Anxiety check in! How are you doing? Coronavirus has not gone and there is no vaccination yet so it is ok to want to be safe.
Everybody has a slightly different understanding of what is “safe”
and “not safe” for them. There is an increasing amount of conflict around how we socialise these days with all kinds of contradicting “facts” going around. It is important to know your boundaries and how to communicate them in a way that
does not jeopardise your relationships.
Boundaries are the rules and limits that we set for ourselves, physically, mentally and in our relationships. Most of us do this unconsciously so not everybody has the same boundaries. This only becomes evident when we wrongly make assumptions about each other and what we’re comfortable with. To get a better understanding of your boundaries tune into your own emotions, see how you are feeling. If specific conversations or situations make you feel anxious, angry, frustrated, unsafe or helpless notice this and think how to put boundaries in place.
Many people are still concerned about catching the virus and are taking extreme precautions whereas others appear to be deliberately defying the recommendations of the experts. This is presenting major challenges for families, friends and workplaces as the easing of lockdown is causing a lot of tension and anxiety.
Here are my 8 top tips on how to communicate your boundaries without falling out with each other:
- Know Your Boundaries
It is ok to have boundaries. They help you know your limits, your values and the things you won’t compromise on. Before making any plans have a think about how you feel and try to identify your limits.
You may decide not to partake in events and gatherings or that in order to feel comfortable doing so you will only meet people outdoors, distancing or with a facemask. Different people will have different boundaries so knowing what yours are and being consistent with them will help communication with others.
Have a think about the topics you are comfortable and not comfortable talking about. Do you need to set boundaries around certain topics for the sake of your mental health?
Practice stating your boundaries, for example “I’m feeling overwhelmed with the information and I’m taking things slow while following the medical guidelines. Can we not talk about this for now?”
- Use “I” Statements
When communicating with someone it is important to let someone know how you feel. When you use “I” statements there is no blame or accusation and you are stating clearly what is going on for you.
I statements include “I feel”, “I’d like” and an example would be “I value our relationship and don’t want this to impact us. I want us both to feel safe, and I would really like if you could respect my boundaries”
- It is Ok to Say No
With pressure to go back to “normal” many people feel social pressure but it is still ok to say no. Respect and accept that there will be differences in opinions.
If you are not comfortable going to a house or event can you attend gatherings but choose not to eat there, especially if sharing platters? Could you only attend events outside or where people will respect your boundaries?
It is ok to leave or separate yourself, socially distance, or ask people to stand back if they have a different understanding of safety to you.
- State Your Boundaries Ahead of Time
Boundaries are a two way street.
Asking your friends or family what their boundaries are and asking how you can support them opens up communication without conflict.
It is ok to set expectations in advance by saying something like “I’m happy to meet you but these are the precautions I will be taking, please respect my boundaries”.
Be consistent, if you have different boundaries with different people, understand why so you can manage people’s expectations.
- Communicate with Compassion
It is important to have respectful conversations in a non-judgmental way where everyone can have a say and their voice is valid, even if you disagree.
Approach the situation with sensitivity and compassion, don’t approach the situation with hostility. That just provokes defensiveness. It is ok to state your boundaries and to own how your feel.
Small acts of compassion can make a big impact. You don’t have to be confrontational. Model the behaviour you would desire, especially in front of children; say thanks when people turn up in masks, offer hand sanitiser. We need to demonstrate the trust and kindness we are relying on from others to protect our wellbeing.
- Physical Distance not Social Distance
It is still recommended that we keep a distant from each other. However this means physical distance not social. At this stage we’ve all become used to socialising online and this opens up a much larger network than we might otherwise have.
There are many free workshops, conferences, events that you can attend online and still meet your social needs. You can propose social online events and quiz nights with friends and family.
When meeting with people in person it is ok to remind them that there are still guidelines in place for distancing and again state your boundaries.
- Designated Spaces and Objects
If you do meet people in person there are ways you can manage spaces and objects so that it feels safe to you and reduce anxiety. I had a picnic with friends where we each brought our own blanket and stayed in our designated space. It was a great way to connect, have fun and maintain boundaries without conflict.
Some people bring their own straw, cutlery, and sanitiser to events. Do what is safe for you and be mindful that other people might have different boundaries around this.
- Mind Your Stress
The only thing you can control is yourself.
Covid19 is a scary thing because of the uncertainty. It also means you could be seeing those you love in a different way as we may have different boundaries at the moment.
Stress lowers the immune system so try to take responsibility for managing your own stress. It helps to think of the health guidelines not as forced conformity, but as a necessary act of solidarity.