By: Rachel Painter, LPC
Boundaries are an essential part of coping with anxiety and highly stressful situations. With each passing day, we are overwhelmed with media coverage, our loved one’s opinions, to-do lists, and striving to remain socially connected. Now more than ever, boundaries are necessary for our emotional well-being as we continue to cope with the uncertainty that accompanies a pandemic.
We can set boundaries around our exposure to media AND still have a desire to stay informed. We can desire to be productive during this time AND prioritize rest and balance. This crisis does not have to mean that our emotions are invalid and that our boundaries no longer matter. So how do we find balance in such an uncertain time?
Setting boundaries looks like knowing our needs and clearly, opening communicating those needs. To begin setting boundaries, I encourage you to explore your expectations and needs mindfully. Are your expectations creating pressure to be productive in any way right now? Can you adjust your expectations when needed? What are the ways you can self-soothe right now? What emotions need validating and self-compassion? Then once you are aware of your emotional needs, what needs communicating in order to prioritize those needs?
Examples of clear boundary setting during COVID-19:
· “It is not helpful for me to talk about coronavirus right now.
· “I need space to feel my emotions right now.”
· “I appreciate that you have prioritized being informed but I am limiting my access to media coverage at the moment.”
· “It is helpful for me right now to limit my media coverage to 15 minutes a day”.
· “I respect your opinion, but I am still collecting my thoughts on the situation at hand.”
· “I am inspired by your motivation and productivity, but I am prioritizing rest at the moment.”
For many reasons, it can be challenging to identify our own emotional needs throughout this crisis. “Rules” around how to ‘best’ exist day to day during this pandemic can quickly lead to feelings of overwhelm, guilt, and even shame. If you are struggling to stay grounded or find your thoughts spiraling out of control I offer you these techniques, found in DBT therapy, in order to center yourself so that you can prioritize your own needs and identify clear boundaries:
As you feel your emotions begin to intensify…
· Do a forward-fold in order to re-regulate the nervous system.
· Paced Breathing. (Inhale for 4 seconds & exhale for 5 seconds)
· Place an ice pack or cold compress over your eyes and let it rest there for at least 15-30 seconds.