The Importance of Setting Limits

Sundays are Self Care days here at Little-Spaces. Today we’re talking about something that a lot of people, myself included, find very difficult to do.

It’s very rare that someone enjoys saying “no.” However, knowing our own limitations and setting limits are very important aspects of self care. It can be easy to get overwhelmed by everything in our lives – stresses at work or in relationships, concerns about the wider world around us, difficulties in our families, personal illnesses. And if we don’t learn how to set and express our limits, we can end up doing a lot of damage to ourselves.

Think about the last time you felt completely overwhelmed. Maybe that’s even right now. Can you look back a bit further from that point and notice a sign that perhaps told you things were getting to be a little too much? It’s important to pay attention to those things. For me, I often find myself sleeping way too much when I’m getting overwhelmed. That’s my sign. Yours might be different.

How can you avoid reaching that point? By setting limits. By learning to diplomatically say “no” to requests. If a coworker wants you to pick up an extra shift on your day off, but you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed out at work, it’s okay to say “I’m sorry, I really can’t.” If your partner wants you to run errands after you get off work and you’re wiped out, it’s fine to say “I’m out of energy today – I’ll handle it tomorrow.”

The closer you are to someone, the harder it can be to say “no.” Because of that, I highly suggest talking with your partner(s) to develop a script for when you’re at your limit. This lets all involved parties know what to expect when a limit is reached. And it should help reduce guilt in expressing when you’ve hit your limits. Think of it like a safeword for outside the bedroom. My partners and I often use The Spoon Theory to discuss this sort of thing. “I don’t have the spoons for that right now” is a solid script.

But the person it might be the hardest to say “no” to is yourself. The amount of weight we put on ourselves can be immense. We can feel as though we need to pick up extra hours at work, keep the house spotless, handle all the outdoor chores, provide the absolute best for our partners and children and pets… And that all adds up very quickly. And when the chores are waiting and you’re feeling stressed to breaking, it’s important to be able to say “no” to yourself as well. The bathroom can get cleaned tomorrow or this weekend. The grass will still be there to mow in a couple days.

Learn your limitations and practice saying “no.” I promise it gets easier when you do it a couple times. And you’ll be a happier, healthier person.

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