For as long as I can remember, I put 100% into everything that I did. Between school, extracurriculars, and work, I ran myself so thin that I never relaxed. I think it was because I was always told that relaxing was lazy, so I never let myself have time. Once I started teaching, I kept that mindset and drove myself to burnout in less than one year.
I still find that I put everything I have into what I do, but I started setting boundaries. I make sure that I spend time relaxing every day because I can feel my mental health deteriorate if I don’t. These past few weeks, I’ve been really thinking about boundaries on the work that I do and emotional boundaries.
Surrounding Myself with Positive People
I am an emotional person, and I tend to get emotionally invested in everyone around me. When someone close to me is upset or negative, I find myself trying to cheer them up. I’ve started noticing some people in my life are always negative, and I’m using up all my patience and positivity on them instead of saving some for myself.
A few weeks ago, I was dragging myself through my daily routines, and I was in a nasty mood. I couldn’t seem to find anything positive about what was going on, and I couldn’t stop complaining. I knew it was silly, but I couldn’t figure out how to pull myself out of it. The first thing I decided that I had to do was make sure that the people around me were worth having around.
A few people continuously talking negatively and arguing with anything positive I said. Thinking back, I couldn’t remember the last time these friends had supported me or accepted my support. The friendship had been strained for a while. I decided to set boundaries with those friends, and I’m going to stop investing so much of my energy into any negative conversations.
Writing is an outlet for me, so journaling is a natural solution to negativity. I used to journal all of the negative parts of my day, thinking that “getting them out” will free space in my brain for the positive parts. When this didn’t work, I didn’t understand why. With talking to my therapist, he told me to journal things that are going right. So much has been going wrong these past few years, but so much had been going right too. The difference in mindset is recognizing the bad but remembering the good.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been journaling every day. I write three or four things going right every day and then write a little bit about what I did for the day. Since starting this, I feel like my brain feels calmer, and my mood has improved drastically.
I was taught that sitting on the couch and reading a book for the whole day is lazy. Reading has always been an escape and something that relaxes me, but reading for too long made me feel guilty. Now that I realize how important self-care is, I will sit and read a whole book in one sitting if it’s good. Self-care isn’t just taking a bubble bath and doing a face mask. Self-care is doing something that you enjoy. If I want to sit and read or listen to a podcast, I will do that.
The saying is, “you can’t fill from an empty cup,” and I’ve been trying to live by that. Because of how exhausting being a teacher is, I have to make sure I take time for myself to be the best teacher I can be. Since I started setting boundaries and taking time for myself, I know that I’ve been a better teacher.
Knowing My Limits
When playing sports, coaches will tell athletes to know their limits. It could be dangerous if they didn’t. I think everyone needs to know their limits regarding work, relationships, and emotional boundaries. I’ve worked on the work and relationship boundaries within the past few years, but my emotional boundaries are still blurry.
For some reason, in the United States, we pride ourselves on the number of hours we work and how much we take on. It’s not healthy and needs to stop. I’m tired of people thinking that working an eight-hour workweek is more impressive than raising a family and spending time with them. At work, you are 100% replaceable, but at home, you aren’t.
On the other side of things, family is important, but not all family members deserve your time and energy. We don’t get to choose our families, and just because someone raised you or shares blood with you doesn’t mean that they deserve respect. Before you get upset, I’m talking about abusive situations. If you are in an abusive family situation, you don’t have to stick around just because they’re family. Healthy relationships are those where both parties are contributing to the relationship.
Emotional boundaries are tougher. I’m still working on mine, so I am by no means an expert. Emotional boundaries are separating your feelings from someone else’s. As someone who has a strong sense of empathy, I find it really hard not to let someone else’s emotions affect my own. I don’t know how many people have emotional boundary issues. Just know that you aren’t the reason why other people are feeling the way that they do. Being there for someone and supporting them doesn’t mean that you have to feel the same thing.
If you’re interested in learning more about mental health, you can read more about the benefits of journaling. You can also read steps to setting better emotional boundaries. Another good read is this article on different types of relationship boundaries. Happy learning!