Pandemic and Privacy at Home

by Andrea Blundell
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Stuck at home with your partner or your family during the pandemic? And starting to feel a bit nuts with the lack of privacy in lockdown?

What can be done to gain privacy at home during Covid-19?

Does privacy really matter?

In her respected paper "What Privacy is For", lawyer Julie E. Cohen reminds us that privacy gives us space where "self-definition and the capacity for self-reflection develop".

Professor Sofya Nartova-Bochaver, in her research on 'personal sovereignity' in young people, clarifies that privacy contributes to "the individual’s sense of psychological well-being and social adaptation."

So yes, privacy matters. It helps us know ourselves, be ourselves, feel good, and get along.

The link between pandemic and privacy issues

Surprised to find yourself snapping at others about personal privacy, when usually you are far more laid back and into sharing?

Privacy and pandemic both have a control element. In his book Environmental Psychology, Tony Cassidy points out that:

"We need... to have our own private space and time. What is important is to feel we have control over this process, so that we can choose to be alone or with others. It is when this control is removed that psychological stress occurs."

The problem is that pandemic is beyond our control and stressful. If we also at the same time lose control of our privacy at home, the two combined can leave us feeling legless.

How to find privacy at home when self-isolating with others

1. Set physical boundaries.

Feeling some semblance of control in troubled times can help us feel calmer. And having our own ‘domain’ in the from of physical space can help bring that sense of control.

Of course not everyone has a big house with a garden and individual bedrooms. Or even if you have your own bedroom, you don’t have your own workspace. Time to get creative:

  • rearrange the furniture to create privacy ‘zones’
  • use tape on the floor so each person has designated space (including kids)
  • or hang curtains and sheets or use large plants to block off spaces
  • clear out a larger closet, storing things temporarily under beds, to create a ‘personal timeout’ space
  • if you do have your own rooms, make 'don’t disturb' signs for doors.

2. And get serious about mental boundaries.

Of course there is another form of privacy that can feel harder to come by but is actually more relevant than physical boundaries… and that is psychological boundaries.

For some of us,the idea of upsetting others by stating our needs or saying 'no' to their request to invade our space is overwhelming, and sees us break out into a cold sweat. As a child we had to be pleasing to gain love and approval, and we’ve become addicted to this pattern.

So start by accepting that setting personal boundaries will at first feel really uncomfortable. Yes, you’ll feel guilty and exhausted. With time, it gets easier.

Often the idea we’ll upset others by stating our privacy needs is in our head, and others are actually glad to oblige with what we ask if it makes us happy.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate….

If you find boundary setting impossible, communicating this can be a good start. Sit down with your partner or family and let them know that you find it very hard to ask for privacy at home and need their support. Have a list ready of what boundaries you need in place.

Try asking for things in a non-accusatory, clear, and forward-looking format like: “I feel____when you _____ and I’d really like if ________ ”. "I feel overwhelmed when you come into my room without knocking, and I'd really like if you could now knock and wait for me to say if I'm available or not".

4. But sometimes, say nothing at all.

Sometimes setting a boundary can mean NOT talking.

If the people around you are natural over-sharers, you can feel pressured to also state thoughts, feelings, and experiences. A boundary can be listening to the tense feeling in your body, and deciding to keep certain things to yourself. You are allowed to have mental privacy, too.

5. Invest in tools that help.

If you have your own rooms but noise issues make privacy a continuous issue, you can feel unsafe doing things like online therapy. It can mean investing in tools that help. This can look like:

  • a white noise machine to block out other people
  • a good headset with a microphone for when you want a private chat
  • asking other people to listen to music or use noise cancelling headphones when you need privacy and agreeing to the same when they need it
  • arranging in advance that other people will save their allowed trips to shops or out for exercise for when you need to be having a private call
  • or asking the person who wants a call with you if things can be done over email or text.

But I can’t ask for these sorts of things….

Does all of the above make you feel so uncomfortable, you are thinking it’s just better to accept you’ll have no privacy at home for the foreseeable future?

This can mean a real issue with self-esteem, identity, and boundaries. These things can stem from unresolved childhood issues, such as childhood trauma or adverse childhood experiences.

Yes, you could just ignore this all and soldier on. Or you could see coronavirus lockdown as a gift. It’s your chance to finally step up, get out of your codependent comfort zone, face unresolved past issues, and learn to make your needs and desires clear.

This generally means finding proper, unbaised support. But using the above tips means you can do online therapy from the comfort of your home in privacy.

Time to book an online talk therapist and start gaining the confidence to get your needs met? Find an affordable therapist now using our easy booking tool.

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