As restrictions are lifted and people begin a new normal, the virus is still very much out there. Many people are ready to try to normalize and pretend there is no threat, while others are reluctant and concerned that moving too fast could expose them or their loved ones. Deciding what is best for you can be exhausting, because invitations to venture outside involves decision-making. Well-meaning friends and family may try to persuade you to join them for dinner or drinks; if you are not ready, being able to assert yourself to enforce personal boundaries will become crucial.
It’s not necessary to join every Face Time, Zoom, or Skype you’re invited to but saying no to social interaction can be difficult during a pandemic. You don’t want to hurt their feelings or risk social rejection. Frequent texts, instant messages, or emails containing misleading information or constant news can be exhausting. Here are methods to set healthy boundaries that protect you and your children without hurting others’ feelings.
1. What to say when you’re invited to a virtual meet up and you’re tired. Honesty is the best policy when you’re tired of virtual hangouts. You don’t have to attend every meet up you’re invited to or provide a lengthy excuse. A great reply would be, “Thank you for the invite, but I won’t be able to make it. I am feeling exhausted and overwhelmed with all of this. Can I have a raincheck for a later date?”
2. What to say when a stranger gets too close to you in a public place, such as a grocery store or elevator. When others take risks that we aren’t comfortable with, advocate for yourself respectfully. A great response would be, “Excuse me. Can I have some space? I am trying to respect the six feet guidelines the city requested.” In an elevator full of people, it’s best to wait for the next one. If you’re in the elevator and it stops to pick up more than one person, you can get out and wait for the next one or if you’re a caretaker and responsible for others, politely ask them if they would mind waiting for the next one. Setting good boundaries protects others as well as yourself.
3. How to decline people who pressure you into meeting up. Meeting up in homes, restaurants, or even patios can be scary if you are high-risk. Some people are more ready than others. Protecting your health and the health of the family should be your first concern rather than what others think of you. A great response is, “I miss you, too, and would love to see you, but I’m not ready to risk my health right now.”
4. How to handle people who overshare during a pandemic. People are stuck at home and need someone to talk to. Anxiety and isolation motivate people to overshare and constantly contact friends; this can be draining and cause emotional fatigue. It’s important to let them know that you care, but you don’t have the energy or time to engage in their problems throughout the day. A great response is, “I understand you’re stressed out right now; I am too. I have so many things and people I am taking care of, and I don’t want to be distracted during the day. If you do not hear back from me, it means I am busy. Let’s save time on the weekend to visit and catch up.” You can also redirect conversations when they become too gloomy by asking for a change of topic or to focus on the positive.
When you set healthy boundaries, you’re not only protecting yourself but your family and community. Being honest enough to say, “No,” isn’t cruel. Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you’re available 24/7. Practice self-care and continue to respect your values and engage in activities that bring joy and meaning to your life.