Mental Health, Wellbeing

How to say No: establishing healthy boundaries in an age of perfectionism..

Do you find it difficult to say no when asked to do something you don’t have time for? Or something that doesn’t quite sit with your own values?

My recent Wellbeing goals. Note #2: Learn to say No to tasks I don’t have time for or don’t fit my values.

This is something that all of us have to face and some of us seem stronger in being able to say no than others. It can be especially hard if you’re a people pleaser by nature, I know how this feels from personal experience.

For example, this morning, I found myself starting to clear surfaces around our old sink, ready for the new one to be fitted. I’d already promised myself to not do anything more, that it was my husband’s responsibility. But tiredness, a need to do things perfectly and keeping some sense of control temporarily took over. Particularly when the workman turned up & there was still gunk in the old sink! However rational brain took back control and I was able to walk away, just about!

If there’s anything this Covid season has taught me, it’s that I need to do less and keep things simple. But as our economy starts to open up and social expectations rise, I’ve found myself exhausted and alarm bells have been ringing at the back of my head. “Hang on, what happened to taking things slow and steady? How did I get back to this headless chicken state?”

It’s at this point I had to do a reality check. What am I trying to achieve here? What are my priorities and what are other people’s? A friend of mine has recently found herself diagnosed with a condition that means her energy levels change from one day to the next. We’ve been meeting to support each other’s creativity and she has taught me a lot about slowing down and taking things at my own pace, even in my business.

Brene Brown, in her book Daring Greatly, talks a lot about the quest for perfectionism in our society and how it’s linked to shame, particularly in women. Her research shows that shame can be a result of not meeting society’s expectations around body image and women being kept in their place. I found these revelations a breath of fresh air, in the sense of realising the impact these pressures were having on me. She talks about naming perfectionism when she sees it in her own life to overcome the shame barrier. To say that it’s ok to do things to a good enough standard and let go of control when it’s not perfect.

So where do boundaries come into it all? It’s all about putting healthy limits on what we do. In a relationship, this may mean only being available at certain times or contacted in a certain way e.g. email if we supporting someone in need. See Dr Kate Middleton’s book, Refuel, for further info on this.

In a work scenario (this is particularly pertinent if you are still working from home WFH) – putting boundaries on your time. For me this means I only look at my email during my work hours and keep my workload to said scheduled work days. I know it’s not easy especially when we might still be home-based, but it’s important that work and home life don’t become too blurred.

A big help I’ve found is being able to step back from the situation when asked to do something and first say “I’ll think about it,” rather than an immediate “yes.”

Then I ask myself:

1. Do I realistically have time to do this activity? If that means looking at my schedule for the next week/month, so be it, to help me to decide.

2. Does this fit my values? Especially in business, I may find myself offered something which doesn’t sit right with me, in which case it’s also a ‘no.’ This is something that Nisha Vyas, life coach, taught me in a SEIDs seminar.

These questions can be life changing, because it gives us a framework from which to set up boundaries from.

If you want to read more about Boundaries, check out Townsend & Cloud’s book on the subject (see image above).

Boundaries take time to establish and be prepared for some kickback with those you set them with. They won’t like the status quo being changed. As you stick to your boundaries, things will get easier and the new limits will become accepted.

Is there an area of your life where you need to establish a new boundary? How can you put that into place? Will you need anyone or anything to help you reinforce it?

I wish you well in embracing this new boundary. It may feel hard at first but it will pay dividends in the long run.

Mental Health, Social Media, Wellbeing, writing

Developing a Greater self-awareness of the impacts of social media

Recently I’ve been contemplating the impact of my time spent on screens , particularly my social media use.

A few weeks ago, it felt like I was drowning in all of my screen time. Having to think of new content to write for Instagram was especially weighing down on me and I know I was becoming mentally exhausted from all the impacts of lockdown on and off screen. A poignant aspect to note is that lockdown forced us to use video calls more, for work and socially. As well as being a way of staying in touch with others and continuing to get our work done, there is a draining aspect to it all, physically and mentally.

I felt particularly for our younger son, who had online lessons for the 2 months of the 3rd lockdown, all via video call lessons, for roughly 5 and a half hours per day. I noticed that it made him more mentally tired. However I believe that as most of us continue to be online or using our electronic devices more, it mentally and physically tires us out more too.

After realising that I was swamped in the demands of posting and keeping up with Instagram, I decided I needed to take a break from all social media for a while. So along with Facebook, I took a social media fast for a week as part of Lent, where Christians either give up something or take something up to help them focus more on God in that period. The hope was that it would give my eyes and brain a break from the overwhelm that often comes from being on social media and would give me space to pray or do other activities away from screens.

Worldwide the daily average amount of time spent on social media is 145 minutes (2 hours 25 minutes).

[Source: Statistica, 2021]

The first day was difficult, and I admit to giving in to the temptation of scrolling on both Insta and Facebook . It did get easier from there on and I was able to step back from looking at either one. I noticed I felt calmer and less mentally tired. I got to the end of the week without having done any sneaky peeking at either app.

Revelation came to me, though, when I jumped back onto Insta. The first post I saw, I found myself comparing myself to the person concerned and almost immediately that muddle-headed mental tiredness caught me again. I almost completely decided to stop then and there but because I was composing a post for work, I kept going. In fact, 30 minutes later, I was still umming and erring about a photo to use and almost gave up on it! I hated what this app was doing to me mentally and how it was slowing down my mental performance. In that moment, I just wished I could stop using social media altogether but I knew that wasn’t going to be completely possible as I use it for work. I chatted with my elder son about how going back on social media had made me feel and he also suggested coming off it completely!

Since then my motivation to use Insta or Facebook has been much lower, particularly after having a lot of online meetings the following week. I could see the detrimental impact this had on my already dwindling concentration and the mental exhaustion grew!

Now, I have reduced my number of social media posts per week and am looking for ways to stay off my screens as much as practically possible!

Don’t get me wrong, social media does have some positives though. At a time when it’s not easy to see loved ones, work colleagues nor friends face-to-face, social media does offer that opportunity to connect online. Sharing some thoughts or reading others’ comments can help us feel and stay socially connected. We may read someone’s positive words and be encouraged or enjoy a beautiful photograph that some has shared on Instagram. I’m thankful that writing this blog enables me to engage with you, the reader, wherever you may be in the world.

How do you feel whilst on social media? What are the benefits it brings you? What are the pitfalls to be aware of? Do you need some boundaries and limits to help manage your screen time better? I’d love to hear your thought and comments below.

Wellbeing

Exhaustion

Burnt out, weary, gasping for breath,

feeling oblivious yet spurring myself on because that’s what I do.

When I feel like this,

automatic responses against my inner

voice to stop,

calm down, take a deep breath

STOP.

Why is it so hard to stop?

To give myself permission to let go of

the relentless ‘to do’ list.

It’s so important to take care of myself

and break the childhood habits of caring for others at the expense of myself.

Memories, fears, past anxieties triggered. Can I get past them, break the cycle?

Only by giving them to God.

Letting Him take the burden.

Copyright © 2020 AT Kelly

Mental Health, Social Media, Wellbeing

Your Social Media Connections Come at an Emotional Cost

Here is the blog I wrote for the Kings College London Alumni website last year but is still relevant, particularly whilst we’ve been on screens more during lockdown:

https://www.kcl.ac.uk/anita-kelly-your-social-media-connections-come-at-an-emotional-cost

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Mental Health, Trainer, Blogger, Writer

Learning the simple truth that LESS IS MORE!

I’m aware that it’s been 3 months since I last posted, and it felt liberating to finally put pen to paper earlier this week in preparation for a new blog post and metaphorically blow away the cobwebs from my mind!

Life has been tough, resulting in me wrestling with unhelpful, self-critical thoughts and doubts about my future. I’ve chosen to hold onto my mustard-seed sized faith in God, even when I can’t see more than a few centimetres ahead of me. Psalm 57:5 (NLT) says “I cry out to God Most High, to God who will fulfill his purpose for me.”

Also, Ps 32:8 (NIV):

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Both these verses fill me with hope that God has a plan for me, even if I don’t see that crystal clearly right now.

CBT thought sheets have become the order of my day: my most recently tackled thought when reframed was “Although I’ve not written a blog post recently, I am writing regularly, e.g. journalling and at my writing group, and can express myself well. Remember I won 3rd Prize in an Association of Christian Writers’ Journalism competition!” The aim is to come up with a more realistic, rational truth that overcomes the unhelpful thought! That more realistic thought has led to an almost instant change in behaviour, and resulted in this blog post!

The other lesson I have learned is that I have overloading myself with daily tasks, and need to do less. This past week, I have experimented with how much I have planned into my day, purposely making my ‘To Do” list longer some days and seeing how this has affected my mood and how productive I was as a result. Then on other days, doing the opposite: putting in a fewer tasks (more realistic), again seeing how I felt on achieving these and how productive I was. Interestingly, it was on the latter days that I felt better, was more productive and had a greater sense of achievement. This is in contrast to putting too much into my day, falling behind, rushing and hence being less productive and feeling I’ve not achieved enough. On the days with less tasks, I had the choice to add in another activity if I had time and the inclination.

My daily plan for this coming week involves 1 activity in the morning (writing, housework or some admin that needs doing ), having lunch, possibly a rest, e.g. Ignatian meditation or progressive muscle relaxation. Then another activity (prayer group, meet a friend or something enjoyable for me) in the afternoon. It’s taken several months to acknowledge my limits and accept that I’ve been expecting too much of myself and falling into that worldly trap of perfectionism (a battle that I have fought with myself since childhood, I think!). I know I am not alone in thinking this way – Katharine Welby-Roberts writes about her own struggles with perfectionism in her Inner Conflict chapter in her book “I Thought There Would Be Cake” (SPCK, 2017). The other thing I’ve noticed is the automatic negative thoughts racing through my mind have subsided somewhat, as the pressure is taken off myself to be defined by how much I achieve each day. I am learning to be kinder and more accepting of myself, regardless of how much I do, and know that God loves me just as I am, with my imperfections and weaknesses!

Reflection:

Are there any unhelpful thoughts that are affecting your mood? If so, what might be a more realistic, rational thought to tell yourself instead?

Are there any areas of your life where you are overloading yourself? If so, bring it to God, and ask for His wisdom to prioritise what’s important and what can wait.

What can you do to find some rest/ do something relaxing or enjoyable this week?