Updated: Aug 23
If you struggle with Sjögren's fatigue and find yourself giving away too much of your energy, then read on. Because in this article we’re going to walk you through three practical ways in which you can start taking back control of your energy, reducing fatigue and increasing your quality of life through setting boundaries.
The Sjögren's 'Cycle of Fatigue'
Managing your energy levels with Sjögren's can be a real challenge. And many people with Sjögren’s often find themselves pushing themselves to do more than their body can currently handle, despite knowing that they will end up more tired and exhausted the day after.
This also often leads to worsened symptoms more generally, including full-blown flare-ups, keeping you in a frustrating cycle of suffering.
And it’s this repetitive 'cycle of fatigue' that we would like to help you break.
Setting Boundaries to Break The Cycle
Setting boundaries is a great way to help you prioritise self-care and manage your energy, which is essential to prevent flare-ups, and reduce stress and anxiety.
Boundaries are personal rules that you set for yourself to protect your limited energy levels.
→ They help you decide how much energy you want to use for different things in your life.
→ They help ensure that you have enough energy 'in the tank' for taking care of yourself and avoiding exhaustion
So, pre-defining these rules will help you keep your energy balanced, prevent feeling worn out and making sure the most important things to you are getting the focus they need (while de-prioritising those things which are an unnecessary energy suck).
For example, you might tell a friend before meeting up with them, “if my energy levels run low, I will have to leave early. I hope you understand”.
By establishing clear limits and communicating them effectively, you can maintain a more balanced life, improve your overall well-being, and have healthier relationships.
It is also a great way to prevent you from pushing yourself beyond your limits or capacity, so you don’t overexert yourself and end up giving too much.
On the other hand, not having boundaries is like leaving your house wide open for anyone to come in and take anything and everything. Over time, you’ll end up with nothing!
How to Overcome Challenges to Sticking to Your Boundaries
Despite how useful setting boundaries can be for helping you manage your energy and your symptoms, there are a few challenges that can stop you from applying them successfully. Here, we break these down together with how to overcome them. Let’s dive in.
Challenge #1: Feeling like setting boundaries is ‘selfish’
One of the main obstacles in setting boundaries is the belief that it is selfish. We are here to tell you that this is not true, and in fact, setting boundaries can be a very self-less act!
You might have heard the saying ‘you cannot pour from an empty cup’ - and nowhere is this more relevant than here.
Filling your cup first (i.e. making sure you prioritise your needs where possible) makes sure that you have the energy and capacity to support and care for others as well. You wouldn’t be able to do this unless you fill your cup first.
So to overcome this obstacle, remind yourself of this phrase as regularly as you need to: “You cannot pour from an empty cup, so fill your cup first”. It should become second nature for you to think this way.
Challenge #2: Always putting others’ needs over your own
Now, before I go further, let me clarify that this is not about those who have to take care of others, for example, parents or carers. Of course you have to sometimes prioritise others’ needs over your own, but even then, whenever possible, getting additional help from time to time could be worthwhile to help make sure that you can continue to be there for them.
Who I’m really referring to here is those who feel they are less deserving than others. Less deserving to be happy, less deserving to be healthy, less deserving of enjoying life, less deserving in general.
This mindset is quite common and can be a problem because when you feel you are less deserving, you will be more likely to put other people’s needs over your own, even when you don’t need to, and even when you shouldn’t.
If you never prioritise yourself then you wont have boundaries, and you’ll end up over-stretching yourself. You’ll give too much and end up absolutely exhausted, which can cause Sjögren’s symptoms to worsen. Ironically, this can make you feel resentful towards those you are giving of yourself to, which is the opposite of your intention when giving to others.
A powerful way to overcome this second obstacle is to practice a daily affirmation ritual where you place your hands on your heart and tell yourself, quietly or out loud,
‘I am worthy of healing. I deserve to be free from suffering just as others deserve to be free from suffering. I deserve to prioritise myself while I heal’.
You’ll be amazed at how powerful these affirmations can be in helping you prioritise yourself and respect the boundaries you set for yourself.
Challenge #3: Not knowing how to set boundaries
The third and final obstacle you may be experiencing when setting boundaries is that you simply don’t know how to do it.
It is actually very rare that we are taught how to set boundaries, and this is something that most of us have to learn, sometimes even very late in life. So we feel intimidated by the idea of setting boundaries.
And a really effective way to overcome this obstacle is to ask a close friend or relative if you can practise boundary setting with them.
What this means is that you’ll simply practice setting boundaries with them that you're afraid to set with other people. So as a first step, you can do this by setting a small boundary such as ‘I need to reschedule our meeting or ‘I won’t be able to stay for long’.
How a health coach can help
If you're finding it hard to stick to your boundaries, don't beat yourself up. It's a process, and setbacks are normal.
But with the help of a coach, you can stay on track towards achieving your health goals. For example, one client of mine struggled setting boundaries with her social commitments. She had signed up to too many ‘clubs’ and societies and felt like she had to say yes to every volunteering request, even if it meant baking for long hours and having to recover for many days after, therefore sacrificing other parts of her life.
With the help of coaching, she learned to prioritize her health and assert herself in a friendly and professional manner. As a result, she was able to politely decline the requests, prioritise her health, and still be a valued member of the groups - without burning out.
Setting boundaries can be scary at first, and if you’re not used to doing it, it might feel like you’re being selfish or that you don’t deserve to put yourself first.
However, setting boundaries is one of the first and most essential steps to managing your energy and therefore reducing fatigue and preventing flare-ups.
If you're ready to gain control of your fatigue and live a more balanced life, seriously consider working with a Beyond Sjögren's health coach. Together, you can develop a personalized plan for managing your symptoms and achieving your goals.
Book a free consultation to discuss the best next steps you can take to start feeling better, and with more energy!
Download Our Free Boundary Setting Guide
And because we know that setting and sticking to your boundaries is a struggle that many of you experience, we have put together a free downloadable guide where we’ve summarized the points of this article and also provide a decision making assistant to help you prioritise what you’re putting your energy into.
With practice and a little determination you can set boundaries that protect your time and energy, helping you to have more energy to heal, and to be there for others in the long term.