We all realize a the new “rules” of associating with people and the world is going to change. Most of us are still trying to understand and comprehend what this will look like at our work, in our relationships and our health. Personally, watching the latest reports, reading the opinions and comments, and wondering about mask etiquette is driving me nuts. I have never washed my hands so much and sometimes wish I had bought stock in a hand sanitizer company. I have friends who still have not left their homes and others who have really moved on from the virus season. We are all trying to figure it out. How we handle our worry and caution will be different for different people.
How each of our daily activities will look in the future will be very dependent on the new boundaries we establish with our thoughts, relationships and personal space. Boundaries are a measure of our self-esteem. They determine the acceptable limits for the world around us. Boundaries are our own invisible force field and you are in charge of maintaining these. Let explore a few.
- Boundaries with our thoughts.
Boundaries protect your personal self by setting a clear line between what is ok for me and what is not. A lack of boundaries can create emotional turmoil and allow others to make decisions for you. Defining boundaries is a process of determining the behavior you will accept from others and what you will not.
Boundaries with our thoughts starts with becoming an observer of how you think. It may sound strange to think about your thinking, but it is important and helpful. You can begin to pay attention to your thinking by noticing when things are off in your emotions and body. To know when your boundaries are crossed, stay tuned to your feelings.
- Are you anxious? Is your chest tight? What are you thinking?
- Are you sad? Does your stomach hurt? What are you thinking?
- Are you angry? Do you have a headache? What are you thinking?
It may take strength to guard yourself against Covid19 talk and news. Your new boundary may include being purposeful about the start, middle and end of your day. Start it with positive and inspiration rather than negative information. Set clear information overload boundaries. You may need to resist turning on the news or asking a friend to change the subject to assure healthy emotions and thoughts. Remember you are the keeper of your thought boundaries.
2. Boundaries with our relationships.
We have all heard the statement — ‘I guess this is the new normal’ in the last month or so. What does this mean for our relationships? Research on isolation and our brain have told us long times apart from others is not good for us. In fact, it is worse for us than smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Yet here we are struggling to learn how to get along in a virtual world. And now we are being warned our health may be in jeopardy if we don’t social distance. The emotional comfort of being with other people has been superceded with greater health concerns of social distancing for our health. Instead of asking, “Is there a reason to do this online?” we find ourselves asking, “Are there really good reasons to do this in person?”
But in some ways this new way of life has had positive results. More and more families are spending more time together on the weekends. There are no sports or activities to attend or coach. Neighbors are hanging out over the hedge and cousins are finding time to talk and reconnect. As online communication has increased it creates more distance, but also more connection.
If you have enjoyed this shift in your relationships, be sure to hold true to some of the boundaries that helped you through this season:
- Honor what is important to you by choosing to put you and your family first.
- Drop the guilt and responsibility for others.
- Be responsible and purposeful about what you add to your schedule.
Establishing good boundaries in our lives begins with knowing and understanding our own limits. Who I am, what I am responsible for and what I am Not responsible for. I am responsible for my happiness, my behavior, my choices, my feelings. Once you have established strong, clear boundaries, you can begin to be more comfortable with yourself.
3. Boundaries with your personal time.
In today’s world, time is an very important and valuable asset. We often feel we do not have enough time to focus on what’s really important in our lives, yet time is often what we least protect with effective boundaries. Do you feel a need to respond to every Facebook post? Do you have co-workers or employees who demand your time 24/7? Do you have a very needy relative or friend? There are many more examples of violations of our personal time boundaries. Make sure you are aware of yours.
This past month has caused most of us to slow down a little bit. I hope, like me, you found this to be a good thing. In our family, we cooked meals again and took long walk with the dogs. I heard the home improvement stores were busy as people flocked to get long delayed home lists done. One of the things that we each need to decide is how we want this to look going forward. If we have enjoyed some of the freedom from unnecessary commitments, then we will need to find new tactics to keep and protect these boundaries with our time.
- If it appears you need to compromise, be flexible, but take it slowly and do not agree to anything that does not feel right.
- Protect your time — do not overcommit.
- Ask for space — we all need our own time.
During this season, we have learned valuable lessons in flexibility and adaptability. We learned how quickly as humans we can respond when faced with a common enemy. We learned or relearned how to reconnect with family and community. But, most importantly, I hope we have learned some new habits that will change how we do life going forward. Let us examine these lessons, reflect on our new boundaries, and consider how we want our thoughts, time and relationships to feel like from now on.
Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Boundaries: When To Say Yes, When To Say No, To Take Control of Your Life. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2004. Companion workbook available. This work, as many other boundary-setting resources, is Christian-oriented.