Healthy Mind

How To Set and Maintain Your Boundaries About COVID-19 Precautions, Even After Getting Vaccinated

Mary Grace Garis

Photo: Getty Images/Andrey Zhuravlev
With many folks filling their social calendars to the brim in light of updated recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stating that in many situations, fully vaccinated folks can live life mask-free, it’s totally natural if this grand re-opening of sorts for gathering in groups is leaving you feeling some pangs of social skittishness. Unfortunately, it’s also expected to see some eye-rolling backlash to post-quarantine social anxiety and fear of COVID-19 from people who don’t understand why you’re still concerned… especially after you’re vaccinated. Well, hang tight, friend. You don’t owe explanations to anyone, and, in fact, the threshold of real-life reentry can be an excellent exercise in how to set and maintain your boundaries.

Because it’s okay to wear a mask after vaccination if doing so makes you feel better, just like it’s okay if you don’t want to attend a bachelorette party in Tulum, or hit up the community pool or, you know, have a full-on Shot Girl Summer. The human brain is simply not trained to trust that everything is safe, especially after 14 months of nothing being safe.

“Many people have found that their body, mind, and spirit have become acclimated to a slower, more introverted way of being.” —Carla Marie Manly, PhD

“The pandemic and resulting quarantine have taken us into hibernation mode for over a year,” says Carla Marie Manly, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of Joy From Fear“Many people have found that their body, mind, and spirit have become acclimated to a slower, more introverted way of being. When external mandates—such as eased social restrictions and changes in mask-wearing policies—are abrupt or seemingly arbitrary, the sudden change can bring on anxiety.”

Basically, we’ve been so fully guarded for a year-plus that switching from total isolation to wedding season (or birthday parties, or group vacations, or whatever other gathering you’re being asked to attend) seems at once exhausting and threatening to our cocoon of comfort and safety.

“The plethora of internal fears related to the return to a fast-paced, too-busy, too-expensive lifestyle are often lurking below the surface,” says Dr. Manly. “For many people, being fully vaccinated is a double-edged sword; the benefits are profound, but the downsides of full or even half-speed reentry can’t be ignored.” Below, she offers tips for how to set and maintain boundaries to help you stay true to what you actually want to be doing post-quarantine.

How to set and maintain boundaries, even as we “reopen” the country

1. Make time to journal about your personal needs and boundaries

According to Dr. Manly, journaling can help you become clear and firm on your own needs. This will help you ground your values into writing as well as give you some ongoing flexibility as your level of comfort changes. Remember, you’re always allowed to amend your own rules.

2. See where your social circle is at currently

Everyone had different barometers for what they considered “safe” during the pandemic, so it’s important to check in with one another about current comfort levels and boundaries. “Talk to trusted friends and family members about each other’s boundaries with a focus on mutual, respectful acceptance,” Dr. Manly says.

3. Don’t compare your level of comfort or your needs with those of others

Even if you feel silly or are made to feel guilty for being cautious, your needs are your own and don’t require defending.

4. As you move back into social settings, honor your needs openly and respectfully—while doing the same for others

You might anticipate some peer pressure as people yearn to hastily return to the status quo. Dr. Manly says to remember that while a gentle nudge here or there might be appropriate, true friends don’t pressure others into doing things that don’t feel good and right.

“If you find yourself in a situation where you’re being pressured, simply honor your boundaries with a simple statement such as, ‘I appreciate your thoughts, yet I want to honor what’s right for me. Please respect my needs and boundaries. I’ll do the same for you’,” she says.

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