Woman using ipad; text: How Boundaries Can Prevent Burnout

How Boundaries Can Prevent Burnout

When we don’t set boundaries, we overcommit ourselves and say yes to things we don’t want to do or aren’t able to do. We neglect our needs in favor of trying to make other people happy. Inadequate boundaries lead to burnout.

We all have limited amounts of time, energy, and money. Therefore, we have to make mindful decisions about how we use our resources. Boundaries help ensure that we don’t deplete all of our resources—spending our time, energy, and money on things that aren’t priorities for us.

We also have to replenish our resources or we’ll become drained, burnt out, and resentful. We refill our “tanks” through self-care activities such as getting enough sleep, eating healthfully, exercising, practicing our spiritual beliefs, socializing, having fun, asking for what we need, and setting limits on things that drain us.

It’s impossible to please everyone

As people-pleasers, we spend most of our time meeting other people’s expectations. This increases the chances that others will be happy with us, but it doesn’t necessarily mean our own needs are being met.  

Insufficient boundaries lead to burnout

We can’t neglect our own needs indefinitely. If we do, we’ll end up burnt out.

How many of these signs of burnout are you experiencing?

Signs of burnout include:

  • Feeling unappreciated
  • Being tired and low on energy
  • Dreading what’s on your calendar
  • Not wanting to get up in the morning
  • Feeling resentful or angry
  • Apathy or no longer caring about things
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Physical aches or pains
  • Becoming pessimistic

Weak boundaries at work can take many forms, including not asking for a raise, being talked down to, letting others take credit for your work, not being paid for time worked, sexual harassment, or working an excessive number of hours.

If you don’t set boundaries at work, you may end up taking work home or accepting extra shifts or too many clients. This may initially be acceptable or even feel good because you’re making your supervisor or clients happy, but someone or something in your life is going to suffer. Your family will miss you at family dinners or you’ll be exhausted from pulling all-nighters. And eventually, your work may suffer, you’ll resent your coworkers or clients, and your enthusiasm for work will dwindle.

Saying “no” or setting boundaries at work means you’re less likely to get burnt out because your needs, such as having time off, fair compensation, safe working conditions, and respect, are being met.

You can experience burnout at work and at home.

Burnout doesn’t just happen at work. The same principles apply in our personal lives. If you’re doing and giving all of the time (housework, carpool, volunteering, etc.) and not refilling your tank, you’re also going to get burnt out. And if you’re like me, reaching your boiling point at home isn’t pretty! Most of us do a better job managing our emotions at work, but are quicker to anger, protest, and yell at home. When this happens, we’ve let our need for appreciation, rest, or connection go unmet.

overwhelmed mother and her baby

Boundaries may seem unkind. It would be nice if we could say “yes” all the time and never disappoint others. But no one has the ability to meet everyone else’s expectations all of the time and take care of our own needs as well.

The secret to being able to continue to help others, be a good employee, or take care of your family for the long haul is to set boundaries when needed. Boundaries safeguard your resources and your physical and emotional well-being. Without these, you’ll inevitably burn out.

©2021 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved.
photo courtesy of Canva.com

Read more about boundaries

How to Set Boundaries with Kindness

5 Tips for Setting Boundaries Easier

7 Types of Boundaries That You Need to Set

Better Boundaries Book

Learn to Set Better Boundaries

This evidence-based workbook will show you how to set healthy boundaries across all aspects of life—without sacrificing your kindness or compassion for others. You’ll learn to define your boundaries and discover why they’re so important for your emotional well-being.

Sharon Martin, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist specializing in codependency recovery with an online practice serving California residents. For the past 20 years, she’s been helping perfectionists and people-pleasers overcome self-doubt and shame, embrace their imperfections, learn to set boundaries, and reclaim their self-worth. Sharon writes the blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today and is the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and The Better Boundaries Workbook.

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