Self-Care and Setting Boundaries
Personal Growth

What (Really) Goes Into Life Over 50 That Works: Self-Care & Setting Boundaries

This is part 2 of an ongoing series. See the first chapter on Self-Love here.

Some days I feel overwhelmed! It might be that I haven’t slept well, or eaten enough (or too much!), or I may have over-scheduled myself for a few days and suddenly just want to curl up. Have you ever felt that way?

When I get like that, even talking to my best friend of almost 44 years seems impossible! It actually happened to me this week. This friend, Lida, is working on illustrations for my next book. Normally, talking with each other is a sort of respite from the world, but this week, it just seemed like another thing I was piling on top of myself. I live in the Dallas area, she lives in Houston, and although we are both in our early 70s, we seem to have very busy lives. It took some effort to even schedule the call about the illustrations.

But by the time we spoke, I was out of sorts, running from one place to another to get things done, and I just couldn’t concentrate! So, we had a rather stilted conversation, then let it go.

Mature Woman Talking to FriendThe next morning she called me back to find out what was up, why I was so disjointed. We had a great conversation while I was driving home from a wonderful massage, and I told her all the things that had tumbled around me over the last few days. Then I realized, the real reason I had been out of sync with myself: I was frustrated about something regarding my son and my grandson. I hadn’t put it into words, so I had let it rumble through me. It was suddenly clear that it was a major factor in my feeling overwhelmed.

When I get out of sorts, slowing down enough to talk it out with someone helps! Once I start talking, I hear myself, and I see things I hadn’t seen before. I have come to see this as another form of self-love.

Last month I suggested that one way to feel vibrant and alive is to fall in love with ourselves. How do we put it into practice in our daily lives, especially with friends, family and in all sorts of relationships including work and social activities?

Self-Care and Boundaries: Twin Actions

I’ll talk about self-care first, because I can’t even get to the subject of boundaries if I’m not feeling at one with myself. I think we frequently have a very limited view of what self-care looks like, so for many it is difficult to include it in our daily lives.

We get so caught up in what we think we should be doing, to meet our high standards of self-imposed excellence, that we don’t stop and ask ourselves, what do we really want to do. What is really important?

This is another slow-down moment, to stop and reflect about my true priorities.

Mature Woman RelaxingMost of us get up and just start tackling the day. I’ve learned that doesn’t work so well! So, for many years, I’ve spent a few minutes each morning setting my priorities of what I want to accomplish. It has become a sort of meditation time for me. My favorite day is one where I don’t actually have anything scheduled, but that isn’t so common lately. Even when I don’t have something on the calendar, I treat each day as important: do I want to read the book I’ve been saving? Do I want to see a friend? Do I want to run some errands I’ve been putting off? I look for ways to add those things to what is already on my schedule.

All those questions are part of self-care. If we don’t ask them, if we don’t question ourselves about what is really important to us, we might get caught up in the routine of taking care of everyone else! Which is what happened to me the day I got so disjointed.

Self-care covers a lot of territory: everything from health to general well-being. Is it possible that you don’t pay attention to the things that are bothering you because you have so many other things to take care of?

Whether you live alone or with a partner or family, making yourself a priority is paramount! It is so easy to stay in “reaction mode” where you find yourself depleted and frustrated at the end of the day. Even living alone, I can catch myself there!

That is why I combine boundaries with self-care. Setting boundaries requires a commitment to yourself. Making yourself a priority is part of it; once you come from that perspective, you can start choosing what works for you and what doesn’t.

I mentioned being frustrated about something with my son. As much as I love him and want his life to go well, I find it necessary to set clear boundaries with myself to stop getting too involved in the outcomes I hope will show up in his life. It doesn’t mean I stop caring, it means I set aside thoughts of worry or disappointment when things don’t go the way I wish they would. It takes some discipline on my part to send him love and let it go!

Otherwise, as I described above, I let the frustration rumble around inside me and it colors the rest of my thoughts, my ability to do and be what I want. My son and my grandson have their life experiences, and my interference really isn’t going to change things. I needed to stop letting my concern about them get in the way of enjoying my own life!

My job is to create a healthy, loving relationship with each of them, in the way I can, and stop thinking it is my responsibility to fix anything for them. And once I heard myself talk about it, I could see that and move on.

These kinds of boundaries aren’t the ones most people think about, but they make a huge difference in our lives. Next time, we will explore more ways that boundaries can work for us instead of against us! Stay tuned…

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