When they think about taking care of themselves, many Americans seek online advice about how to sleep, or be distracted by music or a good book. But not Minnesota.
A new study based on search engine activity found that Minnesota is one-of-a-kind in the self-care term it Googles most: setting boundaries.
While Texans are looking up how to play instruments, and New Yorkers are buying soothing candles, Minnesotans are asking the internet how to set limits with annoying in-laws, demanding children, inappropriate co-workers, or passive-aggressive friends.
Eligibility.com, an online benefits broker, tallied each state’s top self-care searches for marketing purposes, rather than scientific publication, so the results should be viewed skeptically. But therapists say it tapped into a quintessential problem for Minnesotans who are raised to make the best of things and avoid conflict.
More clients, especially women, are making appointments specifically to deal with boundary setting, said Karina DiLuzio, a coach with Allina’s Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. “I just see it so often in women,” she said, “and that is definitely part of the Minnesota culture — women who are overcommitted and really seeking to please and be all things to all people.”
Many people don’t know how to say no without sounding like jerks — or worry that friends or relatives will refuse to respect the boundaries they set, DiLuzio said.
“A lot of people think, ‘This is just not worth the fight. The consequences are going to be more than it’s worth so I’m just going to endure this,’ ” she said.
Caregivers of both aging parents and needy children encounter this dilemma. And while it is a national problem, DiLuzio said it is hard to handle in a place where “Minnesota Nice” means putting everyone else’s needs first.
Top self-care searches included baking in Maine, pets in Montana, cleaning in Idaho and deep breathing in New Hampshire, the Eligibility.com study said.
Alex Enabnit, an insurance specialist with the company, said the Minnesota results did draw attention because it’s a “recipe for crazymaking” when people don’t set effective boundaries.
“We become overstressed, potentially resentful and passive-aggressive, and so enmeshed in what the other person thinks, wants, and feels, that we lose sight of what we think, want, and feel,” he said.
On the bright side, searching for boundary-setting information online means that Minnesotans recognize the problem and are doing something about it, DiLuzio said.
“It demonstrates a lot of insight … that our fellow Minnesotans are saying, ‘There’s something not quite right and I think this needs attention,’ ” she said. “ ‘Maybe a candle’s not going to solve the problem.’ ”