control of my own space. Personal boundaries are essential to keep secure and to remind us to preserve these pockets of respite. In essence, the amount of energy we give out needs to be restored to avoid burnout. This knowledge is an ongoing process that I intend to keep revisiting and follow my needs.
Article originally published on Medium.
Carolyn Riker is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in private practice. She is also an author of three books. Her most recent book is "My Dear, Love Hasn't Forgotten You."