Adapting to a New Normal: How Boundaries Can Help

March 24, 2020
A wooden bridge over a forest

This spring is like no other. Due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our adaptability has been challenged in unprecedented ways. The concept of work-life integration holds new meaning. The boundaries and expectations we depend on, and have grown accustomed to, no longer apply.

Naturally, feelings of stress, anxiety, and powerlessness can result from these changes. One way to alleviate these feelings is focusing on the areas of our lives we can control, by creating new boundaries.

Boundaries are limits that we create that allow an experience of psychological safety and understanding. One of the ways to consider how we create boundaries is to notice how we use the words “yes” and “no.” The goal with boundaries is to grow into a state of firm flexibility like the bamboo tree.

The following are some areas where establishing boundaries could help you adapt to the new reality of work-life integration:


The first place to begin with boundaries is with ourselves. We can decide where to focus our attention. It’s easy to become saturated with media consumption and distracted with work and family demands pulling us in different directions. Instead of only reacting to situations, intentionally choosing to prioritize our focus gives us agency and purpose.


Take inventory on how you schedule your day at home, compared to the office. In the home environment, it’s important to delineate work mode, and home mode, and relationship mode. How we get dressed, take our coffee, eat, and set up our workspace are all choices that can significantly impact our functioning. The next days are opportunities to consider the boundaries in these areas, recognizing that creating structure and reliable routines through this transition can provide a calmer experience.


With physical distancing and remote work, families are in close proximity, and opportunities and challenges can arise. Create new rules that allow time for separation and intentional time for activities and connection. There may be a need to alter these rules in the coming weeks, as you notice what works and what is tapping you out. Boundaries are meant to be pliable and should evolve as we learn how to adapt to new circumstances.


Boundaries are like bridges – with structure and support, we can go further and overcome obstacles. With physical distancing keeping us apart, it is important not to isolate, and to remind ourselves and each other that we are not alone. Consider sending check-in emails, attending Zoom meetings, or writing notes to family and friends. Expressing appreciation. Sharing joyful experiences. Whether it’s helping a vulnerable neighbor, writing chalk messages on the sidewalk, or thanking grocery stores staff, we can all make a difference. We are in this together, and we will get through this together.

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