If you've been reading me for a while you know that the last few months of 2016 totally kicked my tail. There was death, an election, and then, right at the end of the year, I got sick with bronchitis that lasted till just a few days ago. Holy smokes! Not the end of one year or beginning of the next that I'd dreamed of. But every cloud blah, blah, blah ... The "silver lining" to my cloud came in the form of time to think. I couldn't focus enough to write and couldn't stop coughing long enough to talk but I could, some of the time anyway, think. As my illness dragged on I got to think about all the things that I was reading in the news, on Twitter, and on Facebook. There is not a dearth of information or opinions out there. Reading what people had to say about the current political climate, about the changes that the new administration is enacting, about their own fears, hopes, and anxieties was fascinating. But it wasn't only fascinating, it was also overwhelming and exhausting.
The sheer volume of information that comes flying at us on any given day is enough to make the hardiest head spin. I applaud those who are committed to taking action on issues that matter to them. What I strongly suggest is that each of us consider where our boundaries lie. There is so much to read, know, and do that we literally cannot read, know, and do it all. We might, for a time, be able to bounce from one cause to another but there is no way to sustain that indefinitely. We, each of us, has our own limitations and honoring those by creating boundaries around what information we let in and what actions we choose to take is essential.
We can't fight every battle. We must choose our battle and build a boundary around that so that we don't burn out in a week or a month. We must decide when we hit the breaking point for taking in information and stop before we get there. We must decide what conversations support us, which drain us and limit the ones that leave us exhausted. And we need to take care of ourselves.
This isn't different than any other challenge that we take on from raising children to getting a PhD. We decide where to focus our energies and then say, "no" to things that will take more than we have to give. For lots of us things feel very fraught and important and the idea of saying, "no" to an issue that matters to us when it shows up can be tough. But there are going to be lots of battles to fight and, if we are to prevail, we need to be able to stay in the fight.
Boundaries help us stay in the battles we choose to engage with. Boundaries help us determine what gets our attention over the long haul. Boundaries let us take a step back for fun and recreation and rest as a regular part of our plan to achieve our goals. Our boundaries don't have to be tall, solid walls, they can be picket fences with gates that we open and close when necessary. We don't have to shut the whole world out, we just can't let the whole world in all the time and be effective ... at anything.
So, if you are feeling overwhelmed try taking a step back and considering where it is that you most want to spend your precious time. What arena feels most important to you personally, politically, or in any other way. Where do you want to make your stand? What is the cause that calls to your soul at this time? Whatever it is, whatever you feel passionate about remember, that to make the difference you can, you need boundaries. Time and space to do your work, time and space to take care of yourself, time and space to engage, or not, as you see fit.
Create the boundaries you need so that you can keep showing up and sharing your passions, commitment, gifts, and joy.