Just Talkin’ Tuesday: Boundaries & Burnout

The above video is of flight attendants on a flight from the Philippines. They have a very creative approach to help their passengers pay attention to the safety measures one needs to know while flying. At 1:38, you hear the voice making the safety announcements begin to say, “If you are traveling with a child, first put on your own mask and then your child’s mask.” All too often we find ourselves, as mothers and women, caring for everyone around us except the one person who matters the most – ourselves.

For quite awhile, my three year old had an infatuation with The Velveteen Rabbit Story. He wanted us to read it to him at nap time and bedtime. So we did. In reading this story to him, there was one section of the tale which truly epitomizes the lengths to which we go as mothers to please our children and those around us. Rain suddenly started falling and the little boy in the story had to rush inside after playing out in the yard. In his hurry, he forgot the Velveteen Rabbit. The little boy goes on with his afternoon and does not realize the Velveteen Rabbit is missing until it is time to go to bed. As his mother tucks him in, the little boy asks for the Velveteen Rabbit. In our version, the mother gets a flashlight and goes outside to fetch the lost rabbit. After searching in the rain, she returns with the drenched Velveteen Rabbit, handing him to her son. The boy is happy as he clutches the soaked toy close to him and quickly drifts off to sleep. The official version of the story reads like this:

And once, when the Boy was called away suddenly to go out to tea, the Rabbit was left out on the lawn until long after dusk, and Nana had to come and look for him with the candle because the Boy couldn’t go to sleep unless he was there.

He was wet through with the dew and quite earthy from diving into the burrows the Boy had made for him in the flower bed, and Nana grumbled as she rubbed him off with a corner of her apron.

I admit, I will search down a toy for my child. But to go out into the rain with a flashlight or a candle? Not in this house. There is a line I refuse to cross.

Yes, it is our job to care for our children. It’s our responsibility to ensure they have the basic necessities of life and feel comforted. It is also our responsibility to ensure that the care we give them is of the highest quality. If we consistently drain ourselves day in and day out, we have nothing to give to ourselves those around us. Our children deserve more than fumes. Our husband deserve more than fumes. And our friends deserve more than fumes. Above all else, WE deserve more than fumes.

This week’s #PPDChat was about Putting on your oxygen mask before putting on someone else’s. While helping others through their pain is helpful and allows a great distraction, it can also be draining. You may be more on edge, more likely to over-react if there is a crisis, and more likely to put that person before your own needs. There are fine lines which need to be respected, lines which need to stay firmly planted between you and others as you heal. It is important to be able to step back from the issue at hand and soothe yourself. Recognizing when you need to do this is hard to do if you are running on fumes.

According to help.org, you may be on the road to burnout if:

  • Every day is a bad day.
  • Caring about your work or home life seems like a total waste of energy.
  • You’re exhausted all the time.
  • The majority of your day is spent on tasks you find either mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming.
  • You feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated.

They recommend using the “Three R” method to cope with burnout:

  • Recognize – Watch for the warning signs of burnout
  • Reverse – Undo the damage by managing stress and seeking support
  • Resilience – Build your resilience to stress by taking care of your physical and emotional health

Down the page, they also examine stress v. burnout. Definitely worth checking out.

I impose boundaries on myself. Some of them should probably be stricter and I am working on that. In order to preserve my own mental health these are the things I currently do:

  • Take a mandatory nap on Sundays (Although I skipped this past Sunday’s nap – first one in ages)
  • Go to sleep early if I’ve had a rough day
  • Listen to music
  • Eat Chocolate
  • Turn off my computer when my kids get home from school until they go to bed
  • Don’t watch newscasts
  • Say NO if it’s going to overload my plate
  • Watch a lot of comedy
  • Laugh
  • Love

I have even been known to put myself in time out with my kids in the room if I am getting too on edge with them. I have started asking myself if I am upset with them because they’ve been doing things I’ve asked them not to or because I’m being selfish and doing something I want to do and instead, ignoring them when they legitimately deserve my attention. I’ve been amazed and shamed at how often it’s because I’m selfishly taking time to myself when they genuinely need me to help them with something. As I’ve been closing my laptop and leaving Social Media behind when the kids are home and awake, these times have decreased and our relationships have been soaring. I’m glad to be plugging back into what really matters – my family.

Do you have boundaries you refuse to cross? Things you do to recharge your batteries? What are they? Let’s get to just talking.

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