With the implementation of vaccines and COVID-19 restrictions going into effect in public spaces, there are so many difficult conversations to be had when it comes to setting up and maintaining personal boundaries, especially when hosting social gatherings and opening your home to family and friends. Psychiatrist Dr. Leslie Walker helps us tackle many pertinent questions on how to navigate the new social landscape without compromising safety.
Q: Why is it important to establish boundaries regarding vaccination and social distancing?
A: The first reason we need to set boundaries is to do the best we can to protect ourselves and our communities. It’s hard when there’s conflict within families, schools and workplaces. Do the best you can to live out your values while recognizing that there will be conflict. The other piece to setting boundaries is, when people disagree with the guidelines being set, sometimes setting boundaries means taking a step back from that person.
Q: How do we navigate asking loved ones to get vaccinated for a special event or party?
A: You are allowed to set your own personal boundaries and enforce them. There are weddings and graduation parties where everyone needs to be vaccinated or wear a mask. Of course, some relatives may refuse or disagree. Then it’s up to you to tell them not to come. Maintaining that boundary means walking up to that individual and letting them know, “Hey we would love for you to be here, but could you please wear your mask.”
Q: How should we talk about the vaccine?
A: When I’m speaking with a patient about the vaccine, my first question is to ask what their understanding of COVID-19 and the vaccine is. I really try to understand their thinking first and what they believe the risks and benefits to getting vaccinated are. Then, if they are willing to hear the medicine and the science behind all of it, I hope to hear, “Huh, I guess I’ve never thought about that before.” Often people compare the risks of getting the vaccine to the risks of not getting the vaccine. In reality, it’s the risks of getting the vaccine and the risks of getting COVID-19.
Q: How do you think the pandemic is changing how we interact with others?
A: The amount of time spent interacting with other people online has gone up for most of us. It’s allowed families and friends who live far from each other to get together more regularly. But a lot of people have ended up more isolated. That was terrible for people’s mental health, especially older people and those who did not have many social outlets to begin with. Now that we have the vaccine, one selling point is in-person interaction.
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