Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2016 Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry
Caroline: Boundaries? With my family? I have no say in anything.
Tom: No one else is taking care of all the flight plans, so I guess I have to.
Jackie: Personally, I could do without ever seeing Uncle Bill again.
Darin: I cannot afford these gifts – but my wife expects them.
Ah, December American holidays. I’m not certain how some of these statements apply to faiths other than Christian, but it would come as no shock to learn most families have expectations centered around tradition. It is when we forget we have choices, that resentment, dishonesty, and compromise of our values take place. We flail about reacting to tugs from others until we are dizzy.
Boundaries prevent this. We can choose to be an individual, not a victim, not co-dependent, and not a doormat. Boundaries keep us from being dishonest about what we want and how we feel. Genuine obligations suffer when we say yes to too much outside pressure. Anger over our supposed lack of choice threatens relationships.
Boundaries are not about stopping another person. We will never have control over other people’s choices. Boundaries are about what we decide to say yes or no to. What will we allow into our lives?
Here are 3 boundaries you will want to draw this year.
1) Time. Look at your calendar. What are your bottom-line obligations? Of course, your job and immediate family will be on this list of top priorities. Closest friends are there too. Mark these on your calendar.
List all the other December duties you think you have. These are time-consuming activities such as shopping, choir practice, taking your children to events, the annual Christmas party at work, etc. Now rate them 1-3 with 3 being the most significant and meaningful to you.
Place the 3s on your calendar if they fit. Then add the 2s and 1s in what time slots you believe you can spare. Say no to the least valuable so you can focus on the important. If two important dates clash, choose one based on your highest values.
2) Budget Debt adds pressure and great cost to what could be a freer life. Think about refusing to create or add to it this month. On your calculator put in the December amount of your bills including life’s necessities like food, gas for the car, savings, etcetera. Subtract this from your real income (not potential income).
Reasonably estimate your extra December expenses such as food, extra gas spent on driving every day to choir practice, holiday clothes, decorating, and gifts. How much money do you have left?
Are there ways to save money like sharing a ride to choir practice or going without that red twinkling sweater? Is it necessary to add another strand of lights on your tree? Consider meaningful homemade gifts, or offering your time and service instead of merchandise.
After streamlining your December budget, divide what is available by how many people you are buying gifts for. This is the estimate of how much you can afford to spend on each person. Of course, the gift exchange at work is not as important as your gift to your spouse, and may cost less. However, now you have a reasonable figure from which to make your decisions.
3) Physical or emotional energy We cannot fix or change other people. Sometimes the struggles of people we love takes a toll on our wellbeing. There are family members, places, and events that typically wear us down.
Thoughtfully think about your true limitations. It’s okay to be human, and understanding our limits is bright, healthy, and wise. Do you tire easily? Are you in pain after sitting two hours at a concert? Will seeing Uncle Bill trigger depression? Does too much social activity push you into isolation? Be real, and gladly own up to where you are presently physically and emotionally.
Look again at your calendar. Is it reasonable to believe you can do all those things and maintain good mental and physical health? If not, please allow that you are your top priority. This does not mean selfishness, this is self-preservation so that you will be fully present in your most important relationships.
Cut out or abbreviate those activities you would be wise to avoid to be healthy. You are free to limit your suffering by turning your energies to the most valued events and relationships this month.
Boundaries. We struggle to say “I can’t” or “I won’t”. But saying yes to the lesser equals saying no to the best. It’s okay to use your voice! Take a deep breath and enjoy the freedom of being in control of your choices.
Today’s Helpful Word
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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.