Setting blogging boundaries

Curled up on the couch last week, I felt more relaxed than I had in a very long time. I had just returned from having a post-work drink with Doug and his coworker, had grilled up some burgers for dinner and was now ready to watch a movie. That may not sound like a big deal, but my life had gotten so hectic lately that such a simple thing seemed like an enormous treat.

The movie I chose to watch on Netflix was called The River Why. I read the novel years ago and loved it. Though the film wasn’t great, I still enjoyed it. Watching the characters on the screen, I noticed something. They were never running home to check email and weren’t glued to social media. Instead, the characters were shown reading or fishing in their free time or spending time quietly talking to each other. You know the sort of scenes–the ones where friends are shown sitting on a hillside overlooking a breathtaking view or out in a flower-filled meadow just talking. Nolstalgic? I suppose–but I can actually remember a time in my life not so long ago when moments like that were a reality. Days when I came home from work and Doug and I would take a quiet walk or I would sketch, play guitar or read in the evenings. Moments when I would spontaneously stop by my friend’s house after work to pull weeds in her garden and chat about happenings. Times when I didn’t have to plan dinner dates months in advance.

I want my life to return to that pace.

Recently Doug and I got into an argument when talking about upcoming plans for my birthday. He wanted to do something special with me and I was completely stressed out with a huge to-do list. I asked if we couldn’t postpone the birthday festivities for a future month when my schedule wasn’t so hectic. My suggestion didn’t go over too well with Doug and it shouldn’t have. Seriously? My life felt so busy that I didn’t want to take a couple of hours to celebrate my own birthday? This was a wake-up call that something was out of balance. Where was the Heidi who used to be so laid back and spontaneous?

I want more of this in my life. Here I am celebrating my 38th birthday in the spring of 2010 with a camp-out.  This year I could barely squeeze in a two-hour dinner.
I want more of this in my life. Here I am celebrating my 38th birthday in the spring of 2010 with a camp-out. This year I could barely squeeze in a two-hour dinner.

After much reflection, I came to the conclusion that my transformation into a stressed-out and overwhelmed person occurred when I started Ostomy Outdoors. This wasn’t easy to admit to myself. Keeping this blog is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. How could a project I love so much have such an adverse affect on my well-being?

I knew when I began blogging that writing posts, answering comments and making videos would would require a time commitment and I was excited to take this on. What I did not anticipate was all the side projects that would come with blogging. Things like being asked to write my story for other sites, providing feedback on IBD blogs, helping with research and all sorts of other requests. These were all such worthwhile things proposed by people and organizations that I greatly admired. Each one was an amazing opportunity to spread awareness and help others so I eagerly said yes to just about every proposal that came my way. It meant so much to me to be able to help so many people.

The problem is, the list of projects I could be involved with is endless. As soon as I wrap one thing up, another comes along. All these activities, even the small ones, require time to successfully carry out; yet time is a limited resource. The number of blog-related projects I have tried to take on is simply not sustainable for me; I am burnt-out, spread thin and exhausted. Also, these projects, combined with my regular blog posts tie me to the computer too much. I want to hear the sounds of birds on the trail, smell freshly baked goods in a cafe, or feel my head resting on my hubby’s shoulder–real tangible experiences that I can wrap my senses around.  I don’t want to be fixed to a screen and keyboard living life through my computer. I need to give myself time and permission to step away from the online world sometimes.

I worked incredibly hard over the last couple of months to clear my plate of a huge backlog of projects that I had committed to, and I have no desire to go back for seconds. From now on, when I get asked to be involved in new blog-related ventures, I will be saying no. It isn’t that these projects and causes aren’t absolutely amazing and worthwhile to take part in. I simply must set boundaries for my role as a health activist in order to get my life back in balance. This feels selfish in a way, but it is absolutely necessary for my welfare.

To prepare for this transition, I have been reading a lot of articles about learning how to say no. One of the main points in many of these pieces is that when you do say no to one opportunity, you are opening up the time to say yes to another. So by saying no to additional blog-related projects, what am I saying yes to?

  • quiet time with my hubby
  • visits with family
  • phone calls to Mom and Dad
  • after-work drinks
  • sketching excursions
  • running with friends
  • spontaneous weekend getaways
  • pitching my tent for a campout
  • moving over rock
  • taking aim at a biathlon target
  • tying and casting flies
  • hand-writing letters to loved ones
  • making waffles for breakfast
  • nature journaling, block printing, and watercolor painting
  • regular exercise and meditation
  • playing my guitar and drumming
  • reading books (I haven’t finished one in three years)
  • being less burnt-out so I can do a better job at the things I can do to help others

What do these new priorities mean for Ostomy Outdoors? Interestingly the aspects of  my blog that I love the most are the ones that I have had the least amount of time to do lately: writing posts, making videos, and helping people who are facing or recovering from ostomy surgery one-on-one through comments and emails. I plan to put a strong focus on these activities. I also remain committed to some of my other related writing projects such as my column in the United Ostomy Associations of America’s The Phoenix magazine. However, I will not be taking on much else. By setting new boundaries I hope to re-immerse myself in the parts of my life that have nothing to do with health activism.

Hopefully soon, my eyes will once again grace the pages of a good novel, my hand will bounce off my djembe, my pen will skirt across paper and maybe, just maybe, I will find myself sitting in a gorgeous meadow immersed in a meaningful conversation with a friend.

Looking forward to more of this!
Looking forward to more of this!

19 thoughts on “Setting blogging boundaries

  1. I love this post. Thank you for this.

    I can certainly relate have have put off my own blog-related activities in order to remain focused on my goals, family and health.

    I value your blog so much, so I look forward to future content, but completely respect your time in producing that content.

    1. Thank you for the encouraging comment! I wonder how many other bloggers feel overwhelmed. It seems like so many are involved in a huge list of things– I really wonder how they manage to do it all sometimes. I think everyone is different with their threshold of what they can handle. I am really glad I tried to get involved in a lot of projects as it helped me to better understand my own limits and what I really want to focus on with my blog. I will definitely continue to post and thank you for understanding if it takes me a while to do so sometimes:).

  2. I SO admire you Heidi. You are the best. Once again you use your voice to open up my eyes and I am sure many other people’s. I would love to sit next to you and sit looking out into a peaceful view and write or read like your picture shows. It is so great to realize what is really the most important like our hubbies, friends and family. I find that the first thing I do in the morning isn’t brush my teeth or kiss my husband, but I grab my phone to read Facebook. Oh my gosh … What could be so important that occurred in Facebook that it is my priority? Thank you again for being so wonderful and sharing. Love and hugs, eileen PS Scott is really getting into climbing with ropes…he trying to make me start drinking.

    Sent from my iPhone


    1. Eileen,

      Thank you. I know! I too look at email and Facebook too much. Yesterday I glanced at my email for a second before I left for work, but then I didn’t touch my computer at all when I got home in the evening and it was so refreshing. I am going to be doing more of that. I love using social media as a tool for sharing happenings, and I would never get rid of my accounts. However, I am going to start minimizing my time on it to take advantage of real life experiences– like having dinner with you and Scott! I saw the photos of Scott on the cliffs and got really excited because now we can go rock climbing with him too!!! Sorry to be a bad influence ha ha. See you next week at the meeting!

  3. Heidi, I’m so glad your husband had the wisdom to pick a fight with you on this! Please please please take the time you need to rest and have fun – you don’t wanna end up with a burnout (the voice of experience speaking here). Dinner out with your man is MUCH better!! Love and hugs!

    1. Hi Amy,

      Yes! This was one of those good arguments to have:) It definitely made me realize I have been working too hard. We did enjoy dinner and are looking forward to more relaxing times ahead. It is great to hear from you. Hope you and your family are well!


  4. I can understand where you are coming from. if you will have time for all those things you have included in your list it is well worth saying no to blogging-related activities.

    1. Thanks Carly! I am already noticing my life changing for the positive due to this decision. I just got back from a wonderful trip to NYC to see my brothers and was so fun to relax and spend time with them knowing I wouldn’t have a huge blogging project to-do list waiting for me when I got home.

  5. Hi
    I’m. From Ireland and have a full time illeostomy after I had a panproctocolomy on 01 after I was diagnosed with a very rare cancer, I’ve been traveling over and back to the UK since for treatment and surgeries. Including the removal of a 3 stone tumour In jan 04, the Irish gov stopped my funding after London referred me to the Md Anderson clinic in Houston Texas because the cancer has advanced beyond their level of expertise so I’ve set up a legal fund here in Ireland to try raise the €100,000 needed for my treatment in the USA , I have 8 tumours to remove , 7 are intra abdominal and in my mysentry while one is on my femoral artery on my right thigh restricting blood flow to my heart causing me to get 4 heart attacks in the last few years. I have only 70 cms of small bowel left after all my large and small bowel, anus , rectum, spinchter were all removed , the plan is to remove the but of bowel I have left and transplant In about 6 ft of donor bowel as well as a femoral artery transplant on my thigh. I’ll be left paralysed from the waist down after the operation as they have to cut thru the nerves to my legs to try remove as many tumours as possible, I have developed type 2 diabetes cause of tumour on my pancreas, other tumours are on my lung and base of spine , I’ve been ill all my life and docs could not find a diagnosis for me until I collapsed one night and lost so much blood both from my anus and mouth that I nearly died from blood loss ,I was rushed over to a specialist hospital st marks in London where they diagnosed me with FAP cancer, when all the organs were removed they found over 2,500 polyps in my large bowel alone. I’ve found it hard living with the illeostomy bag and the fact I have to self catheterise every time I need to pee, I’m warm weather when I sweat the base plate the bag is on starts to leak due the sweat and I’ve found myself going more and more into a shell, I could not do all the things I used to do cause as soon as I sweat the bag would leak, my kids were only 2,3 and 4 at the time . I’ve spent the last 9 months setting up a fund to try raise the money I need to get to the USA for new treatments discovered by the md Anderson before I get surgery but it’s just impossible to get companies /people to donate money unless your a big major society . I’ve started on twitter 3 weeks ago and have got over 450 followers and am getting a good response and support, I’m also going to start my own blog site, don’t know what to call it yet, on twitter my username is jcmanu66 using #jcalcancerfund, my surgeon also told me to write a book of about 230 pages outlining my life long battle with illness and cancer to where I am now trying to raise funds, he will help me with certain medical parts of the book, my kids are 13,14 & 15 and have always seen me sick and all the time In hospital in two ( now nearly 3) countries. It’s taken me since 01 to get to the stage tat I feel comfortable to do what I have to do to extend my life and spent as much time with my family as possible , I’ve got the last rites 3 times, I’ve died 4 times only to be brought back, I just won’t let it get me down no more, I’m clinically depressed because of my condition and that I can’t work no more and I’m only 48,, I came accross your blog via a twitter link and found parts of your story so much like mine and to be honest I’m hoping that you could offer me some advice regarding blogging etc what to do / not to do etc anything that can help me. My email is on my twitter bio as is the pic of the tumour they removed, I’ve raised over £100,000 by donating my tumours and organs to scientific research but now it’s I that needs the funding and it’s proving impossible, if you could find the time to write a few words of advice I would really appreciate it, and I fully understand if yuk can’t , my email for the fund is
    My deepest thanks and many congrats to you and how you have coped with your illness
    Thank you kindly
    John calnan

    1. Hi John,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. My heart goes out to you… I can’t imagine going through all that you have. Your strength and fortitude is inspirational! I don’t have time this evening, but I will plan to send you an email with a few blogging tips sometime over the weekend or on Monday.

      Take Care,

      1. Thanks Heidi
        I look forward to your email, there is no rush at all, I know how busy you must be , love reading your blog,

  6. Great post Heidi. Many of us who actively maintain blogs have inadvertently shifted focus away from real life adventures and redirected our time toward our blogs. While trekking in Nepal, I found myself thinking about writing a post about an experience, rather than living-in-moment with the experience. My trek was starting to become an ‘adventure for a blog’ rather than a ‘blog about an adventure’. I left my laptop at Namche, and picked it up on the way down from the mountains… and enjoyed the rest of my trek immensely. I too have had to make a personal transition with the ability to say no to many worthwhile causes. But I have found a personal peace by doing what I want to do, rather than what others may think I am obligated to do.

    1. Thanks Paul. I can so relate to your “adventure for a blog” experiences. It was like that for me on some of my adventures when I first began blogging. Now I try really hard to not let that happen. Once in a while something will pop into my head on a trip that I might want to film or write about so I jot down a note or take a quick video clip, but then I get back to enjoying the activity. Sure I miss out on recording some things that would have been amazing to include in a post or video, but I end up being more present in the hike, climb, ski run etc. After all, I can always write about things later from memory and if I don’t have photos or video footage to go with it, oh well:) I am glad to hear that you are finding a balance too!

  7. Heidi, I just found your blog and just read little bit of it but I want to thank you for showing me that I can lead a normal life with an ileostomy. I was diagnosed three months ago with the genetic mutation FAP (polyps by the hundreds throughout colon and rectum) after my brother was diagnosed last fall with colon cancer. Fortunately I have no signs of cancer and in two weeks I will be undergoing surgery and was concerned what life would be like after surgery and what I would be able to do. Thanks for giving people like me hope that life can be normal after recover from having colon and rectum removed and I am looking forward to reading more of your blog over the next few weeks as I prepare for surgery so I can make sure I ask the right questions.

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      Thanks for sharing your story. I am so sorry that you and your family have been through so much:( It means a lot to me to know that the blog has been helpful for you. I wish you the best with your surgery. The initial months can be really tough emotionally and physically, so don’t be hard on yourself if you feel sad or have some bad days. It is totally normal after going through a hard surgery and such a big change to your body. Things get so much better once you heal up, your body adapts and you learn the ins and outs of managing on ostomy. Just take those rough patches day by day and before you know it you will be recovered and doing everything you love again. Please feel free to ask any questions. I am happy to help!


      1. Heidi,

        Just thought I would update you on my surgery. 7 weeks post op and doing great. Still looking for the right combination of ostomy bag and skin products but adjusting to my new “normal”. Surgeon released me from his care last week amazed how well I am doing. I still have some medical issues to deal with because of the FAP but not going to let my health issues rule my life. Doing almost everything I was doing before surgery but tiring a lot sooner than I used to. Guess in time I will be back to normal.


      2. Hi Jennifer,

        I am so happy to hear that things are going well! Thanks for keeping in touch. Seven weeks is still very early so don’t worry if you are tired. Though I started to do more strenuous exercise at 5-10 months, it took me a year to feel completely back to normal energy-wise. At seven weeks post-op I could barely walk a 1/4 mile! Keep celebrating all the small victories and before you know it, months will have gone by and you will be feeling so much stronger.

        It is tough finding the right system. I think I tried just about every product available before setting on my current system (and I still test new stuff out but so far nothing has beat my trusty Convatec Durahesive wafers.) Once you find “the one” things get so much easier!

        Keep up the great attitude and trust that things will feel more normal soon. The learning curve in the beginning is huge!

        Take Care,

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