Boundary-Setting In The Age Of COVID

November 02, 2020 , written by Erica Van Driel, RCC, Clinical Counsellor

Setting boundaries is a challenging task at the best of times, but add a global pandemic and things get even more complicated. Though we may be receiving clear directives from health officials, the degree to which folks in our lives and communities interpret and implement these may vary significantly. While there might not be a lot we can do to influence others’ behaviour, we do have control over our own (including the boundaries we set). Below is a list of suggestions for setting boundaries and navigating these unprecedented times while spending more time at home.

Identify Your Boundaries

Prior to setting boundaries, it is important for us to first become aware of what is important to us and why. What makes you feel comfortable and safe? Uncomfortable or unsafe? What behaviour do you value within yourself and others? The answers to these provide you with insight into the boundaries necessary for maintaining your mental health and physical safety.

Create a Plan

Not everyone will respond well or be able to respect your boundaries. If there are particular people in your life whom you suspect will react strongly to your boundaries, it will be easier to respond when you have a plan than in the moment when emotions are high. Ahead of social or public situations, think about some responses or how to exit a conversation quickly. Writing in a journal may also be helpful!

Communicate Your Boundaries

Humans are hardwired for connection, yet many of us have found ourselves withdrawing and limiting contact during this time. It is important to clearly articulate boundaries with people in our lives who may push back, by stating our limits and what we are/are not comfortable with. You do not need to sacrifice your own health and safety to please others.

Be Aware of Triggers

For those of us who have experienced trauma, this time of increased isolation and distancing from others can mimic symptoms of trauma or activate triggers. Identify triggers you may already be aware of, and think of ways to increase a sense of safety and calm in your nervous system. Re-engage with safety plans, practice self-compassion, reach out to trusted others, and seek mental health support.

Practice Self-Care

As we mark 6 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become increasingly clear that life as we knew it has significantly shifted. Adjusting to a new way of life takes a lot more mental and physical energy, highlighting the importance of rest. You may feel more fatigued or emotionally drained following activities that you previously completed with little effort. Self-care comes in many forms, and it is essential for us to nourish and recharge ourselves.

For more suggestions on how to set and maintain your boundaries, check out these resources: