The Government sets boundaries, we all can too!
Boundary setting is a lot of the work we do in therapy. It brings to light our relationships with partners, employers, friends, families, and selves. As therapists, we are taught to zoom in on these relationships and process how the relationships are serving our clients, a.k.a. you. This is hard, and a lot of times anxiety provoking, work. It forces individuals to examine relationship patterns, attachment styles, and possible unhealthy ways of connection. This kind of introspection can take years to process and change. With the stay-in-place work order extended until April 30th individuals are having to confront these boundary successes and challenges head on, while maintaining every day lives.
Maintaining work boundaries:
Setting boundaries professionally can be a somewhat uncomfortable and daunting task. We live in a society that places a high priority on productivity and success. While stuck in quarantine, one’s productivity will look different. Your ability to complete “normal tasks” can sometimes feel overwhelming. This is the time to give yourself the compassion and grace to accept lower productivity levels given the global situation. We are being inundated with constant stimulus about Covid-19, we are being asked to conform to unwanted new ways of living, and we have no definitive end in sight. This is a lot to process and hold.
Part of boundary setting during this time can involve setting realistic expectations with yourself and with your employer about what you can accomplish while working from home. Another boundary to assess is communication during “off hours”. Working from home may come with work life balance difficulties and the expectation that you will be available for more hours during the week. This may not be a realistic nor sustainable expectation for most and others may welcome the opportunity to stay busy.
As a licensed professional counselor, I recommend that individuals prioritize work/life balance and sign off when they usually do. The “typical” work hours may look different for different individuals who are having to teach their children, care for a sick parent, or simply taking some time for their own mental health.
It’s important to self-reflect and consider what the appropriate and realistic boundaries are for yourself when it comes to work.
Transparency is key during this unique time and clearly understanding and communicating your needs leads to more productive relationships with others. Work from home is affording us the unusual opportunity to re-establish our ways of communicating our needs and it is important that we are doing so.
Tips to consider:
Some tips include signing off for the day and walking away from your desk or work -station, not checking emails beyond your normal hours of work, clearly communicating to your employer that you are: taking an hour to workout, take a walk, or meditate.
These more vulnerable conversations are a necessity in the workplace because of the susceptibility to anxiety, depression, and burnout during our current climate.
Maintaining boundaries with Partner:
Clearly communicating needs and boundaries to your partner is always important but particularly during this time is pertinent as partners are spending almost 24/7 together. Although these conversations can be uncomfortable, clear lines of communication will allow for more sustainable and livable conditions. It is only normal that this time may come with more tension.
Tips to consider:
One way to stay on the same page is to have daily or weekly couple check-ins. This could be a time to speak about things you both did well in quarantine as well as a time to speak about some of your growth edges as a couple. How can you best support your partner during this time? How can your partner best support you during this time? How are you enjoying your quality time? Are either of you needing more alone time? This experience is about allowing your partner to be a part of your narrative and possibly letting them become part of your coping mechanisms.
While co-quarantining there seems to be a pressure that this time will lead to more intimacy, clearer lines of communication, as well as some insight into your partner’s everyday life. Or it could not. That is perfectly normal and okay too. It is only human that we look at this time to improve ourselves and our relationships. But that doesn’t mean you are not a strong or productive couple, it means that this time is a complicated one filled with stress and anxiety that each of us process in different ways. Use this time to be open with yourself and your partner about what you need in order to cohabitate.
Maintaining boundaries with Self:
There are countless articles and podcast segments about ways to preserve your mental health while working from home. A lot of the articles highlight creating a routine day-to-day in order to preserve some predictability in one’s life. Why is this so important? Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, author of the “Body Keeps Score”, explains that one of the preconditions of trauma is lack of predictability. By creating an outlined and predictable daily schedule we are allowing our body and mind the ability to relax.
Tips to consider:
During quarantine, make it a priority to create a daily, weekly, and even monthly schedule for yourself. Things to remember when making your schedule is to set realistic and achievable goals for yourself. Make sure that you are being kind with yourself about accomplishing goals in a realistic timeframe. Check-in with yourself more often. How am I feeling right now? How can I take care of myself? What am I needing to change in order to feel better?
Our collective mental health is going to be affected by this virus. Whether it be the stress of having to assimilate to new ways of living, the impact on the global economy, or lives being lost to Covid-19. We are constantly taking in new stimulus and being forced to process new information on an hourly basis. During stressful times we often resort to previous ways of coping. That is why it is so important to prioritize your mental health. Some tips to help you keep your mental health in check is to allow room for both gratitude and grief, attend your weekly therapy sessions, and limit your news intake.
The world is forcing you to learn your boundaries. It is the time to gain the insight into knowing your boundaries and being able to implement and maintain them. Through the simple act of staying home you are truly doing all you can do to help our world fight off this relentless virus. Be patient and kind with yourself and know that we are all alone together.
If you or your partner and you would like support during this time NSC offers virtual counseling.