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Setting Healthy Holiday Boundaries…

Dec 6, 2022

As the last of the autumn leaves fall, and we quickly approach the winter holidays, most would agree that we are getting closer to the most wonderful time of the year, while others all but dread what should be a time of celebration, family, and the spreading of cheer and love.

Over the years, people have started seeing the holidays as a source of stress rather than a joyous time. Instead of focusing on the beauty of the holidays, we become super focused on the wants of others and the giving of ourselves to others- The giving of our time, energy, money, and sometimes sanity. This focus has the potential to be so strong that we end up overextending ourselves mentally, emotionally, physically, and, yes, financially.

We’ve seen it, and let’s be honest have even been guilty of:

• Trying to find the perfect gift for everyone you know

• Buying gifts that you cannot afford (often a result of trying to find the perfect gift)

• Attending social/family functions out of feelings of obligation (not because you want to go)

• Traveling to be with family/loved ones with limited finances

• Spreading yourself way too thin to meet the expectations of yourself and family/friends/loved ones (real and perceived)

• Being in the presence of people who use the holidays as an opportunity to criticize and belittle you

No wonder many of us are exhausted, burnt out, and even depressed post holidays; we absolutely have no boundaries.

So, what can you do to preserve some semblance of sanity during the holidays to enjoy “the most wonderful time of the year”? Start by setting and sticking to boundaries, such as staying within budget, saying no to things you don’t want to do, removing yourself from unwanted conversations or distancing yourself from toxic people, and making the time and space for you to enjoy some quiet downtime.

Ready, Set, Go! Let’s Set Some Boundaries

Setting boundaries during the holidays can often be challenging at first. Just think of everything that usually occurs during this time of the year. The anxiously awaited Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, countless party and event invites, traveling to see family, gift exchanging, and the opportunity to see people you don’t see that often. Added to that, it’s a time of the year when we tend to people please the most. We want to make everyone happy; setting boundaries seems selfish and unkind. You might be more concerned with upsetting your loved ones or damaging relationships that you either keep your feelings to yourself or ignore them to keep the peace.

But where’s the peace if you’re suffering? The truth is that setting boundaries will eliminate much of the stress felt during the holidays and serves as a better way of keeping the peace compared to suffering in silence.

Start by considering the things that cause you stress. Are you worried about not being able to afford presents for everyone on your Christmas list or not having enough money to travel to see family living out of town? Are you overwhelmed with all the promises made to attend functions that you don’t even want to attend? Maybe you’re anxious about getting together with family/friends/loved ones discussing topics you’d rather not talk about, or that could bring up feelings of comparison or inadequacy. Dig deep, be honest with yourself, and don’t let guilt or fear of disappointing anyone guide you. It will be worth it in the end.

Once you know where your stress comes from, let’s start setting some boundaries. Some boundaries might be set for yourself, while others are put in place for others.



Set a budget and Stick to it

There’s nothing wrong with setting financial boundaries. Stay within your budget if you have one. Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean you have to go into debt buying everyone on your list the perfect gift or trying to out buy others in an effort to show you care. The most important thing is the thought and intention behind the present, not the price tag. Instead of buying everyone a gift, suggest a Secret Santa to your friends and family where everyone sticks to a certain amount. Not only does it help reduce the amount of money you end up spending but reduces feelings of competition. (Trust me, someone with the same worries as you will thank you for this).


Say No if You Don’t Want to Go

It’s okay to say no. Believe it or not, you are not obligated to do anything you don’t want to do or go anywhere you don’t want to go. You can say no. You are not responsible for the feelings of others, nor does their enjoyment of the holidays rest on your shoulders. Spreading yourself too thin trying to accommodate others is a sure way to ruin the holidays for yourself, and isn’t your enjoyment just as important as everyone else’s?

Before saying yes, ask yourself, am I doing this or going to that because I want to or because I don’t want to let someone down, or because I don’t want to look bad in the sight of others? If the answer doesn’t bring you joy, then say no. Saying no is not being rude or cruel, nor is it saying that you don’t care. It is simply you setting a boundary and sticking to it. It’s not personal; it’s self-preservation.


Don’t Be Someone Else’s Punching Bag

The holiday season should be a time of joy, love, and togetherness. But sometimes, all that togetherness can result in stress and discomfort, especially if you find yourself in a situation that makes you uncomfortable. If you notice symptoms of anxiety or depression surfacing at the mere thought of attending an event or seeing certain people, that’s your cue to choose to leave early or not attend at all.

If it’s a function you want to attend but dread talking about specific topics, being criticized, compared, or belittled; go, but don’t be afraid to set healthy boundaries to show people you won’t tolerate certain behaviors. It’s okay to speak up for yourself or walk away. How you react in any given situation is ultimately your choice. Choose not to let the grinches in your life steal your holiday joy.


Make time for you

Don’t get lost in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season that you miss out on small yet special moments. Take time to stop and smell the Christmas trees. (Oh, how I love the smell of a live pine tree). Lean into those moments where you can embrace some peace and quiet. The moments set aside just for you. Maybe for you, that’s snuggling up on the couch with a hot cup of hot chocolate or apple cider, watching the lights twinkle on the Christmas tree, or watching your favorite holiday movie. Or maybe, it’s singing holiday songs and drinking eggnog while baking chocolate chip cookies. Whatever you choose is up to you, but it should be just for you.

 Setting boundaries will come with challenges, and you may encounter resistance from family and friends, especially if they are not accustomed to you setting such boundaries. Expect that you might not get the reaction you hope for, and guess what? That’s okay. There is no need to worry if people do not accept your boundaries. Your only role is to respectively communicate your needs and recognize that you cannot control the reaction of others.

Often, you will find that the people who get upset the most when you set boundaries have benefited the most from your lack of boundaries. Those who genuinely want the best for you will not only respect your boundaries; they will applaud you for sticking to what is important to you.



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