I’m recently back after a much-needed family holiday to recharge my batteries and feeling the benefits of having put a boundary around stopping my work activities for a couple of weeks, despite the inner critic trying to tell me I shouldn’t.

So, on that subject, do any of the following ring true for you?

• When someone asks you to do something or help them, you instinctively say yes

• You worry that if you say no to a request from someone that they will:
– Be cross
– Think less of you
– Tell everyone you wouldn’t help
– Not help you when you need it

• You’re totally overwhelmed with the volume of workload and/or commitments in your life at times

• Sometimes you’re late getting things back to people or you don’t complete them at all because you are too busy

• You’d like to spend more time with your family and friends or hobbies but just never get the time

• You hear people talking about ‘being true to themselves’ or ‘being real’ but don’t have a clue what that actually means in practical terms

• You are very hard on yourself and put others first most if not all of the time

Hmmm…. If this is you – and I can tell you it’s true for many in the veterinary profession as we’re a caring old bunch – then you would benefit greatly from building your BOUNDARY setting muscles.

The most compassionate, caring, successful amazing people I know are also have by far the most amount of loving boundaries in place.

Having zero boundaries comes from a well-meaning intention to help and please, and yet because it results in us become overcommitted and less effective it actually gets in the way of this aim.

Our fear of conflict and the wish to avoid the 90 seconds or so of ick-y feeling conversation it would take to say a polite ‘no’ means we become what people need us to be.

We then gradually lose touch with who we are and what WE want underneath.

Our loved ones suffer as we don’t give them enough of our time or energy.

By trying to help every single person who requests our time, help or expertise we become less effective at helping those we MOST want to help.

So, how do we get better at setting boundaries??? Here are my Top Tips:

1.) Play for time initially while you practice saying ‘no’ more easily. Say to the person, “I just need to check my diary – can I get back to you later on or tomorrow?”. This then gives you some thinking time to decide if you DO really want to help or not, and to plan your polite but firm ‘no’ response if necessary. With practice, you will get more confident at saying ‘no’ in the moment when you need to.

2.) Keep it short and polite – no long waffly explanations! The more you try and justify why you aren’t available or can’t help, the more you invite the person to try and problem-solve that for you. Find some good books to read or listen to about the art of saying no so you can steal some scripts as often it’s because we’re not sure what words to use that we don’t say no enough. “What your Clutter is Trying to Tell you” by Kerri L Richardson has a great chapter on reducing emotional clutter by setting loving boundaries with colleagues and family.

3.) Use your intuition to guide you. Does thinking about fulfilling this request drain me and make me feel dread or overwhelm? Will I feel resentful if I say yes or do I genuinely want to help and have time to help? Having the courage to say no to what you don’t want to do means you are being true to yourself, and you inspire others to do the same.

4.) Keep at it and give people time and support to adjust to the new you! Often when you start putting more boundaries around your precious time and energy, it’s the people who benefit most currently from your people pleasing who may be surprised and not that happy about the change. They will adjust if you continue quietly and firmly. Often it actually empowers them to find their own solutions too thus you get a double-whammy of helping them grow too. 😉

5.) Let your new mantra become, “I choose discomfort over resentment”. Saying no can often mean several seconds of emotional discomfort or awkwardness – although usually not you’ll be pleased to hear! Choosing to be brave enough to feel those feelings of discomfort and say no anyway is WAY better than saying yes to something you don’t really want to do, and then feeling resentful and pissed off for the next few weeks/months because you have allowed yourself to be overloaded.

Saying no more often does not make you a bad or selfish parent, friend, co-worker, family member etc. It DOES mean you are proactively looking after your own welfare and mental health and then everyone around you benefits.

So where do you currently need to get better at setting boundaries in your life right now?

Set yourself the challenge of politely disappointing 2 or 3 people each week (yes…really…) for the next two weeks and see how much more energy you have to devote to the things most important to you.

Good luck and email me at jenny@vetharmony.co.uk if you need any help!

Jenny x

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