December 20, 2023

Navigating Boundaries during the Holidays

By Josh Wei
Anxiety & Depression
Mental Health & Wellbeing

As the holiday season approaches, a lot of us feel a mix of excitement and apprehension about spending time with family.

While family gatherings can be a time of joy and connection, they also bring a set of challenges, especially when it comes to reconnecting with loved ones while maintaining your own needs. We can never predict how family gatherings may go, but it can be helpful to identify strategies.

Remember that self-care isn’t selfish; it’s a necessary component of maintaining mental and emotional health. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be better equipped to navigate family dynamics and enjoy the holiday season more fully.

Self-Reflection and Clarity

Before diving into all the festivities and parties, take the time for self-reflection. Consider what boundaries are helpful for your well-being and mental health. This may involve reflecting on past experiences and identifying specific situations or topics that tend to cause stress.

We don’t need to do a deep dive as to exactly why you may feel a certain way, but recognizing these patterns will help give a sense of how to respond. Understanding your own needs and limits is the first step in setting clear boundaries.

After recognizing our stressors, what would be helpful in regulating our emotions? Sometimes, taking a short nap or drinking a glass of water is all we need to feel energized. Other times, spending a day by ourselves or finding support from a close friend may be the key to escaping family drama. Feel free to explore ways to care for yourself even if you aren’t staying in your own home.

Setting and Communicating Boundaries

Once you’ve identified your boundaries, it’s crucial to communicate them effectively. This doesn’t mean creating an exhaustive list or justifying your choices. Instead, express your needs assertively and gently. Remember that healthy boundaries benefit both you and your relationships. I always like to keep in mind that boundaries help keep people close, not far apart.

When considering how to actually communicate with others, I believe it can be helpful to start with structure. Expressing ourselves can feel odd, and having a framework can help us maintain clarity, especially if we’re already feeling lots of emotions. I like to ask three questions:

  1. What is the stressor?
  2. What do you need?
  3. How will you be enforcing your boundary?

For example, if a family member wants to catch up when you aren’t up for it, one way to express yourself could sound like: “I can’t talk right now and need to take care of a few things. I won’t be answering the phone or responding to texts, but I will be free to chat later this evening.”

Creating boundaries doesn’t mean you have to say “no” to someone. We are able to care for ourselves so that we can comfortably and confidently say “yes.” By communicating needs and expectations clearly, we help the other party understand exactly what is going on and what will happen.

Be prepared for a range of reactions, as not everyone may fully understand or respect your boundaries initially. Stay firm in your needs, and remember that setting boundaries is a form of self-care, not a rejection of your family.

The complexities of managing and communicating boundaries with family during the holidays take work. It’s an ongoing process that requires self-reflection, assertiveness, and a commitment to self-care.

By taking the time to understand your needs, communicate boundaries effectively, and prioritize self-care, you can navigate the holiday season with greater authenticity to maintain connection with your loved ones.

Remember that setting boundaries is an act of self-love, and it contributes to creating a holiday season that aligns with your values and promotes overall well-being.

Need Help with Holiday Boundaries?

Navigating family dynamics during the holidays can be tough. If you’re struggling, our team Optimum Joy Counseling Center is here to help.

Contact us for support in maintaining your well-being this festive season.

Written By

Josh Wei

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