As we are all doing everything from one place: working, parenting, homeschooling, eating, playing, learning, exercising, etc…how do we make sure to continue to express clear boundaries with those we love and share space with?
It was much easier when we could leave the house to go to work or school, to drive to the place we exercise, to take a night for ourselves away from our household by meeting up with friends out somewhere. Now that we are confined to one place and our social outlet is getting on Zoom with friends, how do we still carve out that space that we need for ourselves in order to reset.
I’m going to share a few ways that I am trying to hold up the boundaries and make time for myself and hope they will encourage you to think of ways that you can do this in your own home while we are socially distancing. Follow me over the next week for a new tip each day!
Day 1: Setting Clear Expectations
Set clear expectations with those in your home when you are on a personal Zoom call, exercising, reading a book, etc. (many people are only setting up these boundaries in regards to work calls/meetings) Let them know the time you will be unavailable, for how long, and when you will rejoin them. This lets them know that it is important and that it is a time when you will need to be left alone. This can be difficult if you are the only adult in the home with children, but think of ways that you can steal 15 minutes here and there as a reset for yourself. Something I need each day is some form of exercise and so I let my family know when I will be doing a particular yoga or Pilates class and ask them not to interrupt me unless it is an emergency.
Day 2: Creating a Routine or Schedule to Create Structure
Have a routine or schedule that helps you and others get the things that need to be done completed while also having time to be alone or family fun time and stick to it. By keeping on a routine, it gives you and others the ability to set time aside for themselves and still have time together. This might be really difficult as many of us are working from home and our workday is going longer because of the other responsibilities that we have taken on (homeschooling, babysitting, etc.). Have a set time, regardless of what you have gotten done, that you will stop your workday and have time to spend together. Our day consists of some form of exercise, eating, school, work, and always ends with family fun and bedtime routines.
Day 3: Sleep is Important- Get Some Sleep!
Go to bed when you need to in order to get enough sleep. Getting sleep at night is a way for your body to reset, so a good nights sleep is really important. Again, this can be really difficult because many of us aren’t going into work and we think that we can stay up later because our work day looks different but it benefits you to get the sleep you need to have the energy (mentally and physically for the next day). It is okay to say what you need, and if what you need is to go to bed early one night- do it! If you have children, keep them on a bedtime routine as well- they need their sleep to reset too. If I am feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, I tell my family that I am going to sleep and that I will see them in the morning and take that time for myself.
Day 4: Take Time for You
Even if you don’t have something set up and just need some personal space., let those around you know that you are feeling like you need your own time out and then have a space that is just yours to go to and recharge. This could be a room or area of your home or you could even venture out for a walk alone just to clear your head. Many people are taking to going on drives (not necessarily to go anywhere, just to get out of the house) and for some people going to the grocery store for their family is a welcomed break from the mundane. Scheduling yoga or Pilates or making my weekly trip to the grocery store is a reset for me and feels like a break.
Day 5: Your Family is Your Team- Ask Them to Help
Meals and other household tasks can be a way that you set boundaries. We are all home more than we were in the past and with that being said, we are all contributing to the things that are part of living in a home. There can be a task chart of what needs to be done and who will do it each week. It doesn’t have to be one person’s responsibility to cook, clean, homeschool, etc. By asking for that help or creating that chart, it shows that you are a team working together to get through this by supporting one another. I have begun to ask my family to help with chores, take on cleaning up after themselves more (my boys have to bring their dishes from the dinner table to the kitchen sink), and being aware of how they can make our home better.
Day 6: It’s Too Loud! Ask for a Pause if You Need It
Something as simple as asking to pause a conversation and stating when you can come back to it can be a healthy boundary. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the conversation or the constant questions or requests for help; it’s okay to say that you can’t talk about it or answer that question right now. And it is okay to tell friends and family that you don’t want to talk about COVID-19. While it might be comforting to some to talk about all the precautions they are taking or the latest news or statistics; this can be very anxiety producing for others. You have the right to set the boundary that while you are talking, that you don’t want to hear about the latest news and to explain how it makes you feel (anxious, depressed, fearful, etc.) and let others know how you will handle it if this boundary is crossed. An example of this would be to state that you don’t want to talk about COVID-19 and if it comes up you will ask that the person not talk about it while you are on the conversation or that you will have to leave the call. I haven’t had to do this, but have this plan in place should I begin to get overwhelmed with it and have been limiting this topic in conversations with friends and family.
Day 7: Encourage Others in Your Family to Take Time for Themselves Too
Encourage others in your household to also take time for themselves by asking for space or time to do something they want uninterrupted. It may not be an option to have parents ask each other for one night each week that is theirs to do what they want because we can’t go out with our friends, go shopping, etc. Our hobbies are limited by them possibly not being open, and others may not be comfortable meeting up yet. But it doesn’t mean that we don’t need to still be carving that time out for ourselves and for others to be doing the same. It can be asking to go on a walk alone, do the grocery shopping this time, or if you can take a nap. Making sure each person in the family is having time to do something just for them will help the family function as a whole. One of my sons likes to have some video game time, while the other enjoys playing on his tablet. During this hour, we all get a break and I get to watch a show, talk on the phone with a friend, or take a nap.
While this time may be forcing us to be socially distant from those that don’t live in our household, it is a time when we are spending all our time with those within our households. By asking for time when you need it or even scheduling it in each day, you are caring for yourself which lets you care for those you love.
Amanda Samuels is a past therapist of Greenway Therapy.