In the 21st century, it’s increasingly difficult to differentiate between work space and life space. How can we keep work from intruding on our personal time if we fear it puts our job at risk for someone who won’t have boundaries? What is increasingly clear is a life without boundaries to distinguish the two may be too draining to tolerate. If we never get a break to rest and relax, how can our work possibly be the caliber we’d like it to be?
A recent article in the Boston Globe illustrates how Sunday night is the new Monday morning – in order to stay on top of the ball and get all of our work done, people are sacrificing part of their weekend. People are losing a major swath of their recuperation landscape to the work they are hoping to recover from. Granted, many people experience Sunday nights as lonely and depressing, so getting task-oriented can feel empowering and safer. At the same time, as the article spells out, what will become of our weekends if they are merely catch-up and preparation for our jobs?
I invite you to consider the demands of your work, the time you get paid to do it in, and consider that the time outside of work, to the greatest extent possible, can be boundaried and guarded. That ‘down’ time to focus on your other commitments, hobbies, obligations and desires (like hobbies, exercise, and play time) is essential to your self-care so you can get back to work and perform at the level you expect of yourself. Sleep is essential down time because it allows our brains to take stock, to consolidate and process tons of information and experiences. Once rested, we can get back to our waking life prepared to live it well. Down time from work can be seen in the same light – it allows us to get distance, movement, a shift in focus, so we can return to work recuperated, ready to get back on the work train and excel.
One of the most important boundaries we can create with others gives us held space. Held space is an emotional setting in which those in it with us feel safe to be authentic and to speak from a place of emotions (not criticisms, thoughts or judgments) – a space in which we can be fully seen as we are.
I learned an important lesson recently in holding space that goes against what I’d previously known. I had previously learned that when someone cries, it is helpful and supportive to offer tissues. It is a sign that I am here with you in this and will support you through this emotional experience.
Turning this on its head, I was recently taught another understanding that offering tissues is often received as a sign of discomfort and distancing: “Please don’t cry in front of me. Please clean up your mess. I’m uncomfortable when you’re so emotional and messy.” In this model, it is the responsibility of the individual in emotion to take care of themselves, to be empowered to reach for or ask for tissues (or specific support) if they want it, while being supported silently by those with them. There is power in being held, observed, having someone bear witness to our distress in all its ‘messiness’ and to stay present with each other. “I am not scared away or uncomfortable with your emotions.” Emotional release is not something that needs to be ‘cleaned up.’
I have a dear friend who lives too far away. When we see each other, we begin our adventure together by inviting good boundaries, explicit needs and requests, and an environment in which we offer safe space without overreaching. It creates a playground of openness, connection and vulnerability in which we each get to grow, experiment, learn and feel confident that the other is there to support us according to our explicit requests. Next time you are creating an emotionally safe space with someone (hopefully often!), I invite you to offer your support in a more boundaried way; one in which each of you is responsible for self-care and for asking for support in the ways you want it – not where it is offered in ways that can feel constricting and judgmental.
Taking the time and making the commitment to create a good morning routine pays off in spades.
Even if it only lasts a week, then you go out of town, come home and fail to get back into it.
Just forgive yourself and pick up right where you left off.
Here’s a great article with some solid ideas and explanations to create a morning routine that will lead you to fulfilling days.
Do I stick to all of these? No. And I forgive myself for that and stay committed to shaping over time a version of this that works best for me. Mine includes coloring, I know that much. What does yours include? Give it a try – shape it, shift it, build and play with your morning routine until it becomes sustainable, realistic, and rewarding. Then do it for a month and see how things are going. Let me know. Keep me posted. What has been most helpful? And what not so much?
Here’s a secret: If there is something that would be helpful to you but you can’t find a way to make it happen in the morning, don’t forget it. Just work it in later in the day. If I don’t get some meditation in in the morning, I do it for 5-10 minutes between clients. If I don’t get protein in my breakfast, that’s fine. I keep hard-boiled eggs in the fridge and take them to work with me.
Thank you to everyone who participated, asked questions, and shared during my recent #DenStartupWeek Panel Discussion on fostering resilience to anxiety and burnout as entrepreneurs and startup professionals. The event was standing room only and the conversation was lively. We heard afterwards from many people that the topic was important to them and necessary to repeat and continue exploring. I look forward to making that happen.
As Promised I’ve created a Storify Story to capture insights, resources, strategies and ideas from the discussion. The panel featured Alyce Blum of Alyce Blum Coaching, Drew Domoto of Domoto Brands and Nicole Danielle, kinkencounters.com. Here’s the link to the Storify story from the Panel Discussion.
Recently, I experienced one of the more powerful, important conversations a therapist can have with a client. Deep in the middle of an intense exploration, my client asked me what they should do. This is a trick question to be explored – there are no good answers that leave the client empowered and independent. I offered some thoughts on the matter, some paths to insight, some probing questions, some potential considerations. Quickly, my client responded, “That’s not what I’m looking for. That’s not what I need.”
What magical words. What a delight to hear someone identify so crisply that what I’m offering is not what they are looking for. “What I want is validation that I’m doing the right thing and it doesn’t make me a bad person. I don’t want practical steps right now.” I was struck with gratitude and honored by their explicit need. And, I said so.
I also pointed out if nothing else is accomplished, the client’s capacity to steer our therapy where they wanted it to go, to guide me away from what isn’t helpful and towards what is, serves as a powerful measure of their growth and accomplishment.
Nothing in therapy is more basic and central to the work than the trusting, connected relationship between therapist and client. When a client is empowered to speak up and explicitly shape the course of therapy, it truly begins to become the life-shifting relationship it is meant to be. Little is more honoring and meaningful than when this experience emerges with compassion. If ever you struggle to discuss a concern about your therapist with your therapist, I encourage you to dig deep and remember: the things that are hardest to say are often the most important to say. The tough conversations with your therapist provide practice in a safe, supportive environment so you’ll be better prepared when you need to have difficult conversations with loved ones, friends or colleagues outside the sanctuary of the therapist’s office.