Burn Out and Boundaries


by Kristina Page


We all need a break sometimes.

A break from the routines and habits that pile up to overwhelm us, stress us, and lead us to burn out.

I recently attended a seminar about codependency and burn out in the self-employed as a favor to the seminar organizer who wanted to ensure a good turn out. Although I didn’t feel particularly stressed, and I didn’t even know what codependent meant, I learned some good information applicable to most people’s lives. It even helped me make a few changes of my own to make life run more smoothly.

According to speaker Dr. Suzanne Nixon, LPC, people who display codependent behavior may set themselves up for burn out by overextending themselves and not watching their boundaries. Her usage of the term codependent covers the broad sense of a person who changes their own behavior to win approval from others or who takes on responsibility for other peoples’ lives. As she spoke, she gave great examples of how easily people exhibit this behavior in the workplace.

Many people who do not otherwise ignore their own boundaries or take on too much, may do so in the workplace which provides their livelihood. Who has come in early or stayed late to help a client with a problem or a co-worker with a project? Done occasionally, helping someone out can feel good and provide a real service. Making it a routine can lead to stress, resentment, and dissatisfaction. Likewise, a person who routinely devalues their work by cutting their fee structure to help someone out in need, a seemingly altruistic gesture, can begin to harbor similar negative feelings.

People in the giving professions, perhaps, face these challenges more frequently than others, but to some extent, the workplace encourages codependent behavior. Is everyone being a team player? Society in general values giving behavior, so people can easily cross the line from mindful, heart-full giving to over-responsibility. This, from my understanding, is where boundaries come in to play.

When faced with an interpersonal situation that urges us to give up our own needs in order to aid another, it can help to step back and analyze 1) whether we are truly comfortable with the situation and 2) whether we can move forward with good intent and no feelings of stress or resentment. In the long run, taking on too much, things we feel uncomfortable with, and things for the wrong reasons can lead us away from a happy centered life. Of course, situations will arise in which we have no choice, however we can minimize our discomfort by taking control over those things in which we do have a choice.

Personally, this class helped me feel better about saying “no” to over-committing myself to projects that I really don’t have time or energy for. It also helped me tighten up my schedule so that I can serve my clients well while still enjoying a family life. And, it encouraged me to put a vacation on the schedule!

What feels out of balance to you? Do you have an area in your life that could benefit by better honoring your boundaries? Could you find more peace by disengaging from someone else’s agenda? Maybe becoming mindful of your stressors can help you make a break for it.


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