“The appropriate uses of the words ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ make more room for love.” – SARK
As a caregiver, you will be asked to do a lot. Whether explicitly or inadvertently, you will be asked to provide emotional support and help with day-to-day tasks, such as cooking meals, driving your loved one to appointments, or assist with personal care. Knowing your boundaries and affirming them is essential to prevent burnout and to make sure you are caring for yourself with the same love and attention that you give to others.
Your personal boundaries are unique to who you are and what you allow in to your life. Maintaining or creating boundaries is not selfish – it is essential if you wish to take care of yourself. Personal boundaries are not inflexible; they can shift and change and grow. What’s important is that you honour the boundaries you’ve created for yourself when you need to so that you do not burn out or become resentful of what’s been asked of you. People and so many other things in life will test your boundaries over and over again. Without knowing yourself and what your limits are, you might feel that you are often “walked on” or that you feel a general lack of control in what happens to you.
If you struggle with setting boundaries in your own life…
…please remember to be gentle with yourself. People have a hard time setting boundaries for a number of reasons, but it usually stems from the way you are raised and what you learned about what you need to do to be accepted and loved. Learning to set strong personal boundaries can be hard work! Please reach out to a counselor or health care professional if you are realizing you need to do some more work around boundary setting.
If you would like some tips for setting boundaries in your caregiving journey…
…read on for a helpful exercise! Implementing some simple strategies can help you to maintain your boundaries and prevent taking on too many things, or situations that you are not comfortable with.
The Stop-Look-Listen System
From Better Boundaries: Owning and Treasuring Your Life, By Jan Black & Greg Enns
“When you are faced with a choice, you stop before moving ahead, look over the situation, and listen-to yourself, to your intuition, to the wisdom of trusted advisors, or to what your experience has taught you.”
STOP | Stop right before you make a choice. If you are at the store deciding whether or not to overspend, on the phone deciding what date is best for a family reunion, or at work debating an offer to take on a new project even though you haven’t finished the last one, stop long enough to clear your head and review your options.
LOOK | Look at the situation from more than one perspective. Ask the following questions:
- What is my motive for making this choice?
- Will it hurt me?
- Will it hurt others?
- Would I choose this option for someone I love?
- Can I change my mind? If not, am I sure I want to make a final decision right now?
- What would the people I trust suggest I do?
LISTEN | In your mind, try to “hear” these tips from people who have become experts at making choices.
- Listen to your gut, is it telling you that you’re being pressured in to saying “yes”?
- If someone is pressuring you, remove yourself from the situation.
- Don’t make an important decision when you’re desperate.
- “Let me think about it” are five words to speak often. Things usually look different the next morning – either better or worse.
Cassandra Van Dyck