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  • Writer's pictureKristen Conte

Setting Holiday Boundaries

It's that time of year! Where the snow quietly falls, fireplaces roar with heat, yummy treats waft from the oven and let's not forget - the holidays!

Last week, we took some time to reflect on what you and your family are prioritizing this holiday season. We asked questions around what you value, and how you’d like to welcome in the holidays this year as a family unit. This week, we want to take some time to dig in and understand what your capacity is between A.) making time to create the memories you prioritize as a family and B.) attending the plethora of holiday invitations & fulfilling traditional holiday expectations. As we take the time to pause, some of you may begin to acknowledge that the holiday to-do list is large and saying “no” to some events is becoming a pressing reality. This new realization can feel overwhelming. How do we say no to people? What will they think? How will they react? Is it easier just to move through all the tiring “things” versus dealing with the uncomfortableness around people’s reactions and emotions? These are tough things to navigate and acknowledging what feels right for you, in terms of timing and pace, is key!

Setting and enforcing boundaries can be hard because of the potential consequences of setting them. Sometimes, the attempt at setting a boundary can take great energy and courage, and the thought of having to reinforce it, can feel stressful and exhausting.  To say no, can bring some grief around the loss of relationships or a loss of what we thought the relationship was, if people don’t hear or respect what we need. Although some people in our lives may not respect the boundaries we set, particularly around this time of year, there may also be a group of friends and family members who do and will encourage us to do what is best for ourselves and family! You are allowed to say “no” to anything this holiday season that does not bring you joy. YOU know yourself best, and your boundaries need to make sense to you, not everyone else.

What makes the holidays an interesting time of year is not only the added social pressures but also the want to abandon our normal routines, which promote healthy habits and positive coping strategies (Psychology Today). Also, the holidays can be centered around giving to others and making others happy, so setting boundaries or following normal boundaries you’d typically set, can be harder to do at this time of year. But remember, boundaries are limits we set with ourselves and others, to ensure we don’t deplete our emotional, physical, and mental energy stores which can leave us exhausted, bitter and overwhelmed. Boundaries are also helpful because they keep us physically and emotionally safe, which in turn, allows us to feel productive, happy and safe.

What are some examples of boundaries this holiday season? See this list from Psychology Today’s author Sharon Martin: 

  • Feeling empowered to skip, go late, leave early, or drive your own car to holiday parties.

  • Saying yes because you want to, not out of obligation or to please others.

  • Asking your guests not to discuss politics.

  • Limiting how much alcohol you consume.

  • Sticking to your budget.

  • Not checking work emails on your days off.

  • Clearly communicating your needs and expectations (Psychology Today).

Once you’ve decided what boundaries you want to set, the next step we want you to consider is how you’ll maintain them. Here are four tips from Sharon on how to maintain your boundaries this holiday season:

  1. Write them down.

  2. Consider what you’ll do if someone continually violates your boundaries.

  3. Know which boundaries are non-negotiable.

  4. Practice. Practice. Practice (Psychology Today).

Be gentle on yourself as you navigate both your familial priorities and personal boundaries this holiday season. It is a tough time of year and every effort you make setting and maintaining these boundaries is worthy of celebration!

***We understand that this season can be an overwhelming time for a lot of people. If the holidays are feeling daunting, connect with us at PACE Counselling to get the support you need.

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