You may have heard people talking about boundaries: the limits that we set with other people based on our own wants and needs. Boundaries can be physical, mental, and emotional, and they are an essential part of maintaining positive interpersonal relationships. Whether you’re a master at setting boundaries or struggle with this in your own relationships, existing in a pandemic creates more messiness and blurred lines around boundaries. Here are some tips and reminders for maintaining healthy boundaries during the pandemic: 1. Everybody has different boundaries, and there is no clear “right” and “wrong.” Boundaries are highly individualized, so what may feel okay for you may not feel okay for somebody else. Keep this in mind as we continue into the gray area of reopening the state. Some may be willing to take more risks while others may continue to take precautions. 2. It’s important to assert your boundaries. Having your boundaries pushed can create discomfort and distrust in interpersonal relationships. In order to have your boundaries respected, the other person has to know what they are. Try to assert your boundaries confidently without minimizing them passively or pushing them on someone aggressively. As an example, a simple, “I’d like you to stand at least 6 feet away from me” can do the trick. 3. Pushing another person’s boundaries can damage relationships. You may be excited to start seeing friends again, but you may create conflict if you pressure people into negotiating or compromising on their boundaries. You can have direct conversations with people in your life about this by stating, “This is what I’m comfortable with at this time. What are you comfortable with?” Accept what they have to say and figure out how to navigate the relationship while still respecting their boundaries.
Bethany Kriegel, LMHC, earned her master’s degree in mental health counseling from Boston College. She has experience working with adults in residential treatment settings, helping those struggling with eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder, among other issues.
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