Setting Gentle Boundaries for Yourself During Quarantine

Parents all over the world are advocating for extra vacation, double and triple pay, and a lifetime subscription to wine and chocolate for their kids’ teachers.

And there has been plenty of talk about how to ground your children and ease their worries, while also enforcing reasonable boundaries that are sensitive to their tumultuous emotional and mental states. 

But as we’re told time and again, what we do for others is always more impactful when we pour from a full cup ourselves.

And lots of us adults… aren’t doing as well as we thought we would be, given the amount of time we now have for the things we always say we want more of: time at home, time with family, time alone. 

Ask yourself this: Are you feeling low on energy? Depressed? Anxious? Tense? Distracted and unable to focus? 

If you said “yes” to any of those questions, now ask yourself this: If a dear friend told you they were feeling like that, and couldn’t see their way through it, would you serve your honesty on a bed of brutality?

It can be very difficult to be kind to ourselves (even if we know it’s good for us). The irony is, the less grace we have for ourselves, the less likely we are to feel motivated to get up and get going.

When Did We Get So Grown Up?

For so many of us, adulthood happened quickly. The line between childhood and adulthood may have been soft at the time… 

But the distance of years marks that line distinctly, making it impossible to miss. 

So that it seems like one day, out of nowhere, we were paying bills… working low-pay high-stress jobs, saving and saving only for a blown alternator to decimate our stockpile…

And we forgot what letting go felt like without spiralling out of control. What avoiding chores instead of assigning them to ourselves felt like. What a good night’s sleep can feel like when you’re insulated from future stressors. 

The problem is that years of living in and acclimating to Western culture, we were never taught to set personal boundaries. Why not?

Because if we were taught personal boundaries, we would prioritize our rest. If we were to prioritize our rest, we wouldn’t extend ourselves beyond 40 hours a week at work…

Making sure we have two-income families, live in big houses, wear expensive clothes, drive newer car models, take all-inclusive vacations, and make bad choices in the space where we think no one else is looking.

Without knowing how to set boundaries for ourselves, we end up… disappointed. 

A lot. 

Replace the Ruler 

Since we’re (unfortunately) not children anymore, our boundaries cannot be the same as they were then. There are consequences. And we can’t float listlessly, hoping our lives will run without us turning the gears.

But we can practice self-love by making personal guidelines for our own behavior.

Try some of these…

  1. Although it’s tempting, since you’re home all day and noticing things you don’t have (and are seeing ads for), don’t spend what you can’t afford. Make a rule! 

Write a list of all the things you’ve got interest in purchasing, and give yourself a weekly purchase budget that includes essentials (groceries, bills, etc.) And at the end of the week, review your list of wants up against your budget. No need to be draconian – you’re allowed to treat yourself! Within reason.

  1. Honor your hunger. Especially if you have struggled with disordered eating in the past, the quarantine can be triggering for some people…

This might be the perfect time to try intuitive eating. Eat when you’re hungry. Eat until you’re full. Try to get introspective about why you’re eating… are you bored? Is there something you can do instead of eating, that you enjoy just as much, to honor your hunger?

  1. Understand that you are not living in a staycation. You are living in a crisis. That means that just because you are home, doesn’t mean you are resting. So you need to schedule daily rest and daily breaks just like you would if you were heading to the office or opening the restaurant every day.

If you’ve lost your job and you’re not able to work, give yourself some structure! Eat regular meals throughout the day at regular times. Schedule reading times, paint-by-numbers times, even stretching hours. Give yourself the full benefit of all the hours in the day, and don’t make it a punishment. 

It’s EXCITING!

Treat yourself the way you would an anxious and overextended child (which is all we are, really). 

Structure, boundaries, and gentle, loving forgiveness. 

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.