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May Your Days Be Merry and...Boundary Filled! How to Enjoy the Holiday Season with Boundaries

While holidays are often a joyous time for family traditions and spending time with loved ones, they can also be stressful for those who have strained relationships with those they see during the holidays. As plans for gatherings are thrust upon us, that means daily decision-making on how and when to set boundaries amidst the holiday chaos. Boundary setting is difficult to navigate for people in general, even pre-pandemic, but it's important to remember that having and holding boundaries are critical parts of building and maintaining healthy relationships. They are necessary for self-care and self-preservation at all times and are especially important during periods in our lives that can become stressful and hectic, such as the holidays.

family during the holidays on a virtual call with extended family
Discover how to navigate the holiday chaos with boundary setting tips for a stress-free season. Prioritize self-care and maintain healthy relationships.
 

1. Establish what your boundaries are based on what is most important to you and your family. Before setting boundaries, understanding what they actually are is essential. Many people who consider themselves to be "people pleasers" or don't like confrontation/conflict/letting people down, may be confused about where their boundaries lie. Trust your intuition, and do what feels right to YOU.

2. Prioritize what aligns with your family values without compromising your own mental health. Just because you have been going to your aunt's house with 27 of your closest family members of all ages EVERY year, doesn't mean that it is going to be the case this year. Some years it's ok to take a break from traditional holiday settings and do something unexpected, as long as it's in alignment with your family values. Be discerning with your commitments. Maybe this year is the year to make NEW holiday traditions with the people within your household. Get creative and have fun - it's your holiday too!

3. Send a CLEAR, respectful message. Once you have determined what are able to commit to this year, communicate the message clearly to family and friends. Here are some examples- "Thank you for thinking of us, but we're currently stretched thin with other commitments and don't have the capacity to fully show up for [the event/commitment]. I need to prioritize my well-being and manage my existing responsibilities. I hope you understand and appreciate your understanding in this matter." Showing up to something out of guilt or duty isn't showing up as your truest, fullest self.

4. Accept others' opinions without being responsible for them. Sometimes people will be upset when putting a boundary in place, especially if it is something that is not expected. One way to respond to anger, pushback or bargaining once you do set a boundary is through validating the other person's feelings. Likely, the other person is coming from a place of loneliness, disappointment and genuinely wants to see you. Remember that those underlying feelings can come out as anger and frustration, and validate with a respectful response such as: "I see that you're upset that we won't be coming to your event this year. That makes total sense, I am really sad to miss it as well." Most importantly, know that another person's reaction to your boundary isn't your responsibility.

If you are presently or have been previously seeing a therapist, chances are this is a topic that has come up in one form or another. If not, discuss or consider different aspects of your life that you think could use some clear boundaries- (work, parenting, relationships with partners, family members, friends and neighbors, even within yourself!) and role-play or journal about what that would actually look like before practicing in real life. During the holidays, it's crucial to set boundaries to protect your mental and emotional well-being. Whether it's managing expectations, prioritizing self-care, or respecting personal space, boundaries ensure that you can enjoy the season while maintaining balance and peace of mind. Remember, saying no when needed is an act of self-care, not selfishness. We wish you a joyous and boundary-filled holiday season!


"Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won't accept" -Anna Taylor

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