Setting Boundaries With Yourself


(This is me intensely setting boundaries. You can tell. Photo cred: Robert Matteo Photography)

I'm just going to go ahead and say it: I've felt really fantastic the past two weeks. Better than I have in months. I'm not just talking about feeling great mentally; I also feel physically stronger, wittier, and perhaps even more attractive. (Now the neurotic in me is immediately afraid that I've jinxed myself and tomorrow I'll start feeling terrible, but I feel that what I'm about to divulge is important, so I'll take that 'magical thinking' risk for your sake, dear reader!) The primary reason for my vast life improvement? It's super simple...

Sleep.

Yep. That's it. For the past two weeks, I've been averaging about 7-8 hours of pristine shut-eye. Every. Single. Night. (!) In our culture of non-stop going-ness, this feels like quite the accomplishment. Now, the incredible importance of sleep is not new to me; I've been keenly aware of the impact of a good night's rest on my body, spirit, mind, and skin for years. I even studied sleep, and the importance of it in grad school. But somehow, over the past 6 months, I allowed myself to fall into poor sleep patterns. In fact, I am responsible for the crappy sleep I'd been getting. I scheduled it that way.

When I first started training clients, I was very cognizant about ensuring I didn't overextend myself. The personal trainer's schedule is a unique one. Basically, we work when the vast majority of the population isn't. So, that typically means early mornings and evenings that can bleed into the wee hours. Occasionally because of scheduling, I'll train a client until 9/9:30pm. Which doesn't sound super late, until you factor in my commute time home, eating dinner around 10, the necessity for a bit of chill time before bed, and before you know it, it's mid-night and "I really have to finish this episode of The Wire!" (yes, I'm FINALLY catching up on The Wire. And yes, it's a brilliant show).

Anyways, somewhere along the line, I found myself saying "yes" when I shouldn't have, and began adding 6 and 7am sessions into my schedule. At first, I said, "Oh, it's not so bad. I'll just train this one client this one time at 6." And the next thing I knew, I was seeing 3-4 clients a day before work, and 4-5 clients after work. I was averaging 5 hours of sleep a night. And I was reaping all the negative side-effects of lack of sleep: I was tired all the time, cranky, achy, slightly depressed, having frequent sugar-cravings, and noticed dark circles forming under my eyes. (HOT!) Finally, one day, whilst at a networking event for wellness pros, feeling edgy, and nursing my third iced coffee of the morning, I spilled the beans on my poor sleep habits to the group. I received a lot of fantastic feedback on the necessity of setting boundaries with your available time, and it was like a lightbulb went off. I knew I had to, no matter what, say no to early morning sessions. And guess what? It was super easy. Every single one of my "early" clients was cool about adjusting their training schedules, and then I came to a big realization: I wasn't setting time boundaries with my clients (they're all wonderfully understanding human beings who want their trainer to take care of herself!), rather, I was setting time boundaries with myself. I was saying, "OK, self. You have to allow yourself to rest. You have to sleep. You express the importance of sleep to everyone you work with, so why doesn't that apply to you? Pshhhhha!"

And alas. Life is considerably better when I'm well-rested. I'm happier. The anxiety & depression that accompanies poor sleep has completely dissipated. I'm not fighting ongoing sugar cravings. My body feels stronger. The dark circles have disappeared, and I swear to god, my skin looks brighter.

Sometimes it's challenging to do the self-care things that bring us longterm happiness. What boundaries have you had to set with yourself to ensure a healthier you?

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Personal Trainer + Fitness Model + Wellness Blogger

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