May 13, 2021

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Guest Author

Setting Boundaries After COVID-19

Similar to “self-care,” the term “boundaries” has been popping up all over social media feeds. But, what do boundaries actually mean? Personal boundaries can be thought of like rules you set to manage stress, anxiety, and other emotions, and/or your physical space.

Similar to “self-care,” the term “boundaries” has been popping up all over social media feeds. But, what do boundaries actually mean?

Personal boundaries can be thought of like rules you set to manage stress, anxiety, and other emotions, and/or your physical space.

For example, say a friend asks you for plans on a weeknight at 8pm, but you know that you need to go to bed by 9:30pm in order to feel refreshed the next morning.

Telling your friend you are not free or will have to leave by 9pm is setting a boundary. This may be an easy boundary to set, but as we acclimate to life after COVID, there may be boundaries you feel less comfortable voicing in order to protect your physical and mental health.

I’m going to give you tips to feel comfortable and confident when setting boundaries as we enter this new season:

1.    Write down the reasons for your setting boundaries.

Remembering why you are setting certain boundaries will help you to be firm and self-assured.

Examples:

•      The reason for my boundaries is that 500,000 people in the US died from COVID.

•      The reason for my boundaries is that it is possible to get long-term effects from COVID.

•      The reason for my boundaries is that I will be anxious for days afterwards worrying if I caught COVID if I don’t maintain them.

•      The reason for my boundaries is that I will be worried I could be carrying COVID and spreading the virus to others.

2.    Now that you know WHY you are setting your boundaries, think of practices where boundaries will benefit your physical and mental health.

Given the reasons above, examples of boundaries would be:

•      Only hanging out with friends outdoors.

•      Only hanging out with friends who are fully vaccinated.

•      Only going to places where I know others will be fully masked.

•      Only hanging out with friends at a distance.

3.    Get comfortable with speaking up for yourself.

This may take some self-reflection. If you are someone who feels that setting boundaries will cause confrontation or conflict with your people pleaser personality, it will be beneficial to think about why this is and how you can change your reaction when setting a boundary.

4.    Finally, it’s time to set your boundaries with others.

Try to set your boundaries with people before meeting up. This way you can go into your hangout with your friend knowing your comfort level when it comes to seeing each other in person.

Below are two likely scenarios we may experience as the country reopens and examples of how we can best set boundaries in those situations:

Scenario A) Your friend invites you to go out for lunch and do some shopping. The restaurant she suggests has indoor and outdoor seating. The stores she mentions are all indoors. How do you respond?

You can start by thanking your friend for inviting you and say that you are excited to spend time with them!

Then, let them know that you are thrilled to hangout, and will do so in person if they are [fully vaccinated], [will have lunch outdoors], and/or [insert your boundary here]. You can add that you do not feel comfortable shopping indoors and are happy to see them outside.

This way, your friend knows your comfort levels going into the afternoon. Also, if the restaurant only has available seating indoors, your friend knows that that is something you will not do.

The worst-case scenario is that your friend will respond with one of the following:

•      You can’t force me to get the vaccine

•      Are you serious? Why is it such a big deal? We’ll be fine!

•      We’re young, I really wouldn’t worry about it.

If this happens, remember your reasons for your boundaries and share your reasons with your friend. Find a way to help them understand where you’re coming from.

Likely, they’ll sympathize and want to spend time with you, perhaps doing something else. If they don’t, remember that boundaries are to protect your physical and mental health, which is more important than pleasing a friend. You can always respond with, “These are my boundaries and I hope you can respect them. If you do not want to hang out because of them, let me know in advance.”

That’s all! The conversation can end there. If your friend respects your boundaries, great! If not and the relationship is important to you, tell them you’d be happy to have a Zoom date.

Scenario B) You make plans with friends to meet in the park. One is not fully vaccinated. Beforehand, you all agreed to wear your masks and stay at a distance. When you show up, all of your friends are close together and not all wearing their masks. What do you do?

In this situation, you are going to have to use your voice. You can tell your friends that you were excited to see them and that you were under the impression that everyone would be wearing masks and be at a distance, but seeing this is not happening, you no longer feel comfortable hanging out.

Give your friends an opportunity to respond. If they are still not practicing safe precautions, tell them you just don’t feel comfortable and will see them another time. You can also share the reasons for your discomfort to help them understand.

If they try to push you to stay without following precautions, let them know you miss them and would love to hang out, but you will not enjoy your time with them without safe hangout practices.

You are not alone when it comes to navigating social gatherings as we near what is hopefully the end of the COVID pandemic, and setting boundaries can take practice. Many of us do not want to let others down or come off as “difficult.” In reality, the more you set boundaries with others and the more others set boundaries with you, the more pleasant your social experiences will be. It’s also most important to remember that your physical and mental health will be protected.


Similar to “self-care,” the term “boundaries” has been popping up all over social media feeds. But, what do boundaries actually mean?

Personal boundaries can be thought of like rules you set to manage stress, anxiety, and other emotions, and/or your physical space.

For example, say a friend asks you for plans on a weeknight at 8pm, but you know that you need to go to bed by 9:30pm in order to feel refreshed the next morning.

Telling your friend you are not free or will have to leave by 9pm is setting a boundary. This may be an easy boundary to set, but as we acclimate to life after COVID, there may be boundaries you feel less comfortable voicing in order to protect your physical and mental health.

I’m going to give you tips to feel comfortable and confident when setting boundaries as we enter this new season:  

1.    Write down the reasons for your setting boundaries.

Remembering why you are setting certain boundaries will help you to be firm and self-assured.

Examples:

•      The reason for my boundaries is that 500,000 people in the US died from COVID.

•      The reason for my boundaries is that it is possible to get long-term effects from COVID.

•      The reason for my boundaries is that I will be anxious for days afterwards worrying if I caught COVID if I don’t maintain them.

•      The reason for my boundaries is that I will be worried I could be carrying COVID and spreading the virus to others.

2.    Now that you know WHY you are setting your boundaries, think of practices where boundaries will benefit your physical and mental health.

Given the reasons above, examples of boundaries would be:

•      Only hanging out with friends outdoors.

•      Only hanging out with friends who are fully vaccinated.

•      Only going to places where I know others will be fully masked.

•      Only hanging out with friends at a distance.

3.    Get comfortable with speaking up for yourself.

This may take some self-reflection. If you are someone who feels that setting boundaries will cause confrontation or conflict with your people pleaser personality, it will be beneficial to think about why this is and how you can change your reaction when setting a boundary.

4.    Finally, it’s time to set your boundaries with others.

Try to set your boundaries with people before meeting up. This way you can go into your hangout with your friend knowing your comfort level when it comes to seeing each other in person.

Below are two likely scenarios we may experience as the country reopens and examples of how we can best set boundaries in those situations:

Scenario A) Your friend invites you to go out for lunch and do some shopping. The restaurant she suggests has indoor and outdoor seating. The stores she mentions are all indoors. How do you respond?

You can start by thanking your friend for inviting you and say that you are excited to spend time with them!

Then, let them know that you are thrilled to hangout, and will do so in person if they are [fully vaccinated], [will have lunch outdoors], and/or [insert your boundary here]. You can add that you do not feel comfortable shopping indoors and are happy to see them outside.

This way, your friend knows your comfort levels going into the afternoon. Also, if the restaurant only has available seating indoors, your friend knows that that is something you will not do.

The worst-case scenario is that your friend will respond with one of the following:

•      You can’t force me to get the vaccine

•      Are you serious? Why is it such a big deal? We’ll be fine!

•      We’re young, I really wouldn’t worry about it.

If this happens, remember your reasons for your boundaries and share your reasons with your friend. Find a way to help them understand where you’re coming from.

Likely, they’ll sympathize and want to spend time with you, perhaps doing something else. If they don’t, remember that boundaries are to protect your physical and mental health, which is more important than pleasing a friend. You can always respond with, “These are my boundaries and I hope you can respect them. If you do not want to hang out because of them, let me know in advance.”

That’s all! The conversation can end there. If your friend respects your boundaries, great! If not and the relationship is important to you, tell them you’d be happy to have a Zoom date.

Scenario B) You make plans with friends to meet in the park. One is not fully vaccinated. Beforehand, you all agreed to wear your masks and stay at a distance. When you show up, all of your friends are close together and not all wearing their masks. What do you do?

In this situation, you are going to have to use your voice. You can tell your friends that you were excited to see them and that you were under the impression that everyone would be wearing masks and be at a distance, but seeing this is not happening, you no longer feel comfortable hanging out.

Give your friends an opportunity to respond. If they are still not practicing safe precautions, tell them you just don’t feel comfortable and will see them another time. You can also share the reasons for your discomfort to help them understand.

If they try to push you to stay without following precautions, let them know you miss them and would love to hang out, but you will not enjoy your time with them without safe hangout practices.

You are not alone when it comes to navigating social gatherings as we near what is hopefully the end of the COVID pandemic, and setting boundaries can take practice. Many of us do not want to let others down or come off as “difficult.” In reality, the more you set boundaries with others and the more others set boundaries with you, the more pleasant your social experiences will be. It’s also most important to remember that your physical and mental health will be protected.

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About the author

Lexi Joondeph-Briedbart works with clients experiencing anxiety, depression, life changes, loneliness, and relationship issues. Whether these conditions are brought on by school, stress, work pressures, family issues, and/or societal difficulties, she can work with you and help you to develop tools to manage uncomfortable feelings and stress. The modalities she will use in your sessions will depend on the presenting issue and what works best for you. These may include but not be limited to CBT, DBT, solution-focused therapy, supportive therapy, and/or mindfulness. Lexi is a licensed social worker and received her MSW from NYU

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