NOW ... as you probably know, writing is not my only job. I still psychologize (though on fewer days than before my writing career began to gobble up everything else). In fact, I direct something called the Center for Community Based Services at my agency, and that means I supervise staff and do all sorts of other training/consulting/meeting type things.
I have the best staff in the world. They are simply the most dedicated, thoughtful, vibrant bunch of people I've ever worked with. Their jobs are difficult--we provide intensive home- and community-based behavioral health services to families with kids who are at high risk for psychiatric hospitalization or for incarceration. It's a job that entails a definite element of physical risk--some staff members have been assaulted by clients who were having a particularly hard time. But the job also comes with emotional risk, and last week we all met to discuss that a bit.
In our weekly staff meeting, we talked about burnout, and what causes it. Staff listed a lot of things that could lead to burnout--not taking good care of themselves, dealing with uncertainty, not seeking or accepting help and support from colleagues and supervisors ... but they also came up with this: not having healthy boundaries.
Not having healthy boundaries can lead to burnout.
And as I thought about it, I realized that is true for many professions, not just for those in the mental health field. It's also true for writers. Here are some ways unhealthy boundaries can manifest:
No feeling able to say NO. To a request for a beta-read or critique. To a guest blog post. To a co-authored project. To a promotional or other group project.
Always being ON. The demands of social media are 24/7. Content content content. Interaction interaction interaction. Now now now. It's difficult to unplug, but what are the consequences for being ... plugged? All the time?
Too much self-disclosure. Really, it's easy to live life online. You can tell others your deepest, darkest secrets and feelings with a series of keystrokes, never having to look them in the eye. And sometimes, disclosure is pure and honest and brave and therapeutic. But sometimes, when the potential risks are not thought through, it leaves a person quite vulnerable and can lead to regret and ongoing feelings of anxiety and victimization. Despite this risk, there's a significant amount of pressure to get personal, I think. It often feels good in the moment, and it's often reinforced by others, which leads to more, and more personal, disclosure. I think the amount of disclosure that's "right" totally depends on the individual and how he/she handles it, but when the balance is off, burnout is a risk.
On Monday, I'll talk about how I manage this personally (and imperfectly) as I get ready for the publication of my first novel.
For now, I think I'll take a breath and ask YOU to weigh in! How do you think about boundaries? How do you maintain them? Are here other ways unhealthy boundaries can manifest?