At this hectic time of year—when the focus is on giving to others—it might be even more important to give yourself a gift to keep stress at bay. One of the best ways to do this is to set boundaries that allow you to refresh and recharge so you can better engage with others. The latest research into optimal brain functioning has found several ways you can take care of yourself and, in doing so, take better care of others.
Let’s focus on five key areas where you can set clear boundaries.
1. Time. Are you one of those people who works 24/7? What if you set a boundary that you would stop working at 7:00 p.m. every night, or stop doing work on Sundays? Set aside some time for yourself—you may find it liberating. It’s very important to block out this time on your calendar. After all, taking care of yourself is as essential as any other calendar entry—and the less stress you feel, the better you will be able to accomplish all of those other things on your calendar!
2. Sleep. Are you getting enough sleep? Can you think of a boundary you could add to your life that would help you get more sleep? I recently read about something many of us are guilty of doing: having a death grip on our phone or tablet until we go to bed. Studies have shown that light from an electronic screen stimulates our brain into thinking it’s daytime, not time for rest. This can interfere with both our sleep pattern and our quality of sleep. So set a boundary for electronic “lights out” time. What could you do for the last hour before you go to bed that doesn’t involve an electronic screen?
3. Relaxation. When is the last time you fully relaxed? The last time you let your guard down, stopped focusing on the things you were working on, and just took a break? Build one event a week into your schedule where you can relax. Use that time to do whatever relaxes you. Go for a walk in the hills. Go to the library. Get a frozen yogurt. Do something you enjoy that makes you think “for the next few minutes (or hours), I’m just going to relax.” Add a relaxation event to your self-care repertoire once a week.
4. Nutrition. Most of us know what optimal nutrition looks like—but do we operate on those principles on a day-to-day basis? Really? This holiday season, when “goodie” temptation is at its peak, commit to setting a clear boundary around nutrition. We know the more sugar and fat we eat, the more our body has to process, and the less it is able to stay energized so we can do our work and have good times with family and friends. What about adding more fruits and vegetables? Set a boundary that specifies you will eat five servings of fruits or vegetables every day. I remember when my kids were young, at night they would recite the five fruits and vegetables they had eaten that day (and no, Jake, ketchup still doesn’t count). What is a clear boundary you can set for yourself around nutrition?
5. Love. The holidays are about love and being with the ones you love. Have circumstances kept you from being with certain special people during the holidays in years past? Make a point this year to set up a time during the holidays to get together with those loved ones. Maybe it’s extended family, maybe it’s an old friend, or maybe it’s your unconditionally loving dog. Whoever you love, make this year special for yourself and for them—show you care by setting up some clearly defined time together.
Set boundaries to give yourself the gift of time, sleep, relaxation, nutrition, and love during the holidays. Welcome the serenity of self-care—and know that it will ultimately help you take care of others. Have a wonderful and peaceful holiday season.
About the Author
Vicki Halsey is a senior consulting partner and Vice President of Applied Learning for The Ken Blanchard Companies.