3 Ways to Set Smart Boundaries While Social Distancing

Just because you're spending more time at home doesn't mean you have to say "yes" to everything. 

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Posted in , May 20, 2020

Setting boundaries while social distancing

“Boundaries define us,” wrote the psychologist Henry Cloud, “They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom.”

On the one hand, at this time of canceled events, stay-at-home orders and ongoing social distancing measures, many boundaries are set for us. But on the other hand, being at home and technically available for endless Zoom visits and phone calls or long work days or nonstop news consumption, we may feel like we need to learn all over again how to set smart boundaries. We may need to hit a reset to feel balanced and connected without being overburdened and overwhelmed.

Here are some tips for regaining control of your almost-always-at-home life:

1) Know When to Say “No”
“‘No’ is a complete sentence,” quips the writer Anne Lamott, and she’s right. Just because you are technically able to attend a Zoom happy hour or virtual meet-up doesn’t mean you are obligated to do so. And you don’t owe a complicated explanation for your absence if you’re just not up for it. Sometimes, “no” is the most positive answer you can give to a request or invitation. 

2) Set Boundaries for News Consumption
The days of “the news hour” are long gone, as 24-hour news networks are the norm. But more is not necessarily better when it comes to watching news broadcasts or reading news articles. 

Try to dedicate a consistent period of time each day to the news, remembering that it’s neither possible nor appropriate to take in everything that’s going on. If you find yourself feeling anxious or overwrought after watching the news, consider changing your routine. Check the headlines at a different time of day (though I'd suggest avoiding consuming news right before bed) or shorten the amount of news exposure you have.

3) Keep Workable Work Hours
Many people have shifted to working-from-home arrangements since the pandemic began. It is tempting, especially at a time when many are concerned about furloughs or layoffs, to try to do more for longer periods to show how valuable we are to our companies. 

That is an understandable impulse—but it is also important to maintain healthy boundaries to distinguish between “work” time and “home” time. Communicating clearly with coworkers about particular times when you are not available will show you to be an honest and trustworthy team member, one who can be counted on to be there when you say you are available.

How are you finding freedom in setting boundaries during the pandemic?

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