3 Simple Ways To Set Boundaries During The Holidays

Holiday boundaries blog

The busyness of the holidays can make self-care a low priority.

Between family obligations and social events setting boundaries may seem impossible around the holidays. Dividing your time between family events or traveling when you'd rather stay home just adds to the stress of the season.

The holidays are a time to make memories but when you don't honor your own boundaries, the holidays feel like chore. You go along with what happens every year. You don't say anything but inside the holidays have lost that magically quality it had as a child. Getting back to that magic is doing what you love!

Don't assume that you have to give up what you want. Boundaries - even at Christmas - can be done in baby steps.

1. Remembering The Joy

Putting yourself first during the holidays may seem selfish. Christmas is supposed to be a time of giving but if you're not giving to yourself, it's not very festive. You end up feeling worn out and even a bit resentful.

Instead, what's one thing you’d love to do this holiday? Is there something you've always wanted but never let yourself ask for it? 

Some ideas I hear from my clients are:

  • Wanting to stay home and play catch up
  • Staying home all day and watch movies
  • Doing something radically different this year
  • Spending more time doing nothing not running around

Sometimes the most precious gift you can give yourself is free time. 

2. Consider What You Want   

Did you know that setting boundaries increases the your chances of being happy? That's because prioritizing yourself sets the tone for everything else. When your needs are handled, you’re more able to give without resenting it later. Boundaries don't depend on what others do but on what you decide to do. 

Decide where to put your time and energy. The holidays are full of obligations but that doesn't mean you aren't at choice. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Even small changes can make a difference.

Boundaries are limits that you set for yourself that determine what you will or won't participate in

What boundaries do you want to keep up with this year? Is it your exercise, doing less volunteering or negotiating less time at social events? Look for areas of flexibility. Assuming that you don't have a choice creates a vicious cycle of resentment that leaks out. 

Every year you go along with your spouse's plans for the holidays. You don't really like it but you keep quiet. No one knows how you really feel but at some point your true feelings leak out. Maybe it's a sarcastic comment that starts a fight or a grumpy attitude that you don't admit to having but everyone around you can sense it. 

Being honest about what will make you happy creates a rippling effect. When you let your needs count, you find a contentment that's hard to replace. Others may follow and children learn the value of self-care.

Examples of Holiday Boundaries:

  • Take your own car in case you need to leave  
  • Negotiate time spent with family
  • Start your own tradition
  • Make agreements to avoid hot topics
  • Don't participate in gossip
  • Let yourself opt out of certain events  

Baby steps count so start small. Progress is made when you try something new. Talk it over with your partner. Don't assume a negative outcome. Nothing changes if nothing changes.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say No

Sometimes, it's honoring the no that makes the most difference. Is there one thing you that you really don't want to do this holiday?

You tell yourself that it's okay to stay overnight at your mother-in-law's house, but secretly you dread it.
Traveling every Christmas is getting old, but you say nothing. Maybe next year?
You wish you could skip that big family event or at least leave a little earlier.
You are grieving and don't want to be around lots of people.

Saying no is sometimes perceived as selfish. That old belief keeps you stuck in the guilt. But what's so selfish about honoring yourself this year? When did the holidays become about having no choice? 

Enjoying the holidays starts with you. Talk with your partner about creating something new that you both enjoy. Small changes matter over time. Honoring what you want is how you preserve the spirit of the season. 

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