It’s the most wonderful time of the year – beautiful seasonal decor, quality time with family and those lovely dinner table conversations. The holiday season can be challenging for many though, from family drama to splitting time between families to the political chatter at the dinner table. The holidays can often require sharing time and energy with many close loved ones. This makes putting boundaries in place during the holidays more important than ever.
Nedra Glover Tawwab, NYT best-selling author of Set Boundaries, Find Peace, defines boundaries as “parameters for how a person can engage, interact and treat you.” Setting these parameters is key to ensure you protect your energy and well-being during the season of heightened events and family activity. Yet, they can be especially tough to set and it can be extra difficult to say ‘no’ when it comes to family members. With the holidays almost here, what better time to get ahead on setting boundaries to most enjoy this wonderful time of year without sacrificing your own needs.
Boundaries During The Holidays
Recently, I’ve heard countless clients express concerns or challenges surrounding boundaries. Many of us feel obligated to say ‘yes’ to others at the expense of ourselves. The irony is that the benefits of setting boundaries and honoring our needs spiral outwards to all those around us. Yet, boundaries are not easy! They can be uncomfortable and require practice, especially when putting them in place for the first time. I like to refer to boundaries as a muscle that you continue to flex until it strengthens and happens with more ease.
Before even getting started with your boundary setting, it’s important to take some time for self-reflection. Self-knowledge is key to improving your boundaries practice. First, take time to make sure you understand yourself, your needs and what may be getting in the way of those needs being met.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What’s most important to you?
- What areas do you find yourself often saying ‘yes’ when you actually want to say ‘no’?
- Where do you feel discomfort in your interactions with others?
- What specific areas of your life do you feel need more protection?
- What limits do you need to put in place to guard that?
Boundaries require putting yourself first. Yet, don’t mistake this for a selfish act. By putting yourself first and prioritizing your needs, you’re ensuring that you can best show up for those around you. They are a method of self-protection to guard your well-being.
Here are three steps to set boundaries before the holidays hit:
- Reflect on what’s important to you (see questions above)
- Write out your non-negotiables. A non-negotiable is something that is core to you and is not open to discussion or negotiation.
- Determine what rules, limits, or guidelines are needed to support and protect your non-negotiables.
Here’s an example of how this boundary-setting process can play out during the holiday season:
Let’s say you usually head home for the holidays and spend the week in your family’s home. You’ve noticed that each year, the extended time with family leaves you feeling drained and depleted. You find yourself constantly helping out with family errands and favors. Let’s go through each step mentioned above..
- Reflect – During reflection, you realize that you value and need your alone time. You notice that jumping between family events and supporting family members leaves you no space for yourself.
- Create a non-negotiable – ‘I need an hour a day completely to myself.’
- Create a rule or limit to support that – ‘I will block off my schedule from 3 to 4pm daily to have an hour to myself.’ You block it off in your schedule for that week and communicate it to your family members.
Other examples of boundaries during the holiday season could include:
- Limiting time with certain family members
- Eliminating certain controversial conversation topics from table conversations
- Avoiding certain family events
The key to setting boundaries is clear communication. It’s essential that you’re first clear on these boundaries before putting them into action. If it supports, do the three-step activity above and write it out. Writing out your boundaries can serve as a written contract with yourself. Once you’re clear on them, it’s time to communicate to others and move to action. Ensure that you communicate these boundaries with your family members and loved ones. If you feel comfortable, you can share your written out list. Whether it’s verbally or through putting them straight into action, it all starts with you.
Here is your opportunity to proactively create boundaries to maintain your energy and leave the holidays feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.