One of the greatest challenges that I have faced is honoring my limits. The thoughts that I have about how and why this happened (and still happens on occasion) are as numerous as the times I have faced this issue with clients. Women in our culture tend to overextend themselves. There - I said it! Let's get to the issue at hand directly. How do you stop the cycle of overextending yourself? This can be tricky, and your mind will fight you (and me) with multiple reasons why you must continue overextending yourself. Your mind will drive you crazy if you let it. Therefore one of the essential aspects of changing this pattern means not reasoning through the change, but instead honoring yourself by simply making the change.
Here are a few tips:
* Stop comparing yourself with anyone else. Instead honor your amount of energy, your inclination for giving, your desire to connect, your need for service, and every other particular aspect of how you extend yourself to the world. What is the right amount of service for me is unique to my energy and my talents. The same is for you. It's that simple.
* Discover how you can serve without it feeling like it's draining you. When my parents were in a health crisis a couple of years ago, my sisters and I rallied to be with them round the clock for a few months. What came easily to one of us, was a real chore for another of us. When we were doing what was "easy" for us individually, it was less tiring. It reminded me to honor what was natural for me to give and what wasn't.
* Identify what truly restores your energy so that you refuel yourself consistently. Sleep is essential, but so are recreation, relaxation, and receiving kindness. If you did not have a television or computer, how would you relax? If you don't know, find out.
* Be honest with yourself about your resources. Don't give money you don't have to give freely. Think of every other resource in your life the same way including time, attention, and kindness.
* Learn to say no kindly, honestly and simply. If you can't say no right away (like me for a while), say, "I'll get back to you after I think about that." And then, think about it and decide if you can give freely without any resentment. Practice saying no out loud and then a simple answer like, it really won't fit into my life right now.
As a Life Coach who helps others make changes in their lives, I can honestly say, this is a difficult one. Women (most of us) are naturally nurtures. The deep inclination to nurture is inherent in our being. Therefore, we must recognize when we are nurturing, it is often a self fulfillment, even though it looks like we are "taking care of everyone else". When we don't recognize this deep inclination to nurture consciously, it is harder to put healthy limits on it, creating balance while nurturing. It helps to look at your life in the ways you are overextended and ask, "how is this about my need to nurture?" Answer the question honestly. This will be a journey in itself. Then remember, you must care for yourself consciously, just as you care for others. When we overextend, we eventually drain our inner well, finding our way to burnout. Some part of our being breaks down because it becomes a matter of survival. It's easier to read the signs along the way and honor our limits in extending our valuable resources.
Having trouble with overextending? Feel free to leave a comment or question and I will continue this exploration!