With the added stress of the pandemic, it may be time to look more closely at how those around us are affecting our mental and emotional well-being.

Are “friends” and/or “family members” in your life being disrespectful, abusive, or toxic in any other way? It may be time to create healthy boundaries to protect your mental and emotional health. If you’re struggling to get started, we’ve created a guide to help you set things right.

1. Identify Relationships That Are Affecting Your Mental and Emotional Health

If you’re in a state of distress right now, or can identify moments that made you feel upset this week, it’s very likely that you have a couple of relationships that you need to change or let go of.

Start by identifying them. Is there a cousin who constantly belittles and patronizes you? Do you have a friend who’s extremely sweet to your face but continually backstabs you? Did a loved one recently betray you in ways that you never thought possible?

Consider spending less time with those who make you feel unworthy unloved or unsupported. Address some of these issues, if you feel they can be resolved or tempered.

Recommended Read: How to Stay Motivated Amid the Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic

2. Create Physical and/or Virtual Boundaries

a woman creating healthy virutal boundaries by texting her concerns to a friend

Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, people are already largely socially distanced. This means you may not have to worry about establishing physical boundaries right now. Focus on virtual boundaries.

We recommend having a healthy conversation with each individual. Consider this an attempt at giving them the opportunity to change. Tell them how they make you feel, and quote specific instances to help them understand exactly when and how they hurt you. This will help them realize where you’re coming from.

If they are dismissive of your concerns, you may be forced to create boundaries. Start off slow. Stop reading their offensive messages, comments, posts, or blogs. Don’t respond to their calls and/or texts right away. Some other boundaries may be necessary. For example: If you are drunk, I will not accept your calls. I will end the Zoom call if you start criticizing my job. You may need to take steps to protect your mental and emotional health.

Recommended Read: A Guide to Finding the Strength to Heal and Start Anew

3. Continue to Expand or Contract Your Social Circle with Time

Once you’ve created healthy boundaries, you can still continue to make changes. Remember, people can change with time. In some cases, these changes can rebuild a healthy relationship. Or they may be temporary. They may also be half-hearted and hollow. It’s up to you to navigate these nuances and allow people back into your life accordingly.

You can always expand or contract your social circle as you deem fit. Leaving room for flexibility will allow you to accept that certain people have grown into changed behavior and attitude.

In essence, this fluidity will make it easier for you to invest in the right relationships, and leave others that cause you pain. As you navigate these changes, make sure you don’t let hate linger in your heart. Close the chapter, and move on. Holding onto hate and resentment will do more harm than good.

In The Ojai—Pink Moment Promises, Meggie’s father gives her powerful advice about the importance of letting go of hate. Here’s an excerpt:

The Ojai Pink Moment Promises by Patricia Hartmann

“Listen, Meggie. Hate’s like trying to break hard ground with a tin plow. It’s just not cut out to do the job. And envy… it seems natural, even pleasurable, in the short haul but it doesn’t produce good fruit.”

Pa stood and plucked a yellow lemon from the bounty of the fruit bowl on the dresser. He tossed the bright sphere into the air, catching the lemon in his right hand, releasing a faint zest of lemon oil into the air.

“Only love can turn the sour of a lemon like this into a tangy lemon pie—one worth eating.” Pa seemed to savor the taste of that imaginary pie. “Life needs a heap o’ sweetening to take the edge off.”

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As you limit your circle, refuse to let apathy turn into hate. Focus on your healthy relationships and don’t mull over the ones that you had to let go of. This will help you move on and avoid getting caught up in the past, which can trigger feelings of hate when you least expect it.

Want more insight into healthy relationships, forgiveness, love, trust, perseverance, and inner strength? Explore Patricia Hartmann’s powerful modern and historical fiction romance novels, including The Ojai—Pink Moment Promises, Yosemite—One Last Golden Summer, Secrets of Sandpiper Cove, Lonesome Mountain, and Lost Lake.