Many of you have made the incredible decision to venture out and create your own ladder to climb. Along the way, others may have warned you of the potential risks, the ups and downs or the unpredictability that may come with such a path, but you paid them no mind. You have either already been swiftly navigating such hurdles or have the confidence necessary to tackle whatever may obstruct your vision down the road.
The tools required for such an endeavor are already ones you possess. But, to make these tools and your greatest assets consistently shine, you must prioritize your mental health. By learning how to set healthy boundaries and prioritize restorative practice you will not only avoid burnout but maintain presence throughout your quest.
Most people tend to hear the word ‘boundary’ and associate it with rigidity or something that is selfish in nature. I have worked with so many women over the years that are highly empathetic and therefore tend to struggle with boundaries and mental health. The struggle stems from the belief that boundaries are restrictive and omits the filter of care and concern they use when interacting with others. These women are prone to falling into the dangerous cycle of rescuing others, solving for others, all the while forgetting to factor themselves into the equation. Their voices and needs are repeatedly suppressed which only creates a personal disconnect and leads to exhaustion. Don’t get me wrong, empathy is an admirable, amazing human quality (probably one of the best), but it is one that comes with great responsibility.
Boundary setting requires a high level of self-awareness and the ability to identify your patterns and triggers. Mainly the ones that leave you feeling stressed, incapable and depleted. The goals that you have created for yourself are worthy and achievable but will be obstructed if your basic needs are compromised and you neglect the importance of rejuvenation. Simply put, take a step back and make time for all the areas of your life to create a sense of balance.
Take care of yourself first
As you cultivate your business and lead those you have welcomed on your journey, adopt the mindset of ‘support and not solve.’ Take the pauses necessary to identify what is yours to own and what you need to release. Women naturally operate by using a ‘group-think’ mentality. We tend to be hyper-aware of the needs and feelings of those around us, which again is a positive trait. But, we consistently alter our behavior to appease others, avoid confrontation, or prevent others from experiencing feelings that are hard to feel. We internalize, all the while neglecting ourselves. This simply means that our minds begin to fill in the gaps or create closure by falsely taking ownership of what is simply not ours to own or navigate.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What is it that makes you tick and wanting more?
- What makes you feel a sense of accomplishment? Is it working out, writing down your thoughts, having a connected conversation with someone, or enjoying a walk by yourself?
- When do you feel present and connected?
- Are you prone to multitasking?
- Does your mind retrace conversations and decisions through the lens of judgment?
Do you take on emotional pieces of the puzzle that are not yours?
One of my clients several years ago suffered a great deal of trauma as a child and teen. She realized at a young age the space for her to feel and express was not available in her household. She was conditioned to take others’ feelings into consideration before her own, dismissed her own and constantly operated on a level motivated by guilt. The analogy of a jigsaw puzzle was used throughout her time in therapy. As we worked through certain experiences and conversations from her past, she began to realize all the puzzle pieces she had created and taken ownership of were truly not hers. They only created anxiety and fueled her eating disorder. No one likes to see a puzzle with missing pieces, so we tend to internalize and falsely take ownership of certain pieces and hope that the puzzle will be made whole, orderly and restored.
As you move through your professional life, notice how you interact with others. Do you quickly give advice and solve? Or do you actively listen, validate and ask questions that empower others to problem solve and take ownership of what is theirs to own? Practice checking in with yourself to identify what your role is and where your ownership lies. If there is confusion, initiate a conversation to gather more info which will lead to a better understanding of your reactions and next steps.
Take ownership of your triggers and prioritize the experiences and self-care practices that reset and re-energize so that you can continue to be the badass you have set out to be.
Mindfulness practice 101
This can be done anywhere or at any time.
- Take a deep breath.
- Scan through your 5 senses starting with what you see. Notice the details, colors and shapes.
- What do you hear? Take in these sounds and the tempo of your breath.
- Tap into what you smell or how the air feels as you inhale.
- Scan your body? How do your clothes feel? Are you warm or cold? How does your body feel at this moment in this environment?
- Finally, what do you taste? Do you have coffee breath or does your jaw feel tight or relaxed?
Mental health fo resilience
Just notice and soak up your surroundings. There is no judgment or immediate need to change or fix anything. Just be, just notice, just stay in the here and now.
You are engaging a part of your brain that does not welcome stress, anxiety, or past and future thinking. It only encourages presence. This mental health practice is very similar to stretching a tight muscle. When you stretch, you feel the sensation of the muscle responding and perhaps the breakdown of lactic acid and restriction. This stretch may not heal all, but it’s a start. It’s a way to reset and signal to your body that you are receiving its signals and responding. Your mind works the same way. Be proactive and consistent with practices that encourage you to be present and reset.
You are on a mission, one that requires resilience. Resilience is something you earn through practice and consistency. It requires a healthy mindset, time for reflection and the ability to be present with your feelings.
No doubt that you have plenty of drive, passion and intelligence. Don’t forget though that in order to avoid burnout and build resilience, you must prioritize your mental health. Be deliberate and make time to rejuvenate, prioritize self-care and practice presence.
Off you go!
About Leah Marone, MSW, LCSW
Leah Marone is a psychotherapist who specializes in anxiety, depression, grief/trauma and sports psychology. By having a variety of clinical roles in various states and countries, she has developed diverse professional experience and a global perspective. Currently, Marone sees individuals and families at her practice in Charlotte, NC. She is also sought out by corporations to work with executives and teams on improving communication, productivity and job satisfaction.
Marone grew up in Indiana with a basketball in hand. Sports not only encouraged growth on a number of levels, but the experiences challenged her to become more comfortable with vulnerability. She completed her master’s in Austin, TX and then proceeded to allow the “travels bug” to take over. Her passion for adventure has not dwindled, simply morphed with motherhood. Marone and her husband strive to provide their two daughters with the tools to gain confidence to seek out their own adventures every day.