5 Ways to Maintain Boundaries During the Holidays

Aspyn Coaching
5 Ways to Maintain Boundaries During the Holidays

You've probably heard about boundaries before. But what they are and how we draw them are important questions we don't always know the answer to. Read on for more details about boundaries and how you can maintain them this festive season.

What Are Boundaries?

Setting boundaries is your way of looking out for yourself. Think of a boundary like a pause button. It's not an impenetrable wall or rudeness or selfishness. Boundaries are a way to help you say "No, that's enough" when you need to say it most. 

Imagine a person, Glenn, arriving at a family thanksgiving meal: their mom is asking when she'll be getting grandkids while Glenn's cousin is asking for money and Glenn's phone keeps buzzing with work emails. All the while, the family dog keeps jumping on Glenn's leg.

That's a lot going on. Any of these could leave Glenn feeling stressed, drained, anxious, and bending over backward to make others feel comfortable. What Glenn needs most is to take a beat and respond in a way that's best for him, and not in a way that makes him feel worse.

Now, if Glenn were to set boundaries, he would silence his phone, tell his cousin no, tell the dog to sit, and let his mom know that the grandkids will come when they come. Seems easy enough to say, but it's a lot more difficult to do. 

Types of Boundaries

There are six types of boundaries you can set:

  • Emotional – Glenn saying no to his mother pushing for grandchildren
  • Physical – stopping the dog from jumping
  • Time – not answering work emails when he's not on the clock
  • Intellectual – not getting sucked into political debates at the dinner table
  • Material – saying no to lending money
  • Sexual – Glenn letting his partner know when it's the right time

Why is Maintaining Boundaries So Hard?

It's hard to maintain boundaries because we're often taught to put other people's feelings first. Glenn doesn't want to offend his mother or cousin. He feels pressured by those work emails because he has deadlines to meet. 

There are countless reasons why we want to put others first, but what matters most is what you need in the moment. To put yourself first. 

How to Maintain Boundaries During the Holidays

Prioritize what you need to do and what can wait – Also known as a "must-do, can-wait" list. This helps you figure out what you need to focus on and what can wait. 
What do you want out of these holidays? – And how can you best achieve that?
Set a timer – it helps to set a time limit and to stick to it. Need to go to that work cocktail party? Stay for a hour or two or however long is convenient for you. What your time is up, it's time to leave. 

Take a break from social media – don't get caught up in the influx of holiday posts. Especially if you find yourself comparing your experiences with everyone else.
Think of ways to redirect uncomfortable conversations – Now more than ever it's become more difficult to disengage from conversations about politics, race, religion and more. Take some time to think of ways to change the course of conversations to keep them light and festive

Take Some Time For You

Perhaps most importantly these holidays, take some time for yourself. Whether it's five minutes to compose yourself before dinner or an afternoon of relaxation with just you and a book. 

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