Right now many of us face a giant boundary: home vs. the outside world. But if you’re living with anyone, it may feel impossible to set boundaries with them. Boundaries are often about creating space. That can seem hard when you’re confined to the same home.
Boundaries are important for mental health, which means they definitely shouldn’t fall away during a crisis. And they don’t have to. In my view at least, boundaries are first and foremost emotional and personal. They are about learning to understand, trust, and communicate what you need. This can be done whether or not it’s a pandemic. External circumstances like the COVID-19 crisis may make them harder, but not impossible, to implement.
With people confined to their homes, physical space might be a commodity. You may want to establish a room or area where you can go if you need alone time. It can be hard to say you want time away, but knowing you have a designated area will make that conversation easier. It will make a lot of conversations easier. If you need to take a break during a hard conversation, you’ll know you have somewhere to go. Communicating your needs around space and time spent with others will be important throughout social distancing.
Open communication in general will be key. For instance, if the news is making you anxious and someone you live with keeps it on 24/7, you might ask if they can watch it online with headphones. Or if someone’s drinking is triggering to you, work something out so they aren’t drinking in front of you. Prioritize your recovery. If you don’t communicate when someone’s behavior is causing you stress, they won’t know to change it. The same goes for household chores. For instance, if you feel someone isn’t doing their share of cleaning, it’s important to tell them. Otherwise resentments can brew. It might be helpful to have everyone you live with sit down and assign a chore schedule.
But boundaries don’t always have to mean shutting people out or telling them to stop a behavior. Creating boundaries can be about bringing people in. That might look like setting aside time for you and your household to play board games. It could mean letting your housemates know what kind of emotional support you need, so that they know how to give it to you.
That said, another important boundary is making sure the people in your home aren’t the only connections in your life during the crisis. Humans need a lot of social intimacy; those you live with can’t be your everything. Keeping close contact with others outside your home is important for both your own mental health and your relationships with those in your household.
Setting boundaries is hard, particularly with the people in your home. And especially right now. It might be scary to have difficult conversations when you’ll be living in such close quarters a while. But it’s for that very reason those conversations are important. Your environment impacts your mental health. During this already hard time, your environment shouldn’t be an extra source of stress.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder during the pandemic, there is help available. Amatus Recovery Centers is open throughout the crisis, with hospital-grade sanitization to make sure you feel safe getting treatment. At our facilities across the country, you will build the tools you need to thrive in long-term recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.