Boundaries for Extreme Challenges

I am writing to you from Washington State, where I live and work. When I teach workshops on boundaries, I talk about boundaries for ordinary experiences and boundaries for extreme challenges.

You use your boundaries to help take care of yourself and others. 

COVID-19 is an extreme challenge.

Here is the framework for navigating Extreme Boundary Challenges:

1)  As the challenge gets bigger or harder, your self-care must increase. If you have not been great at doing self-care, an extreme challenge will drain you physically and emotionally very quickly. So you must refuel with self-care practices often. It is essential.
2)  Make your self-care schedule first, not last.

3)  Define your responsibilities. During extreme challenges, new responsibilities get added to your life. Who and what are you taking care of?  Make a list. (Family, friends, clients, patients, staff) Your responsibilities will grow. During an extreme challenge it is okay to stop taking care of certain responsibilities and prioritize. You can’t do it all! If you add in more, you must take some things out.  Take time to reorganize. Decide what responsibilities are a yes and what is a no for now.

4)  Be a spider and create a web of resources to help you during this time. While many places are temporarily closed, there are many people making resources available online. It might be very scary to find yourself needing help. During extreme challenges, everyone needs help and you may need to use new resources. These resources may not be working well or available yet. This is normal during an extreme challenge. Ask others for help using new resources. Be kind to people who are helping. They too may be stressed, overloaded, and overworked.

5)  For the COVID-19, stay connected to others. You may be doing this by phone or online, but join in with others. You can isolate and not be lonely. Phone or online talking is better than text. Text is missing a dimension that helps people feel each other. A voice or online talk is much better for communication. You may also be experiencing too much communication, and need a break from your phone. Quiet is important.

6)  Finances. During any extreme boundary challenge, I ask people to pay attention to their finances. It can be scary to look at your real numbers. But please do not turn away from your finances. It helps to make a budget and figure out what you need to get by right now. It helps to keep your eye on your financial responsibilities. There may be things you can’t afford to donate to or help with. You may be in a position where you can help others financially and share your resources. But either way, it’s important to do a reality check and know what you can and can’t afford right now. 

7)  If you live with a partner, discuss all responsibilities you are both facing and make a plan together. Do you have elder family members that are dependent on you? Children at home? Discuss all priorities together. Try to make a plan together about what is important and how responsibilities can be shared. It is easy for partners to get angry and feel like their partner is addressing things that don’t matter. It is easy for a partner to feel like they are not being heard. Stop and talk about what matters. Don’t go to the store and buy hundreds of dollars in toilet paper without talking to each other about what your household needs really are.

8)  You are in charge of your wellbeing and safety. COVID-19 is a pressure cooker of decisions that leaders need to make. An overwhelmed exhausted leader may not be thinking clearly. Someone who has been highly stressed prior to COVID-19 may be drained and going without adequate rest. If you are working for someone that is making poor decisions, you may need to stand up and make safer healthier decisions for yourself. Please pay attention, look for reliable information, and stay safe. You need to establish a boundary if you are being put in danger. If you get overworked or exhausted, you need to rest. You have a personal capacity. You need to speak up and watch out for your team. YOU NEED TO TAKE BREAKS from the challenge. 

9) Though none of us have experienced COVID-19, all of you have experienced extreme challenges before. You have gone without rest. You have been at a loss when looking for a resource. And you did find your way through.  You have taken care of family. You have moved. You have cut back on expenses. You have reshuffled. You have accepted help. You have given help to others. You know many things from those past experiences. You have lots of skills and can count on them.

10) In summary, increase your self-care, define your responsibilities, define your finances, create a web of resources you need or can share with others, pay attention, and trust that you have some strong abilities from past challenges.

Where are all the small things?

In our ever shortening of our time spent on anything: texting rather than a call; abbreviations instead of words; starting an email by just stating your business, without a Hello. 
The new boundaries minimize the time we spend on anything. Supposedly all the minimizing is to ensure we can use our time for what really matters.

And are you getting to what really matters?

I am grieving the absence of things like ‘Hello’, whole words, and attention to small things.

The small things are starting to add up. It’s a big pile of, “This no longer matters”. 

Somewhere buried in the discard pile is also the signal, “You no longer matter.”

I’m going to buck the trend, I’m bringing back attention to small things.

Attending to the small things has a large impact on relationships. Connecting and tuning into each other has more value to me than saving time.  

Making a Self-Care Wheel for 2020

Every year I make a short video to walk you through creating your self-care wheel and see what jumps out as your self-care priorities. Here is the 2020 5 minute video on how to make your self-care wheel.

I have heard from some of you that you are using this video in your staff teams. I love seeing the wheels you make and what feels like a priority for your self-care now. 

For 2020, I had some new things come forward as priorities.  I am planning to do more personal retreat time, being sure I have even more time for contemplation and reflection. I have some daily time for retreating with my guitar, reading, and writing, but this year I am saving full days weekly for personal retreat time.

Writing is a place on my wheel for 2020. I write haiku, which is playful and relates to nature. I also have several writing projects that I want to complete in 2020. The word "completing" kept coming up in the writing section of my self-care wheel. 

I suggest you make your wheel a few different times so you can see what happens as you focus in.

Here are the things that came up as priorities for my self-care wheel for 2020.

Though I've practiced mediation for a long time, this year my meditation is expanding in two ways. One is Mindful Self-Compassion and the other is being more mindful with my phone and social media. Less is more. Media mindfulness.

Family time feeds my heart. As my children have grown up, I understand the need to do their own lives and I am trying to find ways this year to spend quality fun and meaningful time together. 

Since I broke my hip in 2019, I am increasing my walking. I can't jog like I used to, but I would like to be able to take much longer walks. I am building up to a 5K as part of my walking self-care. There is a tipping point when I push my hip too hard, it hurts and I don't really gain anything. Exercise is a key place on my wheel. I'm a daily exerciser. I swim, lift weights,  pilates, walk. This year I am also hoping to get into yoga.

And the final place that showed up on my self-care wheel for 2020 is clearing and getting rid of things that I am not using. This also feels like a mindfulness practice. I can't tell you the number of times I have thought about and half-heartedly cleared drawers, closets, and stuff.  It has never shown up as part of my self-care. Seeing it as connected to my self-care is putting a whole different spin on it. It also feels connected to caring for our environment.  I am seeing it as changing my lifestyle to be more in tune with living in harmony with the planet. I feel like I am waking up.

The process of making a self-care wheel helps you clarify what is really true for you and what is relevant right now for your self-care. I have been sharing this process for several years and if you do it yearly, you will find that you are strengthening your inner core in layers. You can expand outward and see things building on each other. One year "meditation" was on my wheel. Just practicing meditation. And that has now expanded to an awareness practice that shows up in my writing, exercise, my social media, personal retreat time, and self-compassion. 

If you are doing this for the first time, please save one spot on your wheel for FOUNDATION. Your foundation is sleep, eat, exercise. When you get depleted in any way, always return to focus on your foundation. 

If you have been doing the wheel several years with me, your Foundation is probably embedded knowing. You know when to return to it. You can fill in 6 spaces on your wheel or save one for Foundation. 

Take good care of you in 2020. If you get time, send me an email and share what showed up on your self-care wheel.

Insiders , Outsiders, and Holidays

 As a very young child, I knew the feeling of being an outsider, inside of my family. I was not raised by my parents and their absenteeism in my childhood was felt. This resulted in me searching for connection and relationships in my neighborhood, at the homes of my childhood friends.

I learned at the houses of my friends, at their family dinners, at their birthdays, etc. what being an insider looked like. I joined in other people's families and felt included.  I grew up seeing my community as “home” and learning how to help myself feel included.

And though things turned out ok, I have a deep wound inside that can sometimes rip open or come up to the surface when I feel the sting of being an outsider, or being excluded.

As we go into the holiday season, notice your boundaries, who is considered an insider and who is an outsider in your family?

 If, like me, you are familiar with being the outsider, and the pain of that, take time this season to notice the moments when you feel like an insider and when you feel like an outsider. 

If you find yourself hurt or excluded, use these three steps to help yourself with the pain.

Step 1 - Notice how you are feeling. Acknowledge to yourself, I am feeling like an outsider. When I feel excluded, it hurts.
Step 2 - Assure yourself that this happens. It is a normal, human experience. We all feel like insiders and outsiders at different times.  
Step 3 - Say something kind to yourself. "I know this hurts. I'm sorry you were left out. I'm going to make some time right now to do something with you." Take a kindness break and give to yourself.

You can use these three steps to soothe yourself any time you are feeling hurt, about anything. It takes some practice. 

 Here is a short video giving you ways to soothe yourself with kindness when you are hurting.

The Three steps are from the work and research on Self-Compassion and Dr. Kristin Neff.

How to Stop Failing at Self-Care

Are you failing with self-care? Maybe you really are too busy. Maybe you are dragging yourself around sick, and emotionally circling the drain, and having low energy and no inspiration. Nothing is calling you.

First thing is to figure out if you are emotionally plugged up.
Have you had a loss, or trauma in the last 6 months? Are you facing some hard things emotionally? It is possible that your draggy feeling has some grief hidden in there.

Self-care recovery can be done in baby steps. Crawl back into bed. Take out a journal. Ask yourself about your grief or loss. What has been emotionally hard? Write about it. Make contact with your feelings. Read your journal, writing to yourself. You have to get emotionally truthful with yourself and understand how you are feeling.

When you struggle with self-care, it usually means you are struggling with some other things.

While you are in bed journaling, I want you to recover from whatever cold or body injury you have. Get more rest. Stop doing. Stop running around. Stop asking so much of yourself. Your body needs to recover. Rest is the most underrated medicine. Read a novel, find some interesting music to listen to.  Rest is great for so many things and is a wonderful self-care tool. Catch up on your sleep.

 Getting on track with self-care:

After you have rested, caught up on sleep, eaten well, you can take baby steps to start moving. This can be walking, going to a gentle yoga class. Sometimes joining an exercise class is helpful because they give you the structure. You don’t have to think about it.

Do things that make you happy and give you joy. This is a journal practice to help you: Make a list of 50 things you like to do. Write it as fast as you can. It’s ok to repeat yourself on your fast 50 list. Then read your 50 list and circle only the things that really are self-care just for you - (usually all kinds of to-do stuff pops up, but we are not looking for your to-do list). Only circle the self-care ideas. Anything surprising pop-up?
Do those circled things that are just for you.

I learned that creativity is an essential part of my self-care, playing music, writing/ journaling, and knitting. Reading is also an instant self-care feeder. There are so many choices to read, I keep my kindle loaded at all times and it is always with me.

Try new things: 

If you are not feeling self-care from your old activities, change it up. Learn something new. Try something outside the box. Just follow your curiosity and see where your heart leads. My heart led me to 2-stepping, SoulCollage, cross-country skiing, etc.

Self-care is a process of discovery. Let your self-care surprise you. I look forward to hearing about your discoveries. Send me an update on what works for you.

By practicing self-care, I have created a sanctuary, that I am always in. My sanctuary of self-care helps on the hard days.

Are You Dating Your Device?

"Research by the Nielsen Company found that the typical American adult spends, on average, ten hours and thirty-nine minutes per day interacting recreationally with screens." Doreen Dodgen-Magee, Deviced 

You probably don't need a psychologist to tell you this is having a huge effect on all of us. But in Doreen Dodgen-Magee's book Deviced, she helps us reflect on what this means for our relationships, our creativity, and our ability to feel resilient. She asks us to think about our relationship to our devices.

And yes, that's exactly what it is - a relationship.

I felt disturbed by this book. Disturbed in a very good way. She talks about our "embodied lives" and what is at stake for us as we spend more and more time in digital spaces. I am really struck by the word embodied, and that boundary, or lack of boundary between an embodied life and a digital one. I can't shake the idea out of my mind - how much we interrupt our embodied lives.

She raises concern about how our devices are affecting our ability to maintain eye contact. Imagine the ripple effect in every relationship and our ability to bond and feel cared for and connected with others.

An added value in this book is the significant research she has gathered for us. Every question I have ever wondered about regarding technology's impact on our psyche has been answered in this book. She includes a wide swath of research from the speed of images, video violence, porn, attention span, impact on children, overwhelm, digital overload, radiation, etc. 

Are you concerned about the radiation that leaches off your phone? I will never use my phone when it has one bar after reading the research she has gathered up in this book. 

Her exploration of how the immediacy of getting answers online is impacting resiliency is stunning. Having spent a lifetime of work on helping people develop their resiliency, I am learning how our digital spaces are undermining our embodied resiliency.  I feel compelled to share this book and get us all into a different and deeper conversation.

This book will make you ask yourself some questions. I am certain many will change their habits after reading this book. There is something very impactful about the way she has laid out what is  understood in research and the impact on our embodied selves.

This is a worthy and disturbing read.