Created for Greatist by the experts at Healthline. Continue reading.
Personal limits are always important, but during the coronavirus pandemic they have acquired a new meaning and necessity.
If you’ve stayed inside and tried to lessen your fear of COVID (aka logging out of social media) it can be a shock to find out that people you know aren’t taking the same steps.
This makes clear and direct communication even more important right now – and especially with close family members and friends who you may have spoken to “on the same page”
That means setting boundaries and letting people know what you are doing and what not and asking them about their precautions so you are on the same page.
Everyone has different ideas about what caution actually means and looks like, which means that you can set many kinds of socialization-related boundaries. How to find your limits:
Make a list of what you like to do and what scares you
First, write a yes-no list of things that you feel uncomfortable or unsure about.
It’s okay to talk in person about what you think is safe or unsafe. Maybe these are group activities even when it’s outside, but you’re fine when you see people outside one on one. This difference is key to setting boundaries during COVID-19.
Writing them down will help you remember what works and what doesn’t when someone invites you to do something!
Another tip: Before you say yes, do your own risk assessment and find out what levels of social interaction you are actually comfortable with, regardless of what other people say about how you should be feeling.
Review the data and news on cases in your region or the region you plan to go to as new information can change your boundaries.
Write questions to help plan when communication is unclear
Sometimes a “little” slope or camp is “little” until you show up. To avoid these situations, ask these questions to determine your next steps:
- Are all tested beforehand, isolated and only come if they are negative?
- Will we all wear masks and distance ourselves?
- How many people did you see What about the other invited people?
- Would you be willing to quarantine 2 weeks before we meet?
- Have you been to restaurants and bars? Inside or outside?
Let people know where or what your comfort zone is
Everyone has eventualities that can alter their feelings, and as many experts have said, staying in isolation for this long is not good for a person’s sanity.
To balance your needs and risks, make it very clear where the line is. Here are some examples:
- For family gatherings where people travel across the country: “I’m not comfortable with so many people inside right now, even if we all wear masks.”
- For meeting points with friends in the park: “I’m fine being outside with X people when we’re all wearing masks.”
- For roommate discussions: “COVID cases are still very bad. Can we make sure we don’t have people in our home and only see people outdoors and in masks? “
- For new relationships: “I’m sorry to hear that your test was inconclusive. It’s frustrating. Unfortunately, I live with my grandparents and can’t risk meeting me. If you’ve been quarantined for two weeks or need to take the test again, I’d be happy to talk to you about a meeting. “
Remind yourself that with “no” you are setting limits
You never have to make a specific statement, and the no is a full sentence. It’s perfectly fine to say no and set that limit without giving further details.
It always goes in both directions, by the way! If someone adds terms of retaliation to your no, there is no obligation to suddenly change your answer to yes. All you can do is let them know about your own information, accept their decisions, and decide what is best for you.
You don’t have to carry other people’s feelings
People may take it personally, but keep in mind that during COVID-19, limits apply to your safety as well as others. If you are a people lover, you may feel obliged to remove anger or feelings of guilt. However, a limit is not a negotiation or consideration.
You are not going wrong by prioritizing your safety, even if it means wearing a mask, not attending intimate events, or other activities that could affect your wellbeing.
The pandemic isn’t really the time to play the devil’s advocate. If someone sets a limit during COVID-19, it is best to respect them. You don’t want to ruin relationships here! In fact, borders are here to strengthen them.
We weren’t mind readers prior to COVID-19 and it certainly isn’t time to start now!
Depending on how your conversation is going, here are a few examples of how to answer and navigate these conversations:
- When there is a safety concern in a small gathering: “We only have X people, everyone has to wear masks and distance. It will happen outside and we will ask people not to gather indoors! We also ask people to get tested and isolate before coming if possible. “
- When someone asks a general question about boundaries: “I’ve only been around X people lately and only outdoors, otherwise I’ve isolated and socially distanced myself. I’m just comfortable with __________. Is that similar to your limits? “
- If someone wants to hang out in a place that you are not comfortable with: “I don’t go to restaurants or bars, so I would like to meet and sit at a distance in a park.”
- When someone asks you for a date: “I’m not feeling well at all right now because COVID cases are bad. Do you mind if we just video chat and text for now? “
- If someone declines your first invitation and you want to customize: “I understand your concerns. I can meet somewhere outside and see myself some distance away if that works for you. “
If you don’t trust the other person or they’ve indicated actions that worry you, it’s okay to start with tighter boundaries before changing them. In contrast to shoelaces for safety reasons, borders are easier to loosen than tighten.
And we’re not saying that all of this is easy.
For people who are afraid if someone disagrees with them or shows disapproval, the initial practice of having these cross-border conversations will be difficult. But ultimately we have to accept that we cannot control other people’s actions – only our own.
You can’t put a limit on someone to follow, but you can tell people what you’re comfortable with and ask them to respect it. Focus on what you can control about your own behavior and actions, and ask people to respect your limits.
If it doesn’t, at the end of the day you will have a better idea of who to spend your time with and whose ideas of distance and safety do not match your own. And that is valuable information in and of itself.