“Do we really have the right to take care of ourselves? Do we really have the right to set boundaries? Do we really have the right to be direct and say what we need to say? You bet we do.” - Melody Beattie

We are currently in the middle of a pandemic, and we as a nation along with the rest of the world are trying to navigate on how to live our lives and figure out what the new “normal” looks like. People are at a loss as to what to do, as we’ve never experienced this before. This is a war we cannot see, “out of sight out of mind”. This is where boundaries are crossed without even knowing them or knowing that we need to set them. One thing we do know is to wash your hands, wear a face mask, and social distance at six feet apart.

Navigating a new normal can be difficult. Whether you’re debating who to allow in your “inner circle” post lockdown or figuring out how to address strangers whose actions in public affect you, it’s important to understand how to set healthy boundaries.

According to Mariana Bockarova, Ph.D., Psychology Today

“Knowing our boundaries and setting them are two very different hurdles to overcome. Setting boundaries does not always come easily. It's often a skill that needs to be learned.”

What are healthy boundaries?

Healthy boundaries are what you feel comfortable about and with your choices. This is a time to reflect and decide what you need to do, to be safe and feel good about.

Boundaries are not walls intended to keep people out physically or emotionally; they are just a way to protect yourself. Setting healthy boundaries involves self-care techniques that protect your physical, emotional, and mental health.

First, it’s important to understand that setting boundaries does not mean you are being selfish or trying to hurt anyone’s feelings. Remember that you are taking care of yourself and showing respect for those around you.

These are boundaries that help you feel safe and protect yourself.

Why are Healthy Boundaries Important?

Healthy boundaries are important for both our physical and emotional health. Navigating the physical boundary and trying not to make it an emotional boundary is very important and we should be mindful how we address boundaries with family and friends.

While someone may have the best intentions with social distancing, they may not always follow the guidelines. One way to set healthy boundaries is to have a plan in place for when you’re exposed to this, and to take care of yourself (and your loved ones) first. Having your tools (knowing your personal boundaries and how to handle them) in place to use for when a situation occurs and boundaries are crossed. Having your personal tools is a great way to stay focused and grounded with your choices. By doing this it can build inner strength, which people will recognize and respect.

Ways to set physical and emotional boundaries is by being open and honest with ourselves first and understanding what needs to happen when we are around people. Making sure we have the ground rules in place. Be specific and detailed. Try not to use too many words and feel confident about your choices. Staying connected and reaching out to friends and family helps us to feel connected emotionally even if we are not physically together. Dealing with stress and anxiety with self-care or talking to someone.

How to set healthy boundaries with family

Setting boundaries with family can be tricky, whether you live under one roof or living apart. These suggestions will help you with the process.

· Communication is key with both friends and family. Start by opening up a discussion. Talk about your feelings and what you believe needs to occur to keep everyone safe and healthy. Take time to listen to how the other party feels.

· Do not second guess your feelings or needs. It’s important to remain confident in the decisions and choices you have made.

· Remember that saying “no” is OK. If something does not feel right to you, say so. Your health and safety come first.

· Be thorough in explaining your needs and guidelines so everyone knows where you stand. Make sure you are clear and specific.

· Have a good support system who will stand by you and the boundaries that you have set.

“When we think of healthy boundaries in this unique situation, we need to think out of the box. While psychological and emotional boundaries are always important to maintain, more emphasis is needed in this situation to create specific physical boundaries since everyone in your ‘quarantine group’ is living in very close quarters.” Abigail Brenner M.D., Psychology Today

Self Care Techniques

Taking a time-out from social media and the news will help calm the mind from stress and anxiety. Try exploring new activities like meditation, yoga, and pranayama (breathing exercises). Getting out in nature and taking a long walk to clear the mind. Aromatherapy is another technique that can help with clear thinking. Use essential oils such as eucalyptus or lavender to promote relaxation and mental clarity. A diffuser works well, or try sprinkling a few drops of essential oil in the shower. Cooking at home with healthy new recipes that you have been meaning to try. By eating well and staying on a daily routine helps keep you focused and grounded. These are terrific ways to center yourself and think clearly about what you want and the boundaries you want to set for yourself. These forms of self-care are useful in all aspects of daily life.

Once you have all your tools in place and have a better understanding of your own personal boundaries, you can now use them when a situation arises. This will help guide you through the new “normal”. The new “normal” means new boundaries but doesn’t mean you are alone in this. We will come into the new rhythm of life once we get used to the boundaries and what we need to do to stay safe. This is going to be a long road ahead but we are resilient and have the inner strength to get through.