Many of my clients have difficulty living the life they want and need to feel truly happy. They struggle with expectations placed on them by others, feelings of guilt if they put themselves first and most days feel like they cannot catch their breathe. Trauma therapy, like EMDR for example, can help you to end old patterns and put yourself first. Self-care isn't selfish- I know it's a clique but it is true. You need to take care of you to be your best self for your family, friends and career. If this is speaking to you, strap in- I have some Pro-tips for you.
What is most important to you? List 3 things. Could be family, honesty, integrity, compassion, trust etc. Then you need to start seeing if your actions actually align with your values. Those that do keep at them- those that don't make an effort to change them. For example, if you choose "family, compassion and health" and you are offered an additional work shift. Is taking this shift detracting from your family time? Do you need a mental health break or day off to take care of you? If so say no. If it's to help a colleague who is going through a rough time and you feel you have enough time on another day to take care of you and spend time with family and you want to honor that "compassion" value you can also say yes. Seeing how our actions are in align with our values helps us to begin living a life that makes us happy- not a life that is spent trying to appease or please others.
In set with setting those values is setting up some boundaries with those around us. When we have no boundaries- meaning we having difficulty saying no or often do things out of pleasing others even if it's not what we want- we continue to feel exhausted, unhappy and overwhelmed. Boundaries despite what childhood may have taught you are actually healthy.
Saying "No I'm sorry I can't go out tonight", "No I won't be able to take on that extra project with my current workload as it stands" or "I would appreciate if you refrained from "xyz" in front of my children" is the first step to reducing our triggers, reducing your stress load and giving yourself the time to focus on you and do what makes YOU happy.
Often times my clients struggle with boundaries because of the guilt they feel in saying no to others. They feel responsible to take on the problems of those around them. They are accustom to the role of "fixer". Those around them, often family members but sometimes even colleagues or bosses sometimes push back on boundaries set and plead or ridicule them if they don't get what they want. I'm not going to say setting boundaries is an easy task when you are accustom to saying "yes" to everything because your role has always been to put others before you. But I will say the more you stick to your boundaries, the less others push back over time. It helps to see if keeping those boundaries is in alignment with your values or the type of person you are aspiring to be. Simple answer might look like "yes, I value helping others." With a closer look though it's easy to see it is hard to be our best self for others when you are running on empty.
As I often tell my trauma therapy clients, and as they say on the air plane "put your mask on first" before you help those around you. It also helps to make a list of the short term positive gain of letting others violate your boundary and the long term consequences. For example, lets say you have difficulty saying no at work and are constantly taking on additional tasks asked of you.
|Short Term Positive of Not Holding My Boundary
|Long Term Consequences of Not Holding My Boundary
|-Don't feel guilty
|-I am overwhelmed and burning out
|-My boss is happy
|-It's hard to complete additional work assigned in my work hours so I am constantly bringing work home
|-I get positive praise
|-I am working so hard that when I am done I have no energy to engage meaningfully with my husband and kids
|-I feel taken advantage of and under appreciated
|-My workload will never decrease if I do not voice concern with the disproportionate work I get in comparison to colleagues
After making this list you may decide to have a conversation with your boss and say "I would love to be able to help with that project but I already have 3 other projects I am currently working on. I will need to finish those first before I can take on any more. It's important to me that the quality of my work meets the standard and I am afraid I won't be able to complete all projects to our client's expectations." Starting an honest dialogue can help you feel more in control and will likely make you a better employee. Same with friends and family, when you are happier and more relaxed you can be your best self for your spouse, children, parents and friends. If this seems daunting, trauma therapy can surely help you work through your fears and doubts.
If this sounds daunting, you may need some extra support in navigating beginning to set boundaries and taking back control of your life. This is really common with clients who have trauma, are children of alcoholics, were parentified children (children that functioned more as parents), and those with low self-esteem and attachment difficulties (as they often fear boundaries will push others away). Trauma therapy can help! Just like my clients you can take back your life, begin to feel in control, less overwhelmed, more peaceful and joyful. You deserve happiness too. If you need the extra support in getting there give our office a call.
Sending love & light,