How to Set Boundaries with Loved Ones During COVID-19

5/19/20
WRITTEN BY: Alexi Melvin
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If we have learned anything during this pandemic, it is that everyone seems to have a slightly different perception of what is considered “safe” or “not safe” when sheltering in place and social distancing.

The lines can feel blurry when considering what is best for our own health and safety as places such as restaurants and gyms are beginning to reopen in certain areas. It’s okay to feel anxious. It’s okay to not be ready. What is not super great is feeling pressured by others to feel a certain way about “getting back out there.”

Most people do not understand what it is like to live with an autoimmune disease, and while people with Type 1 diabetes are not automatically always considered to be in the “at risk” group, it would likely be difficult for us to manage a virus like COVID-19 if we contract it (just like with any other virus or flu!).

So we may find ourselves in a place where we have to explain our perspective and set clear boundaries with our friends, family and acquaintances in order to stay safe and comfortable during this confusing period of readjustment. Here are some ways to do that – without feeling sorry about it.

Make a commitment

It is easier to be firm with others about your boundaries and expectations if you have exact guidelines you plan to abide by. For example, if you don’t want to leave your home for non-essential reasons until the shelter-in-place order is lifted from your specific area, use that date as a reference for yourself and for friends and family. Be consistent and firm about following your own guidelines to model what that commitment looks like for your loved ones.

Get creative

There are certainly still ways to socialize without going out of your comfort zone, health wise. As I’m sure we are all aware by now, utilizing video calling apps such as Zoom and Webex has become the norm within today’s workplace and for keeping in touch with loved ones. Come up with a theme night for you and your friends and host a weekly virtual meet up! Host a book club night, movie trivia – or even a dance party.

If permitted in your area and you feel comfortable, consider taking a walk around the neighborhood with a friend, while at least six feet apart. Or if you have access to an outdoor space at your home or someone else’s, invite a small number of friends over for a “BYO picnic.” Wear masks, stay the appropriate distance away from one another and don’t share food or drinks. But at least you’ll get some face-to-face (mask-to-mask!) time with the ones you care about most.

Set clear expectations

If you plan to see someone in person, be clear in advance about the set of rules – like maintaining six feet of physical distance, wearing masks, and not touching common surfaces – you need to follow for your own health, safety and comfort. Request they do so as well. If someone has a clear understanding of your expectations going in, they are less likely to be caught off guard or offended in any way. They will also have more time to consider whether your own expectations line up with theirs, and if they have any questions or clarifications.

Be respectful of different views

If we want others to be mindful and respectful of our boundaries during COVID-19, we have to be respectful of theirs as well. It is okay not to agree with someone and we cannot control another person’s behavior. When we come into acceptance about our differences, it makes it easier to either move on from that person – or to continue the friendship with heightened clarity on how to best interact with one another, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Educate others about T1D

Being ill with any virus, flu or otherwise, can often be much harder for people with Type 1 diabetes to manage. If others are not as understanding as you’d like them to be about your commitment to your health, it might be because they are not educated on what having Type 1 diabetes really means, and the impact something like COVID-19 could have on your health and ability to safely take care of yourself. Take the time to share your experiences with others. Explain what you have to deal with every day of your life – with zero breaks.

If you are uncomfortable talking about your own personal T1D management, there are many resources available on Beyond Type 1 for them to begin learning. In order to relate to anyone else’s situation, we have to make an effort to know them beyond a basic level. Be open and honest about why you might be so cautious in this day and age. If a person is meant to be in your life, they will work to understand.

To learn more about what you can do to protect yourself and others, go to coronavirusdiabetes.org and share what #BigLittleChanges you’re making. 



Alexi Melvin

Alexi Melvin serves as Chair of the Leadership Council’s Content Committee. She is a journalist who has written for The San Francisco Chronicle, Beyond Type 1 and other digital publications. Alexi is also a voiceover actor and reiki master. In addition to her dedication to being a voice for people living with T1D everywhere, she has always been passionate about meditation and energy healing. Before getting her Bachelor of Arts degree at The New School University, she studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Institute. She hopes to continue her healing work, and to connect with other T1Ds through her travels and writing opportunities.