Loving Yourself, Loving Others, Amid Pandemic

Long before the term “social distancing” entered our lives we used to say “boundaries” and we used to set boundaries. A boundary is something that fixes or indicates a limit.

They could be personal or professional. Some were easier said than done.

In this article titled Navigating Friendships and Relationships During the Pandemic, Sara Roberson Lentz writes “Many social norms from our pre-pandemic life are out and continually morphing as COVID-19 levels oscillate. While everything is seemingly up for debate, one thing we can agree on is that navigating these changes and constantly assessing personal boundaries in your friendships and relationships can be taxing.https://news.utexas.edu/2020/10/06/navigating-friendships-and-relationships-during-the-pandemic/

Have you noticed a change in your friendships since the pandemic started? My only family here are my daughter and my husband, so I long to be near the rest of my family. But more than that I want to make sure they are safe from Covid-19 so I stay away. My immediate family and I have made the decision of how we are going to be safe and it’s hard, but we are sticking by our decision. However, I long to socialize with my work friends and other friends. I see them infrequently because I’m working from home. I can go days without talking to them, because one day melts into the next. I’m truly in isolation, but aren’t we all in one way or another?

Is the Pandemic Revealing Who Your True Friends Are? Seth J. Gillihan, Ph.D. states think carefully before breaking off friendships, “For example, the person might be feeling a lot more stress than you realize. This is a difficult time for everyone—different from the times you’ve been going through your own personal crisis while others’ lives are stable. And even though we’re all swimming in the same soup, it’s triggering different things for each of us. Your friend might be dealing with depression, or the activation of a past trauma, or just a profound struggle to get things done. The truth is, even your friend might not know why they’re out of touch with you. This pandemic quarantine is a very strange time, and it’s affecting us in ways we don’t fully understand. We’ll be trying to make sense of this surreal chapter in our lives for years to come. Countless research studies, movies, and books will explore what we’re experiencing right now.

Sometimes in a friendship or relationship there’s one person that initiates contact more than the other. Therefore, it seems the friendship or relationship is one-sided. Always being the one to initiate can make you feel like you are not valued.

In this article, Did the Pandemic Transform My Relationships Into One-Sided Friendships? Because I Feel Like I Always Text First, Julia Pugachevsky writes “When you’re dealing with your own issues—and only your issues—on a daily basis, it gets easy to forget that others may react to stress in ways different than your own, says clinical psychologist Andrea Bonior, PhD. For instance, your impulse may be to call a friend and vent, whereas that friend might feel like receding from the world to introspect. And while these differing stress responses may exist all the time, when external stressors are ubiquitous and felt in a largely universal way—like in this tension-filled pandemic landscape—maintaining a sense of perspective and objectivity can get more complicated.”

Communication goes a long way here. Bring it up and talk about it, or forever hold your piece as the saying goes. Think it through, remember how your friend has dealt with stress before. Have they held it inside, or have they talked it out? Were you always the one to initiate contact in the relationship, or did things change when the pandemic started? Have things changed in your friend's life?

Julia Pugachevsky further writes, "Navigating relationships in this time that’s lacking human connection is clearly complicated, but the emotionally fraught nature of the situation is also (unfortunately) common right now. Even my friends and family members who’ve been harder to contact have, themselves, complained about their friends or family being less chatty or much flakier since the pandemic began. It seems that, to some degree, we’re all dealing with this, so what to do about it is the real question.”

You may want to take this time to do an evaluation of the friendships in your life. Consider doing a cleanse, if the friendship is one that drains you, leaves you depleted or fills you with negative energy - then unfriend that person. If it is a friendship that lifts your spirits, encourages you, and supports you, then continue to keep that person as a friend.

I think one thing we all need is grace because we can all agree this is a very difficult time. Something none of this has experienced and there is no end in sight. On top of the pandemic there is social and racial injustice and for some the impending election has added another layer of what was already a fractured existence. With a little patience and grace, I believe our relationships can survive along with some honest communication.