As I co-habit my home with others, how do I create my own space? This question has been brought to light during the COVID-19 pandemic and the shelter-in-place order. Now, our typical coping habits, such as going for a walk or running to the grocery store, are no longer an option. Taking that “five-minute break” during an argument is seemingly impossible. So, how do you create this “me” time in your home when family members, roommates, partners, etc. are standing right next to you? One answer is to create boundaries. Boundaries are structures we create to convey our limitations and provide security in our life. The boundaries we create reflect our personal values and needs, both within ourselves and with others. Right now, more than ever, it is important to create meaningful boundaries to provide a sense of agency in an unpredictable world.
The first step to creating boundaries with others is communication. When discussing your interpersonal needs, speak with intent. It is useful to plan what you will say before the conversation. Try role-playing with a friend! Be intentional with your words and avoid talking around the subject. Be confident with what you are conveying and the reasons behind it. On the other hand, be receptive to what your partner and/or family member says in return. It is important to be an active listener and hear their thoughts and feelings. Think, reflect, and respond in an empathic and understanding way.
During this conversation, try to come up with concrete and realistic methods to allow you to uphold your boundaries. Be creative! Let’s say you need some time apart from your roommate after a long workday. You can tape a sign to your door clearly communicating that you need some time alone. If you do not have your own space within your home, you can try noise cancelling headphones. Have a conversation beforehand with others in your home that this is your “do not disturb time.”
In addition to creating boundaries with others, it is equally as important to create boundaries within ourselves. As several of us work where we live, our work-life balance has been thrown off. How can you create a clear line between your work time and your personal time, especially when they occur within the same space? Here are some tips to uphold this boundary. Try not to work from your bed (I know it can be tempting)! Start your day as you usually would—shower, get dressed, make yourself breakfast. Try to create a designated “workspace” if possible. At the end of the day, close your laptop and (this is important) keep it closed. It may be tempting to check your email, but the more your fight against this urge, the more your work-life boundary will be established. Have a nighttime routine. Allow yourself some time to read a book or start that show you have been interested in for a while. By creating this work-life routine, you will start to easily separate the two!
-Jenny Weissman, MA