What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “boundary”? Maybe it’s a fence, gate or a towering wall. Psychologically and relationally, boundaries are assertive statements of limits used to describe feelings and needs, expressing what is “me” and my property, and what is “not me” and not my property. They can even be expressed in opposition of others with whom we are interacting, when necessary.
The holiday season can often be a time to set boundaries. It is a busy season and can be anticipated with excitement, but also dread. These days are characterized by connection and fellowship with loved ones, thus it can be difficult discerning when and how to draw necessary boundaries. Demands often come from many directions and we can easily become swept away with buying gifts, traveling, sending cards, attending and hosting parties and preparing meals. By setting boundaries in advance, you’re able to focus on what’s important to you for the holidays like joy, traditions, gratitude, and connection.
Here are some tips to take with you into the Christmas season to aid in honoring yourself and others:
Setting boundaries starts with checking in with yourself and knowing what you are wanting, what is important, how you’re feeling, and what you are hoping to accomplish. Having an internal compass allows us to realistically map out needs and a sense of direction. A great way to practice this is to start journaling for 5-10 minutes a day. Write down relevant thoughts, emotions, situations, and any other internal processes. Allowing your inner experiences to breathe and be noticed can keep clarity in your mind and calmness in your body. If you have the opportunity, go for a walk. Breathe deeply and take in your surroundings while being present with yourself.
Be Kind to You
A simple phrase that we all need to be reminded of at times: “It’s okay to not be okay.” Holidays are often mile marker events when we gather together, but we may also be grieving the death of a loved one or we are reminded of the pain of divorce or other broken relationships. This is a time to take your space. It’s not unkind to leave the room if you become overwhelmed or need to stay home from a party because it might be too difficult to experience. Giving yourself the space to grieve allows you to be honest with yourself. It doesn’t force you to wear the mask and fake the smile. In the long run, you’ll be more emotionally healthy if you honor your need for space to grieve.
Set Boundaries for Yourself
With the holidays come opportunities to share your resources with others. Many people enjoy volunteering their time to serve in local charities, purchasing gifts for family and friends and decorating their homes. Further, viewing social media and advertisements reinforce the need to do and have more. The demand can feel overwhelming with all the things we “should do” if realistic expectations are not placed in advance. As you move into this season, take some time to brainstorm a budget for time and expenses. This season might be different from the last and that is okay. Every year is an opportunity to make new traditions as old traditions fade out. You may have to say “no” to a few things, and this might free you up to be more available to yourself and others.
Be Clear in your Boundaries with Others
People won’t always know what we need from them unless we share assertively. Family may be insistent upon how plans need to occur, but ultimately you get to choose when and how you interact with others. For example, when feeling pressured for time, you can say, “I know you would like us to stay longer, but we are able to be here until 5 O’clock.” Acknowledge their desires and feelings and then share your boundary. When feeling criticized for parenting by a relative, you could say, “I know that you are caring and have several ideas, but I am going to do it this way.” Another simple boundary is, “I don’t wish to talk about this right now.”
It’s okay to have personal boundaries at the Holidays. Whatever the need is, be as clear, specific, and kind as possible.