I have been in a state of exhaustion over the last few months. And I'm talking burnt out, don't want to talk to anyone, can only handle one main task per day kind of exhausted.
It feels like no matter how many boundaries I have tried to set up, they keep getting squashed. And I keep fighting back for the sake of my health and well-being. It is frustrating to feel that people are not being respectful of the boundaries that I'm setting - so I ask myself this question "Am I not communicating these boundaries in an effective manner?"
I believe the answer is both yes and no. I do believe I am effectively communicating these boundaries, but I do not think I am communicating them with enough force/conviction. I end up feeling bad when I disappoint people, so I often "soften the edges" of the boundaries to accommodate people.
While I know that I am acting as my own worst enemy, I struggle to be firm with people, especially certain people. Good friends who don't fully understand how burnt out I am, or family members who mean well, are all part of the constant drain on my energy. Between keeping up with my regular household chores/duties, my job, and other life demands, I am finding that even a visit with a good friend is energy sapping. So with my one task per day rule in hand, here are my strategies to maintain my sanity:
1. Schedule only as much as you can mentally, physically, and emotionally handle.
This sounds so much easier than it really is. As humans, we tend to busy ourselves - so limiting our calendars sounds easy, but is actually very easy to overdo. This step might mean saying no to a lot of activities, social outings, and friends. It might even be stuff that you want to do - DON'T DO IT! There will always be another activity or outing that you can join in on at a later date when time is permitting. Or, if it really is a "can't miss" type of activity, then schedule that as your one and only for the day.
2. Communicate effectively with others
Sometimes this means saying the same thing over and over again to the same people. You might feel like a broken record - keep saying it if it needs to be said. If the message seems to be falling on deaf ears, you might need to rethink what you are saying and how you are saying it. Maybe it needs to be a bit more emphatic - or maybe you need to tone it back a bit. Try to tailor your message to your audience. The way you might say something to your best friend might be different than the way you say something to your mother-in-law! Your communication does not always have to give a reason for your response either; for example, sometimes it is ok to simply say "no, that day/time/event does not work for me." Yet, for others you might want to explain your absence. The goal here is to communicate what you need with other people so that they can respect the boundaries you have set.
3. Stand up for yourself.
If someone is not respecting your boundaries, you need to take action. Depending on what and who, this action might look different. If you have a family member who thinks they are always welcome at any time, even though you have set a boundary that is counter to that, you might need to take more drastic action. It might be a hard conversation with them, it might be changing the locks to your home, or it might be asking someone to advocate on your behalf. The thing to remember is that you are trying to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally - it isn't wrong to take care of yourself, in fact it is one of the most important things to do!
4. Make sure you are getting good rest.
Sleep has such a huge impact on our lives, and if we are not sleeping well/enough it can create many many problems. Make sure that you are allowing yourself enough time to rest and sleep so that you can be in a good mental, emotional, and physical state. There are a lot of sleep hygiene practices that you can search for optimal sleep - things like turning off your screens an hour before going to bed, and creating a cool, dark space to sleep. If you are having trouble sleeping, make sure to talk to your Doctor about it - we are nothing without good rest!
5. Remember that this time in your life will not last forever
Being exhausted and burnt out is not fun. But remember that it doesn't last forever. Each one of us goes through ups and down in our lives - certain times are harder and require more of us and other times are easy and we can go with the flow. While you might be feeling down and like you are missing out on a lot of stuff, remember that this time is temporary and you have better days ahead!