How to Create and Maintain Healthy Boundaries as Lockdowns Ease

We’re all doing our best to keep up to date with the emerging science around Covid19 to minimise inadvertently spreading it.

At least. I thought we were.

News headlines about packed beaches and other public spaces are balanced by knowing how seriously so many people are taking the advice to stay home as much as possible still.

So I’m still surprised by a conversation I had last week with someone who responded to my mention of the virus with, ‘Urgh. You’re not doing that social distancing are you?’ (As if I’d said I liked to – am deleting lots of horrible things because I don’t want you to imagine horrible things). ‘You don’t believe in that Covid nonsense? Are you a doctor?’

Very unusually for me, I responded with an instant, ‘No, are YOU?’ rather than thinking of it hours later.

But the aftertaste of this conversation has stayed with me.

The idea of people behaving recklessly, risking others’ lives (deleting lots of political rage here), brings out my inner Judgy McJudgeface.

To me, it’s seemed simple since I started taking it seriously in early March – we can infect people even when we’re showing no sign of any symptoms. I’m doing my best to minimise that risk as much as I can.

Am not by any stretch perfect, but I’ve been doing my best.

And while I’m loving the expanded freedoms as Ireland begins to lift the restrictions, am aware from conversations with people here, in the UK and elsewhere, that there’s a LOT of anxiety around going out again (for those of us who’ve been fortunate enough to stay home thanks to key workers keeping the world going).

Wherever you are, whatever you do, I hope you’ll find these journal prompts and self care ideas helpful as you begin to re-emerge as safely and joyfully as possible:

Your Home

Maybe you live alone? Maybe you’ve already been navigating loved ones’ needs, wants and opinions?

Who are you most looking forward to inviting back into you home when it’s safe to do so?

What safety measures would you like to put in place, in an ideal world?

What are you going to put in place? (Asking people to wash their hands when they arrive?)

How does this make you feel?

I feel AWFUL at the idea of it. Essentially telling loved ones, ‘You might be contaminated so please wash your hands before you potentially touch anything and spread death and disease’.

I also know that recognising in advance that it feels awful for me (you may be completely chilled about this) means I can put as many other supports in place as I create and maintain that boundary for myself and my loved ones.

My new garden furniture is expected early next week so am very much looking forward to outside visits with friends and loved ones – especially if this beautiful weather lasts. This tells me how much more comfortable I am with outdoor socialising.

How might you adapt your approach to welcoming people to your home (outside at the moment and inside as restrictions ease)?

How can you enjoy people’s visits but also feel safe enough and respected enough?

This is the thing with boundaries – they’re constantly evolving. We teach people how to treat us and when we shift things, there’s often pushback. This – like everything else in life – is simply information.

We’ll get a sense, as we set and maintain these new boundaries with people who haven’t been able to visit for however many months, as to how each relationship feels.

In some cases, perhaps we’ll decide that if people aren’t willing to do something as simple as washing their hands or using a gel, that we don’t want them in our homes.

A LOT of old issues potentially coming up for healing. Especially around interpersonal trauma where boundaries have been violated in the past.

However you feel about it, give yourself (if this appeals) some time and space to journal around it and maybe take it to therapy or talk to a trusted loved one.

This isn’t about making any dramatic or hasty decisions about who you want in your life moving forwards but, by simply noticing how you feel at the prospect of various loved ones and others coming to visit, you’ll gain more clarity about how these relationships lift or lower your energy.

Your personal space

How have you been managing if someone reaches over you to grab something in a shop or sits down next to you if you’ve paused on a bench?

We’re going to be renegotiating our personal space boundaries for a long long time as we adjust to whatever the new normal becomes.

For now, you might want to journal around whatever’s been coming up for healing for you as you’ve perhaps got to close to someone else and seen a look of horror cross their face?

Or you’ve used your voice or NOT used your voice when someone else has felt too close?

How might you show yourself some extra self compassion as we all learn how to behave in a new and very different public?


IACP guidelines have been very clear around what needs to be put in place to ensure safe enough face to face work again. It confirmed my sense that I wouldn’t be returning to face to face work for a long time.

And fortunately, I’m busy with my online clients and supervisees

Maybe you’ve not stopped working and feel BETTER now that better PPE is in place?

Maybe you were furloughed and have mixed feelings about returning to work?

Maybe you’ve lost your job and have no idea what kind of work you’ll be doing next?

Whatever your work situation, again, you might want to give yourself some time and space to reflect on what you MISS about the old normal.

What are you glad to be rid of?

What would you like to be doing, moving forward, in an ideal world?

What are your options?

The commute and other essential travel

Travel will never be the same again and while reusable fabric masks offer some protection (to others from us – if we all wear them, we further minimse risks), there may well be elements of your commute that don’t feel safe.

Maybe you MISS the Tube (seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever been away from London for as long as I’ve been away since my last visit in January. I’ve even had a couple of nostalgic dreams about the Tube!)

And I’m exceedingly grateful to not be commuting still.

What have you been happy to not have to deal with?

What have you missed?

Again, in an ideal world, what would be different moving forward? Maybe it’s possible to mix up days in house and days working from home?

Perhaps you’d like to move closer?

Maybe further away?

Whatever you come up with will be information that helps you make future decisions as you potentially apply for other roles or create your own business.

Maybe you want to have a conversation with your boss / employees about making sustainable changes that work for you and your employer / employees?

Inside shops

Which shops have you missed the most?

Which HAVEN’T you missed? Have you been spending online with reckless abandon or have you been able to get your finances in order?

Which shops do you most look forward to supporting as they get back on their feet? If you’re in Westport, this page has information to help.

If shopping used to be a bit of a leisure activity, maybe you can’t wait to resume it or maybe you’ve found new ways to connect with people?

Which shops do you feel safest in? Which do you feel like avoiding?

If you’re in an area where social distancing is challenging even when out buying basics like food, does wearing a mask help you feel any better?

Personally, telling myself I’m wearing the mask to protect others feels more empowering than worrying about catching anything myself (and I’m aware of my Health Privilege in being able to say that).

The more we can do to empower ourselves rather than stressing about people not following the rules (ie, sanitise hands and basket/trolley on way in and out, minimise touching things and washing hands when back at home), the less stressed we’re likely to feel but notice how you DO feel when either wearing or not wearing a mask.

Things we touch

Did any of us know how much we touch our faces before we learned that doing so could potentially kill us?

(Even now, months into the global pandemic, this feels surreal to type.)

What would help you feel better at home, at work, in shops, on public transport etc?

Exercise and leisure

Each time I’ve gone for my weekly sea swim, I’ve braced myself not only for the cold water but for the possibility that I’ll have to turn around if the available swim spot to me under current restrictions is too crowded.

Fortunately, each time, I’ve got my swim. I attempt to change as quickly as possible afterwards and not congest the bit others might need to swim themselves. People can chat anywhere but there are so few swimming spots (I’m a vitamin sea addict) I want to enable others to use it so get out the way asap.

And, of course, I’m exceedingly lucky with the field and the country lane that I walk or cycle most days.

What hidden gems have you found in your local city / town / rural area?

What do you MISS?

I’m looking forward to getting back into the pools when they reopen but am so so grateful for the sea. Maybe, when I get the magical neoprene gloves I’ve been recommended, I’ll be able to stay in for much longer (last summer, 45 minutes was my longest whereas in heated pools, I barely even think about the usual hour). Yesterday, again, I lost feeling in my hand after 12 minutes.

With the local bike ride, am getting a sense of increasing and reducing (depending) fitness as certain hills feel harder or easier.

What will you continue?

What will you do differently?

Have you changed your routine because of crowds?

Have there been situations where you felt resentful at not being able to do what you wanted because it wasn’t possible to maintain social distancing?

What might you do differently next time?

Friends and loved ones

I miss them SO MUCH. Am so grateful that we were already used to online communication after my move last year but it’ll be soooo wonderful to see more of actual friends in PERSON (although who knows when hugging will be allowed again).

Who do you miss most?

How has online communication helped you feel closer to geographically distant loved ones?

How might you continue with this?

Who DON’T you miss? How might you continue to spend LESS time with people you don’t miss?

What has surprised you most about who you are most looking forward to seeing again?

Old patterns new behaviours

While the whole global pandemic is new, the feelings coming up for healing are likely to be decades old.

We don’t need to know how they came about (although therapy can help get to the bottom of root causes) as simply knowing that something hurts NOW means we can start doing things differently now.

Retrain our loved ones, friends, neighbours, strangers, colleagues, employees, employers, fellow passengers etc in terms of setting healthier boundaries right now.

Other people not taking precautions is up to them but we can hear that information (as Maya Angelou famously told Oprah over and over, ‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them first time’) and act accordingly.

Somatic approaches

An embodied approach is so effective. Any base and solar plexus chakra supporting yoga poses and breath practices will be useful.

Especially heart opening poses like Warrior II and other Power Poses.

And this grounding and centering somatic coaching tool.

Spending just a little time on them in the morning or before leaving the house can make those trips to the supermarket or anywhere else you feel you want some support with your boundaries and energy field much easier.

Other energetic approaches

EFT is another wonderful way to connect with your feelings, give them a voice (so often, we tell ourselves we shouldn’t be feeling them but emotions have so much information for us – we can harvest that) and work with them.

A transpersonal approach

Stepping back for a moment when triggered (or, being human, more likely much later), we can ask ourselves, what’s the lesson here?

How is this situation trying to help us?

Someone not respecting our boundaries can feel incredibly painful and familiar and it’s easy to fall into a helpless, hopeless state OR work with your body and mind to remind yourself that you deserve what you want and need.

The more empowered and at ease you are when setting your boundaries, the cleaner your communication will be.

When we’re more wishy washy about things, it gives others the signal that we’re not respecting ourselves.

This isn’t at all about shame spiralling and self loathing but instead, looking for the gift, the opportunity to use your voice.

To speak up for yourself and/or others (create some nitric oxide!)

Some days will be easier than others but you’ve got this.

With love,

Eve Menezes Cunningham self care coach therapist supervisor

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