Boundaries are not easy to uphold or express to those who we love and with whom we have an established dynamic. Around the holidays, we may feel the need to seek approval from older family members, feel bound to do things the same way we do every year, or try not to rock the boat by acting or expressing ourselves in a manner outside of the usual traditions. However, you have the right to change things that make you uncomfortable, and you will get more confident as time goes on! This holiday season, whether you are a pro-boundary-setter or new to the idea, here are a few ways to set healthy boundaries to limit your stress, decrease overwhelm and inspire comfort and joy during the holidays:
Yes, literally, say the word “no.” It can feel uncomfortable, harsh, or short, but it is a complete sentence and a powerful boundary. Reach out to your partner or support systems to help you say no to the things that don’t work for you.
Express yourself clearly
Using phrases like “I might not have time to…” or “I don’t know if I will be able to…” opens the doors for negotiation and expectations. Be clear about what you can and cannot do. For example, if a family member asks if you can make the same fantastic pie that you made last year, but it requires a weeks worth of prep - try to say something like, “Unfortunately, I am not able to make the pie this year.” It might feel uncomfortable, but that’s okay! Discomfort often means that you are growing. Practice firmness with empathy.
Check-in with yourself, early and often
Be sure to stop and ask yourself, “how do I feel about spending time with this person?” or “am I comfortable in this space?” or “Do I have the energy to do this this week?” Be honest with yourself about your ability and aptitude to meet expectations in a whole-hearted way. Be mindful of how certain places, people, and obligations line up with your values. Remember, your energy is precious, and you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Show up as your adult self
It is challenging to break years of the family dynamic, and the 13-year-old in you may still seek approval and feel it’s not your place to speak up. When this manifests, it’s important to pull yourself back and remember that you are an adult, and the adult is in attendance. Keeping this in front of mind helps set a clear boundary for others who still treat you as if you haven’t aged since thirteen. Remember who you are outside of these family dynamics. Picture your school, work, or home life outside of this moment and make sure that person is the one who shows up to the event.