We've all heard the expression "fences make good neighbors." What we haven't heard enough of is "save yourself." This is something I recommend because it is life preserving at the most basic level.
Despite what a lot of us have been taught, giving until it hurts is not the best way to go. It builds resentment for your heart, fatigue for your body and negative, recurring thoughts for your mind. Giving of yourself when your own cup is full AND you have the time AND you have the energy and the interest is the way to go. There's the boundary.
What about time as a boundary? During covid everything started running into everything else. What day is it? What time is it? It's "Blurrsday O'Clock." That's not a boundary. That's confusion that creates stress because you don't know what you should be doing when, for how long or where. Your bed is not an office.
Now that covid is receding (is it?)--I find that I have to be very clear about my time and how much I can give and where--and for how long. The world is still in a stressful crisis state. It is still taking its wicked toll. I just don't have as much energy reserves as I used to, to be in public spaces for extended periods of time, and I am an extrovert! It's true. The stimulation, the disappointment with no staffing at places, no products, prices, etc. is not a reminder I want to keep facing. There's the boundary. Leave before you feel ready to run.
How about boundaries around your heart? The emotional, sentimental you? I find this to be one of the trickiest boundaries to enforce. If you have people who disappoint for whatever reason, and you find yourself in their company (maybe they hang on your family tree)--instead of being frustrated by them, create a boundary around your heart. Wish ill will towards no one starting with yourself. Pray for them, hope for them, steer them in the right direction, but don't unravel for them. You don't have emotional reserves to continue being let down. This takes empathy and practice.
Boundaries around your mind are about awareness of unhelpful thoughts. They jump in like ants at a picnic and steal your joy. Once you notice yourself thinking unhelpful thoughts (I hate laundry, but I am looking at a mountain of it.) you can challenge those thoughts with another more helpful thought (Laundry, not my favorite--but I want clean clothes.) which will train your brain to go towards the positive. After all, you don't have to like laundry to do it. Do what needs to be done so you can be freed up for what you'd like to be enjoying. Healthy boundary again.
I know there are soul sucking people out there who would very much like you to behave the way you always have--and for you to do for them what you've always done. If you have gotten to a point in your life where you no longer want to play that game, then it's time to put boundaries around your heart, mind/body and time. Start not returning calls or texts so quickly. Start rehearsing "NO" as a complete sentence. Start getting busy with the hobbies, activities, volunteer jobs, self care routines that you'd like to be doing. Saying NO will be a lot easier. There is a boundary around your time. Your time is booked for YOU.
This doesn't mean you don't help people. This doesn't mean you wish bad things for others. This doesn't mean you are heartless. This does mean that you are not available for things that are not important to you anymore. I have had to give up activities that I really liked because I did not have the emotional energy for them--which made me feel that my time was being taken advantage of--which left me feeling resentful--even though I was the one who started the whole thing. You cannot pour goodness from an empty cup of resentment.
So, check in with yourself. Are you protecting yourself in a healthy way so that you are not giving away too much? Are you feeling good about how you spend your time and with whom? Are you filling your cup or draining it lately? Are you feeling stressed about life so much so that you don't want to extend yourself? Can you be honest about letting go of what no longer serves you--so that you can get more of what you really want? Give yourself a chance to notice, and then get to work on creating those very protective boundaries. You will gain more energy, feel more contentment and live your precious life with more intention, purpose and awareness. You deserve that.
P.S. I am teaching a Yoga/Qi Gong and Meditation for Peace (your peace) class on Thursday July 21 at 7PM on ZOOM.
This is a donation based class (suggested donation is $10) that can be paid on Venmo or Zelle or PayPal. This is a class for all bodies and all abilities including people who want to sit in a chair the entire time. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will send you the link. MORE PEACE, YES PLEASE.