Do you find yourself feeling tired, sluggish, pessimistic about your job? Have you felt “the grind” doing wear and tear on your relationships, mood, and social interaction? Have you lost the motivation and drive you once had when you began? If so, you may be missing a key aspect of work/life balance called self-care.
We are always being torn from one responsibility to another, whether it be home, work, or family life, to-do lists are always overflowing. It’s easy to allow this to become an anxiety provoking and create stress in your own life that translates outside of the workplace. Companies and organizations are always demanding more of your time, your energy, and your brain power to work for their own benefits. It’s time to stop and ask yourself, what have I done to protect my own well-being recently?
As a middle school guidance counselor, I provide support and encouragement to the entire school community. Frequently this includes helping our teaching staff becoming non-reactive with students, and understanding thoughts, emotions, and actions that are leading to conflict in student-teacher relationships. Speaking with my colleague the other day I realized many professionals struggle tremendously with creating healthy boundaries at work. We feel obligated to say “yes” anytime an opportunity is presented our way. Whether we believe this will be the next step to that promotion, or increase our annual performance evaluation we justify that it is, “the right thing to do” to be a yes person. I’m here to dispute this myth. Always saying “yes” when you feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and are in need of some serious self-care can do more harm than good. Although you may feel you are doing a service for your company, if you are not in the right mindset you may actually be hindering the goals you are working towards instead of helping them.
During my guidance lessons, I speak tremendously about boundaries. Working with the middle school population, this is a very foreign idea for many of my students. I notice this is also foreign in the American workplace. Instead of giving ourselves time to reboot, recharge, and refuel, we stretch ourselves to the point of no return which eventually can lead to professional burnout. You may be burnt out if you feel apathetic at work, sluggish. and overall lost a sense of joy waking up to do what you love in the morning.
Luckily there is some simple steps you can do to stop being the “yes” person and begin being a contentious employee who sets clear and concise boundaries:
1. Make a list of one thing you are doing for yourself each day
It can be a large or small thing such as drinking your favorite tea, having a conversation with a friend, or treating yourself to a manicure. Everyday it is important to embrace the little moments we have for self care. Try to incorporate one each day, and transition to incorporating these moments throughout your work day. I enjoy beginning my day listening to an audio book on my drive to work, this gets me in a positive mindset. I create short “Brain Breaks” for myself such as 10 am coffee, a walk around the building, etc. to make sure I’m making the little moments count! Find what works for you a stick to it!
2. Say “No” more often
This may be the hardest step of self-care. As humans, we are created to be social beings. We care tremendously about relationships, our reputation, and how others perceive us. As you begin to set boundaries in your life and say “no” to working that third weekend this month you may feel a sense of guilt. Acknowledge this feeling by stating to yourself “I am feeling guilty right now, AND I am doing this to better myself to be a better employee overall”. Allow yourself to feel your guilt for a short period of time and then move on. Guilt can only be helpful to a certain extent before it can lead to anxiety and self-shame.
3. If you find yourself still struggling, think about talking to a professional
Sometimes an outside observer who is not personally invested in your journey can provide depth and understanding to certain situations. If you find yourself still struggling contacting a therapist is a wonderful step towards gaining your independence and vigor for life back! If you’re in a field that is no longer bringing you happiness, it’s OK to have a fresh start! After all, we spend most of our lives in our workplace! Make sure it’s a positive place that is fostering growth in your life instead of sucking you dry of your energy and happiness.
When you follow these steps, it may be shocking at first for your administration or supervisor at first to accept this transition. One piece of advice as you move towards creating healthy boundaries to remember is the word “No” is a full sentence. When we say “no”, we feel the need to justify or over explain the reasoning, when in reality we do not owe this to anyone. The feeling of guilt is designed to help us reflect and problem solve; however, when it becomes obsessive we tend to self-shame, become overwhelmed, and avoid the real problems. If your mind, body, and soul is craving some “me” time listen! At the end of the day, you are doing a service to yourself and your company to take a step back and preventing long-term career burnout.
If you are struggling with career burnout, work/life balance, and setting boundaries contact me at 405-323-1786 For a FREE consultation.
Michelle Smith, MS, RMHCI