What I am about to say will set you free. If I had known what I know now I would never have burned out to the extent that I did.
I remember it vividly: I was a new grad so cue the imposter syndrome and people-pleasing. I was a “yes person” to the extreme. I remember working 12 shifts in a row and at one point remember thinking to myself, “what am I doing? I am so miserable.” I didn’t know how to set a limit and I sure as heck didn’t feel confident enough to say anything other than “sure, sounds good!”
I wanted to be respected, be viewed as a team player, and for people to be like, “wow she’s such a great NP! Look at her!” I was looking to others to determine my worth…something I now know is a slippery slope that leads to to being overwhelmed, overworked, overcommitmented, and most importantly guilt.
So here’s the deal: I’m not going to hold you on the edge of your seat for too long. I am going to tell you the secret and then give you the scoop on how to implement the tools that will legitimately change your life when keeping burnout at bay.
The secret is BOUNDARIES.
BOUNDARIES will set you free. I honestly wish they taught this in nursing school because it would have saved me a lot of time, energy, and therapy.
I know, we hear the word boundaries and we immediately feel uncomfortable. We all hate having those difficult conversations, but at the end of the day which would you prefer – a hard conversation or a hard life?
At this point in my career, I will take the hard conversation 100% of the time. But it’s because I have unlearned all the things that kept me in people-pleasing mode. I now understand that even though boundary setting feels incredibly socially threatening, my own peace, time, and energy are far more important. People that have issues with your boundaries are simply the people that are looking to exploit your kindness and willingness to sacrifice your own needs.
Maybe you fear that you will sound lazy, that you will let someone down or that you will appear unreliable. But the fact is we can unlearn the idea that we have to be 100% available 100% of the time. As people pleasers we often feel that our availability and willingness to help equals love, respect, and praise. But here’s the thing…you MUST be self-protective. Because at the end of the day others will exploit that and ask more and more from you. You aren’t a robot. You are a human being.
Boundaries are just a limit.
We have limits because we have limited resources. Boundaries are just a line in the sand, an allocation of your resources. They are not an emotional exchange. You are allowed to recognize where your limits are, and use your voice to deploy them and it’s 100% healthy to enforce them and stand firm. You get to decide.
So here are a few things to remember as you flex your boundary-setting muscle.
- It’s not all or nothing. Boundaries can evolve just like your needs and desires evolve. It doesn’t always mean “no.” A boundary could be a “yes, but” or a “yes, and”
- It’s better not to wait until your breaking point to set a boundary. Be self-protective!
- Boundaries are not a threat! It is just a clear expression about what your limits are.
- Don’t get paralyzed by the “what ifs.” Don’t try to predict how it’s going to go. Be clear on what you are protecting and be willing to be disliked in order to represent yourself.
- Saying “no” doesn’t mean you are a bad person or a bad nurse.
- Boundaries are not always with other people. It could be with yourself or even your phone!
- It is NOT better to suffer silently and rage quit three months later than to just have a hard possibly uncomfortable conversation now.
Boundaries will set you free and you are worthy of them. You’ve got this!
For free resources for all things nurse wellbeing, burnout prevention and setting boundaries with ease come and hang with me on Instagram @catalystforselfcare or check out my website www.selfcarecatalyst.com. You aren’t meant to do life or nursing alone.