Physical boundaries have become normal for everyone during the past few months. People are aware of what 6 feet looks like more than ever. It’s common to think about physical distance when hearing the word ‘boundaries’, but there are several different types of boundaries that everyone deserves to have. During a time when you’re around the same person or people more than ever and you may still be working from home, healthy boundaries are crucial.
As mentioned, this is a common practice these days. We’re hopeful that individuals and strangers will keep their distance when we’re at the store or upon returning to the workplace. You’re likely more aware of your own space or ‘bubble’. This may have looked different, yet similar, in previous times when telling someone that you preferred a handshake to a hug. Healthy physical boundaries are much more than someone being close to your body, though. Physical boundaries include other things that make you feel good physically such as needing to rest when you’re tired or eating when you’re hungry. Physical boundaries in a nutshell means that your body feels comforted, cared-for, and safe.
Emotional boundaries can be crossed very easily when you’re around the same person for a long period of time. Tensions and stress rise, which can cause someone to disrespect the other person’s feelings. Emotional boundary violations can look like the belittling someone’s feelings, assuming feelings of another person, venting to someone without permission, and also includes over-sharing with children.
This is a difficult time to know what over-sharing with children means. There are a lot of difficult issues occurring, and explaining this issues to children can feel confusing. It’s common to not want children to feel sad or scared, but we also know that they may read or hear what’s happening from other sources. Explaining occurring issues to children in age-appropriate language can cultivate important questions, answers, and validation of any feelings that they may have. It can also be helpful to normalize negative feelings and model healthy coping. Remember, children also have their own set of emotions, emotional boundaries, yet may have not developed self-regulation.
You may not feel like you have enough hours in the day. Work, school, caring for family members, caring for pets, caring for yourself, and many other things consume our daily lives. Prioritizing can feel impossible and exhausting. Time boundaries mean that you do prioritize to the best of your ability to ensure you’re not over-committing. This means you may get to carve out 10 minutes for yourself each day or 10 minutes to spend one-on-one with a loved one. It’s okay to say that you cannot attend a get-together. It’s okay to say that you can only talk on the phone 15 minutes. It’s okay to say to close your work laptop at the end of your workday and not return to it until tomorrow.
The ideas and opinions of others may feel impossible to hear sometimes, especially if there are two greatly opposing sides. Intellectual boundaries gives importance and respect to your thoughts, ideas, and opinions. You’ve likely experienced a disagreement that felt like it was going nowhere, and you may have understood that neither person was going to change their mind on the matter discussed. This disagreement could look healthy like a debate class where both sides have time to share their opinion in a matter that doesn’t hurt the other person. This disagreement could also look unhealthy where tensions are high, anger might ensue, and belittling is likely involved. Shutting down intellectual boundary violations gives both individuals permission to stop the conversation. If it feels hurtful or harmful, verbalize that it needs to end.
Boundaries are important in every relationship. There are other categories of boundaries that I encourage you to educate yourself about, so that you can have a full grasp of your needs and comfort-levels. You may have been around certain individuals for a long time at this point, or you may be seeing people again after a long period of isolation. Either way, this is a great time to learn more about your limits. It’s also helpful to ask people about their limits, too.
Meghan Zeien, LMSW
*This post was inspired by a more in-depth explanation of boundaries from mindbodygreen’s article “6 Types Of Boundaries You Deserve To Have (And How To Maintain Them)” by Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT.