In a time when the coronavirus pandemic has us facing more stress than ever before, boundaries may be our strongest weapon.

In a new digital series called Wellness Check, ESSENCE chatted with Ayanna Abrams, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and cofounder of Not So Strong, for a deep dive into the topic of boundaries and why Black women should lean on them now more than ever.

So what are boundaries anyway? Abrams explains that they’re not just this invisible line we draw in the sand with others, but a tool that makes our relationships with those around us stronger and more defined.

“Boundaries have become a big buzzword, but we don’t always understand how to put them in play or why they matter,” Abrams explains. “I view boundaries as our rules of engagement. [They are] the rules in our relationships that allow us to feel healthy, safe, and have access to different parts of the relationships. Having our boundaries honored can deepen our connections with other people.”

Abrams also points out that as Black women, we pride ourselves on our resilience and strength. But applying boundaries also gives us the grace we need for self-care. “Not having boundaries and ways to access support externally also makes it harder for us to make decisions,” she explains. “If we are making all the decisions and we’re overwhelmed by all the things we need to do, some things are going to fall by the wayside. We can’t juggle everything at the same time.”

The pandemic has also made our boundary lines a little murkier, Abrams says, because of how how work, school and personal lives have been crammed together while sheltering in place. She says listening to our bodies is one of the ways we can keep our mental health in tact. “Black women have been taught that what other people need from us is more important that how we’re feeling,” she says. “I always encourage people to come back to your bodies. If you use your body as your source, it will determine where your [boundaries] need to be drawn. If you don’t give yourself sleep, your body will crash.”

Abrams also advises that we don’t compare our boundaries to those of others.

Watch the enriching discussion with Abrams in the video above.