5 Tips for Setting Boundaries this Holiday Season

How are you feeling about this upcoming holiday season? Do you get excited when the Christmas lights go up or does your stomach flutter with anxiety at the upcoming expectations associated with the holidays? Here are 5 tips to help you get started with your boundary setting this holiday season.

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What do the holidays look like at your house? Do you attend mandatory dinners and wear uncomfortable clothing? Set your own traditions? Stay in and maybe choose to celebrate with Netflix and some ramen? Whatever your plans look like, I want to begin with saying there is no wrong or right way to celebrate holidays. However, that can be a lot easier said than done and often times we end up at events that we are anxious about.

If you are in a place of having done lots of growth in therapy and in most areas of your life, but still struggle to set healthy boundaries with your family of origin, I see you. You aren’t alone. There is tons of pressure to show up to events and not hurt anyone’s feelings during the holiday season. It’s beyond overwhelming. If you’re in this boat of navigating how to protect yourself while also being present at various challenging/anxiety provoking functions, these tips are for you.

5 Tips to set you up for Boundary Setting Success:

  1. Set an honest intention around each holiday to help guide your boundaries. First and foremost. I think boundaries are unnecessarily challenging to create if we don’t know why we are setting them. The foundation of boundaries is best laid with our intention. So is your intention to honor your progress this season? Or maybe it’s to model balance for your children? There’s no wrong or right way to set an intention but I recommend you start here to help give your boundaries some focus.
  2. Be clear and communicate boundaries ahead of time. Boundaries aren’t very useful if we do not follow through with them. We are much more likely to follow through with our boundaries if we speak them out loud to those who love us and those who may test them. This can be really intimidating but sends a powerful message not only to those you are setting the boundaries with, it also allows them to have their own reactions and feelings ahead of time rather than on the spot. It also sends a powerful message to your inner child that you, the functional adult, are here to take care of and protect them.
  3. Have a Plan B. Ok so say you come up with some awesome boundaries, they’re focused, you communicate them, and then bam they’re violated. Now what? Setting clear consequences is essential for boundaries to be successful. This often includes some sort of Plan B. Maybe that means preparing yourself for a holiday at your home without family or summoning the courage to leave an event early if you aren’t treated with respect. Remember, our behavior teaches those around us how to treat us. If you don’t follow through with a boundary you are still teaching someone something important about you.
  4. Prepare your inner child for any potentially difficult situations. I highly encourage having some sort of convo with your inner child and inner teen and let them share their fears. Boundaries are a profound way of reparenting your inner child because you are giving them something they didn’t receive during their childhood. By talking with them ahead of time, providing information about what they can expect, validating their emotions, and practicing healthy coping skills, you are less likely to regress during the holiday get-together.
  5. Remember that “No” is a full sentence. You don’t owe anyone any explanation for your boundaries that you do not want to share. The holiday season tends to amp up our tendency to regress and feel pressure from unhealthy relationships. It may be helpful to remind yourself that you are allowed to say no and remove yourself from any situation you do not feel safe in.

Overall, I hope you are able to listen to your heart, your desires, and your inner child this holiday season. They will guide you if you allow them. And if you struggle to hold your boundaries this season, remember that practice makes perfect. This process is messy and inherently imperfect. Remember to practice lots of self-compassion this holiday season. Wherever you are is where you are meant to be right now.

Sending you valor and peppermint white chocolate mocha vibes,

Dr. B