Boundary Setting During the Holiday Season
The holiday season can be an unusual time for many people, for different reasons. We might find ourselves excited about this season, or busier than usual, more tired, lacking routine, or feeling more isolated and disconnected than any other time of the year. We may also feel challenged by our own ability to set and keep boundaries during this time.
This year, with added COVID related concerns and considerations, it can be helpful to learn some simple tools related to setting and keeping boundaries.
Having boundaries in place may feel uncomfortable at times, but they can help protect our mental health during stressful periods and maintain relationships, too.
Identify your holiday season boundaries
What are your values this holiday period? What is important to you? Write these things down. Recognising these things first will help guide your decision making so you can set your limits and feel more confident in deciding what your boundaries are.
Communicate your boundaries
It is important to be clear and direct. Remember that other people cannot read your mind. Some people are vague when they feel anxious or are fearful of letting others down, especially at this time of year. Remember you don’t have to agree with other people – in fact, many people prefer honesty! Plus, while it might feel good to please others, remember that it can also feel bad to let yourself down, especially when it comes to the values you have identified. Being passive can lead to regret or resentment later on, where you can look back and wish you had spoken up earlier.
Being able to set boundaries doesn’t always come naturally or easily, so it’s important to rely on some tools, such as:
Planning: Think about what you want to say before the occasion arises. Write it down or practice in front of a mirror if that helps!
Body language: Use eye contact, and stand/sit with confidence, try not to raise your voice.
Being respectful: Your message will come across clearer and will more likely be better received if you are calm and firm. Emotions run high during the holiday season, but by thinking before you speak, and staying calm, you can communicate respectfully and compassionately. Be willing to listen to the other’s point of view as well.
Learn about boundaries
Boundaries are different for everyone, but can often look like:
- Saying no to social invitations
- Setting limits around the amount of time you spend at social or familial events
- Saying no to requests from your boss or co-workers that are outside your availability, scope or capacity
- Leaving a conversation that makes you feel uncomfortable
- Saying you can’t afford to do something or suggesting a budget-friendlier option if you still want to be part of the plans
- Staying away from people who have a negative effect on you
- Committing to time for self-care
- Resisting pressure from others to drink alcohol, or to drink excessively
- Making a budget for how much you are willing to spend on gifts
- Cancelling and postponing an event if you or someone else is sick
- Asking for help when you need it
Be prepared for a variety of responses to your holiday season boundaries
Some people may be open to hearing your needs and receptive to your suggestions. Others may dismiss your ideas, disagree or be unwilling to compromise. Keep in mind that if you are someone who generally does not set boundaries, those around you may be surprised when you do and it may take time to adjust to different patterns of relating.
Boundaries protect, not only your time, relationships, and physical and emotional needs, but also what’s truly important to you. By setting boundaries in advance, you’ll have a much better chance of enjoying the holiday season.
If you’re not sure how you’re feeling this holiday season, why not try out our ‘Take-A-Test Tool’. Our simple quiz will help you check your levels of stress, anxiety, or low mood.
For more tips on thriving during the holiday season, take a look at this blog piece.
Interested in learning more?
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