Center for Shared Insight, PC

Upholding Boundaries During COVID Fatigue

December 9, 2020
Posted By: Kristen Hick, Psy.D.

It’s been several long months since the coronavirus pandemic began and we have been asked to shift our lives in ways that were previously unimaginable. Like any kind of restriction in life, from dieting to saving money, there are times when it feels too hard to stay the course. In those moments, you might cave into your desires and eat the chocolate cake or buy the designer pair of shoes. In those situations, you can get back on track the next day. But with this virus, slipping into old habits could mean getting very ill or infecting others with a deadly virus. 

COVID fatigue is that very craving for a previous way of life where we could gather with our friends and family freely. Where we could travel without concern. Where we could go to the store without worrying about how crowded it might be or how well the shelves were sanitized. While we may long for these pre-pandemic experiences, upholding boundaries is more important than ever as we move through peaks of infection and see the hope of a vaccine on the horizon. 

In this post, we explore how you can uphold boundaries and stay the course to protect yourself and others during this time.  

Recognize Stress Responses

If one thing is universal about this pandemic, it’s that the circumstances surrounding it have been stressful for everyone. Stress responses classically include a fight or flight mentality where our more primal and innate survival mechanisms kick in to try and escape the situation. Sometimes, this means isolating completely, and other times it means trying to escape the reality of the guidance by doing what you want despite regulations around gatherings, masking, and social distancing. For some people, this coping mechanism is a way to “fight” the reality of the situation. Recognizing the range of coping responses helps create empathy for others’ reactions during this time.

Communicate Expectations

Once you determine your comfort level around COVID recommendations, including social distancing, gatherings, and masking, it’s time to communicate those comfort levels to your friends and family. No different than the high school peer pressure you might remember, expect some push back and resistance to your boundaries if your coping mechanisms aren’t fully aligned with others. You may also experience push back with those who aren’t familiar with you setting boundaries or those who feel like you’re judging their preferences. You can calmly communicate that their boundaries are okay for them, and for you, these are the boundaries that feel good for you.

When you are communicating your needs and expectations, it’s often helpful to keep the following in mind:

  • Communicate the big picture and long-term reasons for your requests 

  • Reference the facts and professional guidance 

  • Expect push-back

  • Hold your ground 

If you frame your decision around the desire to be healthy long-term for your family, reference any executive orders or medical guidance, and communicate that your decisions are firm, you’ll have an easier time navigating these challenging situations.

Find Routines and Substitutes

When friends and family are not aligned with your needs and expectations during this time, it’s important to recognize that what they are ultimately craving is more of your time and attention. They want connection during this time, a dynamic which may be coming across as pressure to ignore COVID guidelines. By working together to find alternative ways to commune during the pandemic, whether that be regular video chats, weekly happy hours from your individual homes, or other creative ways to socialize, taking online classes together, you can meet the true needs of your friends and family, which may be coming across as pressure to ignore COVID guidelines in favor of familiar ways of connecting.

At Center for Shared Insight in Denver, Colorado, we see clients becoming increasingly challenged to uphold boundaries as friends and family around them become fatigued by the isolation of the pandemic. We can help navigate those dynamics and other challenges relating to healthy boundaries with loved ones. 

Contact our team to learn more about the ways we can support you during this time.

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