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How Better Boundaries Can Prevent Burnout

How Better Boundaries Can Prevent BurnoutWhen we lack boundaries we end up taking on things we don’t want to do or we overcommit ourselves. We ultimately neglect our needs in favor of trying to make other people happy, leaving us burnt out.

We all have limited amounts of time, energy, and money. Therefore, we have to make mindful decisions about how we use our resources. We also have to replenish our resources or we’ll become drained, burnt out, and resentful.

How Boundaries Can Prevent BurnoutWe must refill our “tanks” by getting enough sleep, eating healthfully, exercising, practicing our spiritual beliefs, socializing, having fun, asking for what we need, and setting limits on things that drain us. Boundaries help ensure that we don’t deplete all of our resources, and help us create a balance between expending and recharging.

It’s impossible to please everyone

As people-pleasers, we spend most of our time meeting other people’s expectations. This increases the chances that others will be happy with us, but it doesn’t necessarily mean our own needs are being met.


We all have needs

We can’t neglect our own needs indefinitely; eventually, our needs will demand to be met. It’s best to do this in an on-going way. If we don’t, we’ll end up burnt out – at work and/or at home. We tend to think of burnout as a phenomenon that happens primarily at work, but it happens just as frequently at home.

Signs of burnout include:

  • Feeling unappreciated
  • Being tired and low on energy
  • Dreading what’s on your calendar
  • Not wanting to get up in the morning
  • Feeling resentful or angry
  • Apathy or no longer caring about things
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Physical aches or pains
  • Becoming pessimistic

Weak boundaries at work can take many forms, such as not asking for a raise, being talked down to, not being paid overtime when it was earned, sexual harassment, or working an excessive number of hours.

If you don’t set boundaries at work, you may end up taking work home or accepting extra shifts or too many clients. This may initially feel good because you’re making your supervisor or clients happy, but someone or something in your life is going to suffer. Your family will miss you at family dinners or you’ll be exhausted from pulling all-nighters. Eventually, your work may suffer, you’ll resent your coworkers or clients, and your enthusiasm for work will dwindle. Saying “no” or setting boundaries at work means you’re less likely to get burnt out because your needs for time off, increased pay, or more respect are being met.

Burnout doesn’t just happen at work. The same principles apply in our personal lives. If you’re doing and giving all of the time (housework, carpool, volunteering, etc.) and not refilling your tank, you’re also going to get burnt out. And if you’re like me, reaching your boiling point at home isn’t pretty! Most of us do a better job managing our emotions at work, but are quicker to anger, protest, and yell at home. When this happens, we’ve let our need for appreciation, rest, or connection go unmet.

Boundaries may seem unkind. It would be nice if we could say “yes” all the time and never disappoint others. But as I said, we simply don’t have the resources to meet everyone else’s expectations all of the time and take care of our own needs as well. The secret to being able to continue to help others, be a good employee, or take care of your family for the long haul is to set boundaries when needed. Boundaries safeguard your resources and your physical and emotional well-being. Without these, you’ll inevitably burn out.

For more information, find me on Facebook or my book Setting Boundaries Without Guilt.



©2017 Sharon Martin. All rights reserved.
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How Better Boundaries Can Prevent Burnout

Sharon Martin, LCSW

Sharon Martin is a licensed psychotherapist and codependency expert practicing in San Jose, CA. She is the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism: Evidence-Based Skills to Help You Let Go of Self-Criticism, Build Self-Esteem, and Find Balance and several ebooks including Navigating the Codependency Maze.  

To learn more, visit Sharon's website. And please sign-up for free access to her resource library HERE (worksheets, tips, meditations, and resources for healing codependency, perfectionism, anxiety and more).

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APA Reference
Martin, S. (2017). How Better Boundaries Can Prevent Burnout. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Dec 2017
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