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Holiday Boundaries

Setting healthy boundaries this holiday season

The start of holiday decorations, endless shopping lists, cooking big meals and meeting the expectations of attending all the traditional get togethers and parties has begun. The holidays can be physically and emotionally exhausting for lots of reasons, but yet we show up every year. Some of the most exhausting moments come from our own failure to set boundaries with other people. This season, give yourself an early gift, and set some boundaries.

Why boundaries are good?

Boundaries are not selfish, they enable you to prioritize your own needs but enable you to still give at a sustainable rate. Boundaries can protect your emotions, your physical space, or your spiritual beliefs. They simply draw a line between what belongs to you and what belongs to others. When we refuse to set a boundary, we prioritize other people’s comfort over our own needs. Setting boundaries is a courageous act of putting ourselves first. It’s a great way to break the people-pleasing habit and practice the art of self-care and verbal self-defense.

Don’t let guilt drive your decisions.

People have strong feelings when it comes to the holiday season. As hard as it may be to say no, or feel like you’ve let someone down, this is a crucial skill if you want a joyful and less stressed life. It is important to remember that you can’t make everyone happy all the time. When you identify the need to set a boundary, do it clearly, calmly, firmly, respectfully, and in as few words as possible. Try not to justify your reasons, become defensive or apologize for the boundary you are setting. Remember to stay strong. Their emotional response (hurt, guilt or anger) does not invalidate your need to set a healthy boundary.

Plan ahead.

The more of a heads up you give someone about the boundaries you’re setting this year, the more time they have to get used to it. This may include how long you stay, where you’re going to stay (if you have options) and what activities you plan to attend. It may be different from what other family members are doing or it may be different from what others expect, but keep in mind that it is your mental health you are protecting.

Be prepared for triggering conversations.

Usually, you know ahead of time when a family member is going to say something that crosses a line because they have a history of doing so. Write down a couple of your triggers during family gatherings and create a plan that puts you in control. Think about how you can remove yourself from certain situations or conversations, where you will go or how you will respond. If family dysfunction becomes overwhelming, it might be helpful to seek out therapy ahead of time.

Enjoy the boundaries you have set!

Everyone has expectations for how they think the holidays should go. Just remember that it’s not your job to fulfill them for everyone. Happiness is an inside job. If your loved ones can’t enjoy the holidays unless everything goes according to their plans, that’s their problem. Not yours.

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