Marriage & Relationships,  Mental Health,  Motherhood,  Self Care

The Power of Setting Boundaries

We all have them– relationships with friends, family, coworkers, or in laws that drain you emotionally and energetically. You see the phone ring, or a text come through and you feel yourself instantly dreading the upcoming interaction. This doesn’t apply to just people and relationships, the draining feeling can arise from a variety of different situations and commitments that you have gotten yourself in to. I know for me, there has been many times that I had committed to something that I truly didn’t want to do and absolutely dreaded that commitment, which in turn, put me in a foul mood and drained my energy.

Now, I want you to take a moment and think about which relationships and commitments energize you in a positive manner and those that take a chunk of your emotional energy just at the thought of it. This is something that I didn’t realize was happening until recently as I don’t like to hurt anyones feelings which often times left me walked all over and emotionally drained. This emotional energy drainage led me to a develop a bad mood which in turn, had negative impacts on my husband and children. Once I made the connection of how frequently my ‘bad moods’ were created out of not having boundaries with these people, it was only then that I could figure out how I was going to finally establish these boundaries. After all, I didn’t want to offend anyone, but I had to start making my mental health a priority and if that offends someone, so be it.

As someone who loves to volunteer, help a friend out, and say yes to anyone who needs something from me, I frequently found myself in situations where I truly didn’t want to do something but I did it because I genuinely love being the reliable friend. I also have a tendency to over-commit to things and when you find yourself in this situation- put the commitment that is likely to drain your energy first on the chopping block!  If it was a situation that I felt obligated to participate in, that obligation already sucks the positive energy and enthusiasm out of it and sets the tone for draining my emotional energy out of the gate.

Knowing that I can get drained easily by not setting boundaries, I learned to do this little trick before I say yes to a given situation- I  take 5 minutes before I respond and really think about the situation and ask myself if I truly wanted to do it or am I feeling obligated to do it. I make a list in my head of the pros and cons and I carefully weigh how my mental energy is going to be on the day of and this helps me make a more rational decision that I won’t regret later.

Now when it comes to family members and in-laws, it can be very difficult to set boundaries because even bringing up the topic could create a potential argument. For example, I am the type of person who is a natural counselor and oftentimes my phone rings off the hook with relatives and friends who need someone to talk to. This can get overwhelming because I have my own life to tend to and when I am dealing with other people’s problems constantly, it starts to wear on you a bit. I finally had to have some conversations with the people who were really doing this far too often and low and behold, they did take some offense to it at first. However, if they truly cared about me then they would get over it and learn to respect my boundaries.

There was certain friendships where it got to a point where I had to flat out say ‘listen, I want to be here for you and support you, but I listen to the same drama every day about your husband, your kids, your mom, (etc), and it really drains me’. If you want to call me and talk about other things (or God forbid you ask how I am doing!) then I would be more than happy to do that but I can’t sit here and listen to your problems day after day’. They obviously took offense to this but sometimes people truly don’t know the impact they are having on their friend because they are so wrapped up in their own problems that they don’t recognize it. I have even been guilty of this myself! Now I think it is absolutely critical to be able to vent to your friends, however, if it is at a point where every phone call is a complete bitching session about the same damn thing, then that is going to start draining your emotional energy!

Having relationships with people who had a lot of baggage or problems was something I noticed I had far too much of. It wasn’t until I recognized that I am the type of person that loves to help people sort their problems out, that these types of people have been flocking to me for years! After I became aware of this, I had to drop many of those relationships because I was spread too thin in this category and being everyone’s personal counselor took a huge toll on my mental health. I realized that the only people that I could emotionally afford to be this person to, were the people who really cared about me and loved me. I had many friendships where it was all about them and their problems and guess what? I had to let them go. I also have many friendships where I listen to all their problems, then they will flip the switch and ask how I am doing and the conversation shifts about what is going on with me and I am confident in their genuine care and concern for me and my life. If you find yourself in any relationship where it is all about them, let that person go! 

Another tactic to help keep my emotional state in check was that I learned to start saying no without giving an explanation and if someone wants to get upset with me over that, then so be it. I had to start making my mental health a priority and if it was at the cost of people occasionally being upset with me, so be it! If you read my post about learning to say no, I give many examples on how doing so has spared me many bad moods. We only have one life and we are mothers to boot, we need to learn to start being more selfish with our time and energy and to say no when we don’t want to do something. People who genuinely love you and care for you will understand your boundaries and won’t place you in situations that will drain you. The people who drain your mental energy don’t really care or respect your mental health and are selfish (in my opinion), which is why you need to drop them like a bad habit.

Doing so can be a daunting task because if you are anything like me, you truly don’t want to offend or hurt them, however, when it comes to your mental health or potentially offending them, which one are you willing to sacrifice? Real friends and real meaningful relationships will survive and respect the boundaries that you need to have in place.

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