How To Maintain Your Boundaries As COVID Restrictions Are Lifted
If you live in Ontario you’ll know that the provincial government has announced that proof of vaccination is no longer required in many indoor spaces, and soon the mask mandate will be lifted.
Maybe you’re on board with the government’s decisions and you’re more than ready to burn your masks and throw away your stockpile of sanitizers…
Maybe you’re fearing for your health and the health of those around you, considering double- or even triple-masking…
Or maybe you’re somewhere in between—happy that things are going back to normal (or whatever “normal” meant pre-COVID), but a bit skeptical about whether this is really the right time.
If you feel like your social and/or health anxiety are rising in anticipation of these province-wide changes, this post may be for you.
When we’re so inundated by opinions from the government, people on social media, or even our friends and family, we can start to feel confused about what the right decisions are for ourselves. Especially with something like a pandemic, when there’s so much that’s out of our control, it can be really stressful to juggle our emotions with those of everyone around us.
We may start to lose sight of our needs and forget that we are autonomous beings!
Setting boundaries can be a good reminder of how much control you have over your own life when there’s so much in the world youcan’t and don’t need tocontrol.
I’ll be talking about setting boundaries in the specific context of COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, but you can definitely apply these ideas to many situations.
If there’s anything you take from this post, let it to be this affirmation:
I have the power to set boundaries, and the boundaries I set are for myself, not for others.
Being A “Boundaried” Person
Let’s hear that affirmation one more time: I have the power to set boundaries, and the boundaries I set are for myself, not for others.
What does it mean that the boundaries you set are for yourself and not others? Well, a great way to frame the way we think about boundaries is to understand them in relation to your own behaviour.
With this framing, asking someone not to do something that upsets you is not a boundary—it’s a request. Instead, setting a boundary would mean that you are not going to tolerate or stay in a situation that upsets you. You can’t control what other people do, but you do have the power to set boundaries for yourself to retain your authenticity in any given moment. Ask yourself, “How can I show up for myself or take care of my needs while x is happening?”
Setting a boundary doesn’t always mean you’re going to walk away from people that hurt or disrespect you. In fact, boundaries don’t even have to be actions that are external. Boundaries are an internal framework for healthy and authentic decision-making.
Take a look at this diagram depicting a “boundaried” person:
This internal framework represents understanding where you end and where someone else begins. You have agency over everything within the boundary, and you are not responsible for anything outside of the boundary.
Boundaries don’t limit you, but are actually meant to protect you—your happiness, your needs, and your feelings.
How Boundaries Can Help Ease Social and Health Anxiety
During this pandemic, an important part of managing your social and health anxiety is to show up for yourself in difficult situations and make sure your needs are met. Practice trusting and standing by your intuition—that inner voice—that is telling you what you need in a given moment to feel comfortable and safe.
You might be feeling pressure from the government or people around you to let go of certain “COVID” habits or behaviours, but ultimately these decisions are within your boundary. Your safety, especially during a pandemic, is a priority.
I want to clarify that when we’re dealing with social and health anxiety, we do need to find a balance between challenging our thoughts and maintaining authenticity through boundaries.
Let’s examine what that means for both these types of anxiety:
Challenging your thoughts means remembering that although your feelings are real, they aren’t necessarily reality (i.e., waking up with a dry throat doesn’t immediately mean you have COVID).
Setting boundaries means determining what you need to feel safe and taking measures to meet those needs (i.e., continuing to wear a mask when you go grocery shopping even after the mandate is lifted).
Challenging your thoughts can mean reminding yourself that people are not scrutinizing your social interactions and they’re likely feeling anxious as well.
Setting a boundary to manage your social anxiety can mean maintaining your social bubble even after group capacity limits are increased. It can help to continue spending time around the same few people, especially if they are people around whom you feel comfortable talking about your social anxiety.
Whether you’re working to ease your health or social anxiety, setting boundaries for yourself and learning to differentiate between what’s within and outside of your control can be very liberating and empowering!
Just as the news about COVID seems to be changing every day, your boundaries are not set in stone.
You might feel pressure from yourself or those around you to maintain the same viewpoint throughout the pandemic, but the truth is you’re allowed to redraw your boundaries to suit your needs in whatever moment you’re in.
We are dynamic individuals and our boundaries are meant to grow and be reshaped as we develop or learn new information.
Just remember: I have the power to set boundaries, and the boundaries I set are for myself, not for others.
Until next time!
Zainib Abdullah is the co-founder and a psychotherapist at WellNest Psychotherapy Services. Her approach to healing incorporates various therapeutic modalities. She works from a client-centred, anti-racist/oppressive/colonial & trauma-informed framework. As a yoga teacher and student in the lineage of Classical Yoga, she further incorporates mindfulness based therapies to support clients in accessing greater connectedness to their inner wisdom and peace.