How to Reduce Holiday Stress by Setting Strong Boundaries


I
love
the
holidays.
I
eagerly
anticipate
the
first
snowfall,
adore
the
scent
of
pine,
and
watch

It’s
A
Wonderful
Life

every
year
without
fail.

That
said,
even
the
merriest
among
us
know
that
the
holidays
can
be
emotionally,
physically,
and
psychologically
taxing.
In
addition
to
buying
gifts,
negotiating
travel
plans,
and
shuttling
from
gathering
to
gathering,
many
of
us
spend
extended
time
with
our
families—and
every
family,
no
matter
how
loving,
has
its
fair
share
of
challenges.

When
these
difficult
family
dynamics
combine
with
holiday-season
stress,
we
may
find
ourselves
at
a
crossroads.
Do
we
burn
out,
freak
out,
and
spend
the
holidays
in
a
state
of
discomfort?
Or
do
we
set
boundaries
around
our
time,
space,
and
energy?

Setting
Boundaries
With
Family
Members

For
many
of
us,
breaking
the
people-pleasing
pattern
and
setting
boundaries
poses
a
unique
challenge.
Personally,
I
was
taught
that
my
value
lay
in
how
much
I
gave,
and
so
speaking
up
for
myself—or
setting
limits
on
my
giving—at
first
felt
mean
and
inconsiderate.

Setting
boundaries
among
family
members
can
be
doubly
challenging.
For
years,
we
may
have
felt
burdened
by
unspoken
expectations
that
have
made
it
hard
to
put
our
own
needs
first.

For
most
of
my
life,
I
struggled
to
set
boundaries
with
my
parents
because
they
raised
me,
fed
me,
clothed
me,
and
supported
me
financially
until
I
reached
adulthood.
At
first,
it
was
hard
to
instate
boundaries
because
I
felt
I
owed
them
everything.

Likewise,
many
parents
would
leap
out
in
front
of
a
train
for
their
kids,
and
many
siblings
would
go
to
great
lengths
to
keep
one
another
safe
and
happy.
As
a
parent
or
sibling,
you
may
feel
obligated
to
offer
your
time,
money,
space,
or
energy
without
limitation.

Boundaries
illuminate
and
challenge
these
unspoken
expectations.
Whereas
before
you
may
have
been
the
resident
people-pleaser
or
over-giver,
setting
boundaries
changes
your
role
in
your
family
system.
They
enable
you
to
prioritize
your
own
needs
and
give
at
a

sustainable

rate.

Boundaries
can
protect
your
material
possessions,
your
emotions,
your
physical
space,
or
your
spiritual
beliefs.
They
are
not
“mean.”
They
simply
draw
a
line
between
what
belongs
to
you
and
what
belongs
to
others.

As
I
prepare
to
have
difficult
conversations
about
boundaries,
I
like
to
keep
these
four
key
principles
in
mind:


When
we
refuse
to
set
a
boundary,
we
prioritize
other
people’s
comfort
over
our
own
needs.

Setting
boundaries
is
a
courageous
act
of
putting
ourselves
first.
It’s
a
great
way
to
break
the
people-pleasing
habit
and
practice
the
art
of
self-care
and
verbal
self-defense.


Difficult
honesty
is
not
unkindness.

It’s
not
mean
to
stand
up
for
yourself.
It’s
actually
the
most
truthful
and
authentic
way
to
interact
with
others.


You
can
manage
your
boundaries
or
manage
other
people’s
feelings,
but
you
can’t
do
both
.
The
bottom
line
is,
your
boundaries
might
make
people
feel
frustrated
or
resentful.
That
burden
is
not
yours
to
bear.


Other
people
are
not
mind-readers.
Don’t
expect
them
to
be.

There
is
no
shame
in
directly
asking
for
your
feelings
to
be
acknowledged
or
your
needs
to
be
met.
Even
our
loved
ones
need
ongoing
instruction
in
how
to
care
for
us
because
we
are

always

changing—as
are
our
needs
and
boundaries.

This
holiday
season,
practice
setting
boundaries
in
your
family
to
give
yourself
the
gift
of
feeling
joyful,
peaceful,
and
empowered.
Here
are
some
common
holiday
scenarios
in
which
boundaries
might
come
in
handy:

Example
#1:
It’s
okay
not
to
go
home
for
the
holidays.

Maybe
your
adult
children
have
finally
fled
the
nest
and
you
want
to
spend
the
holiday
in
Cancun
with
your
spouse.
Maybe
you
want
to
visit
your
fiancé’s
family
instead
of
your
own.
Maybe
home
is
a
toxic
environment
and
you’d
prefer
to
stay
home
and
enjoy
the
company
of
your
dog,
Bobo.

You
are
not
selfish
for
wanting
to
spend
the
holidays
in
the
way
you’d
like.
You
are
allowed
to
have
desires
that
differ
from
your
parents’
or
siblings’.
You
are
allowed
to
have
a
different
understanding
of
what
makes
the
“perfect”
holiday.

It
can
be
tough
to
buck
traditions
that
have
been
in
your
family
for
decades.
Sometimes,
finding
the
right
language
is
the
hardest
part.

My
favorite
way
to
communicate
a
boundary
is
the
“I-statement”
approach
developed
by
clinical
psychologist
Thomas
Gordon
in
1970.
It
centers
your
feelings
and
experiences,
reduces
the
likelihood
of
defensiveness
in
the
listener,
and
offers
concrete
suggestions
for
change.

Here’s
how
it
works:


  • I
    feel
    _________________________________________.

  • When
    you
    _____________________________________.

  • Because
    _______________________________________.

  • I
    need
    ________________________________________.

In
the
case
offered
above,
you
might
try
this:
I
feel

sad
and
overwhelmed

when

I
come
home
for
Christmas

because

there’s
a
lot
of
unresolved
tension
in
our
family.

I
need

to
spend
a
peaceful
Christmas
on
my
own
this
year.”

Example
#2:
It’s
okay
to
need
a
break
if
you’re
hosting.

Holiday
hosting
is
no
small
feat.
In
my
extended
family,
Christmas
Eve
was
always
a
bonanza,
complete
with
platters
of
hors
d’oeuvres,
mountains
of
gifts,
and
screaming
kiddos
hopped
up
on
Neapolitan
cookies.
My
grandma,
our
gracious
hostess,
would
start
preparing
the
moment
summer
vacation
was
over.
It
was
a

big

deal.

Whether
you’re
hosting
the
extended
family
for
one
evening
or
hosting
your
kids
for
two
weeks,
you
are
offering
your
time,
space,
and
energy
in
a
big
way.
It’s
taxing
for
your
nervous
system
and
your
body,
and
it’s
okay
to
take
a
break.
“Taking
a
break”
might
mean
spending
a
day
by
yourself,
enjoying
an
afternoon
nap,
or
outsourcing
host
responsibilities
for
an
hour
in
the
midst
of
the
party.


Try
this:
I
feel

stressed

when

I
host
the
family
for
Christmas
Eve

because

it’s
a
ton
of
work
to
cook
the
food,
mingle
with
guests,
and
clean
up
afterwards.

I
need

someone
to
help
me
clean
up
when
the
guests
start
to
leave.

Example
#3:
It’s
okay
to
need
alone
time
if
you’re
visiting.

Visiting
entails
fewer
responsibilities
than
hosting,
but
it’s
not
always
a
walk
in
the
park.
As
a
visitor,
you’re
out
of
your
comfort
zone.
You’re
in
a
new
environment,
away
from
your
routines
and
creature
comforts.
Even
if
you
haven’t
seen
the
folks
you’re
mingling
with
in
months
or
years,
it’s
perfectly
normal
to
take
some
time
to
be
alone.


Try
this:


I
feel

overwhelmed
by
the
non-stop
festivities

when

I
visit
for
Christmas

because

I’m
used
to
having
a
lot
of
time
to
myself
at
home.

I
need

one
day
where
I
can
be
alone
so
I
can
rest
and
recharge.

Example
#4:
It’s
okay
to
disengage
in
controversial
conversations.

Despite
the
litany
of
horror
stories
that
illustrate
the
dangers
of
talking
politics/religion/etc.
around
the
dinner
table,
some
of
our
loved
ones
can’t
seem
to
help
themselves.
I
know
from
personal
experience:
Some
family
members
get
a
kick
out
of
instigating
uncomfortable
conversations.

This
year,
you
don’t
have
to
choose
between
entering
a
heated
conversation
or
forcing
a
chuckle
on
the
sidelines.
You
can
set
a
boundary
that
simultaneously
protects
your
values
and
limits
your
involvement.


Try
this:
I
feel

uncomfortable

when
you

talk
about
politics
over
Thanksgiving
dinner

because

it
creates
an
atmosphere
of
tension.

Let’s

change
the
conversation
to
something
less
controversial
so
we
can
enjoy
one
another’s
company.

Example
#5:
It’s
okay

not
to
be
okay

with
your
family’s
dynamics.

Every
member
of
every
family
changes
over
time.
Habits
or
routines
that
you
loved
as
a
child
might
not
feel
comfortable
as
you
get
older.
Certain
family
tensions
may
have
worsened
as
the
years
have
passed.

Bottom
line?
Just
because
you
accepted
these
behaviors
and
dynamics
before
does

not

mean
you
need
to
accept
them
now.

Maybe
your
brother
always
comments
on
your
weight,
and
you’d
really
like
him
to
stop.
Maybe
your
grandmother
constantly
asks
you
why
you’re
going
to
school
for
music
instead
of
medicine.
Maybe
certain
family
members
get
really
drunk
at
your
annual
Christmas
party
and,
this
year,
you’re
not
comfortable
with
them
attending.

By
addressing
these
discomforts
in
a
straightforward
manner,
you
can
give
yourself
the
gift
of
prioritizing
your
own
feelings
and
needs.

But
What
If
They
Don’t
Like
My
Boundaries?

The
question
I
get
most
often
is,
“Okay,
so
I
set
a
boundary.
But
what
if
they
don’t
like
it?
What
if
they
don’t
do
what
I
ask?”

Your
family
members
might
not
like
your
boundaries.
Your
boundaries
may
activate
their
deepest
fears
and
insecurities,
and
they
might
wonder,
“Does
she
still
love
me?
Is
he
angry?
What
does
this
mean
for
our
relationship?”

Your
family
members
may
get
angry
or
upset.
They
may
need
time
to
adjust.
They
may
even
use
guilt
in
an
attempt
to
make
you
change
your
mind.

It’s
important
to
enter
these
challenging
conversations
with
realistic
expectations
for
how
your
loved
ones
may
react.
Preparing
for
surprise,
anger,
or
sadness
will
make
it
easier
to
hold
firm
to
your
boundary
when
faced
with
resistance.

During
the
conversation,
acknowledge
that
your
boundary
may
be
difficult
to
hear.
This
helps
your
loved
one
feel
seen
and
included
in
the
process.

I
also
like
to
offer
positive
alternatives
to
the
behaviors
I’m
trying
to
quelch.
I
want
to
make
clear
to
my
loved
ones
that
I
care
about
our
relationship
and
I’m
willing
to
work
to
find
ways
of
interacting
that
feel
good
for
both
of
us.
For
example:

  • “I
    will
    be
    staying
    at
    a
    hotel
    when
    I
    come
    home
    for
    Christmas
    this
    year.
    I
    would
    love
    to
    carve
    out
    a
    day
    to
    spend
    together,
    just
    the
    two
    of
    us.”
  • “Talking
    about
    this
    topic
    is
    difficult
    for
    me.
    Can
    we
    change
    the
    conversation?
    I’d
    love
    to
    hear
    how
    work’s
    been
    going
    for
    you.”
  • “It’s
    really
    important
    to
    me
    that
    I
    meet
    my
    need
    for
    alone
    time.
    That
    said,
    time
    with
    you
    is
    really
    important
    to
    me.
    Can
    we
    work
    together
    to
    find
    a
    balance
    that
    works
    for
    both
    of
    us?”

Sometimes,
no
matter
how
firmly
you
hold
to
your
boundary,
others
will
be
unwilling
to
change.
Perhaps
you
express
that
your
brother’s
toxic
behavior
is
no
longer
acceptable
to
you,
but
he
carries
on
anyhow.
Perhaps
you
explain
that
you’re
no
longer
willing
to
host
the
annual
holiday
party,
but
nobody
else
steps
up
to
volunteer.

You
cannot
change
other
people.
You
only
have
control
over
your
own
reactions
and
behavior.
Sometimes,
you
may
have
to
choose
between
tolerating
the
unacceptable
behavior
or
evacuating
the
environment
(e.g.,
not
attending
the
family’s
holiday
gathering,
ceasing
contact
with
a
family
member
altogether,
etc.)

Though
deeply
challenging,
making
the
bold
decision
to
evacuate
a
toxic
environment
is
a
phenomenal
act
of
self-care.
Organizations
like

Stand
Alone
offer
support
and
community
to
individuals
who
have
had
to
make
that
difficult
decision,
and
can
be
a
wonderful
resource
this
time
of
year.

Remember:
you
can
simultaneously
set
boundaries
and
be
loving,
compassionate,
and
kind.
You
can
sit
with
your
loved
one’s
pain,
hold
space
for
their
reaction,
and
reiterate
how
much
they
mean
to
you—all
while
making
clear
that
your
boundary
is
non-negotiable.

It
takes
a
great
deal
of
courage
to
speak
up
and
alter
old
ways
of
relating
to
others,
especially
in
your
family.
Every
time
you
set
a
boundary,
you
bring
your
outer
world
into
alignment
with
your
inner
needs.
It
is
a
gift
that
only

you
can
give
yourself—and
a
gift
unlike
any
other.

About

Hailey
Magee

Hailey
Magee
is
a
Certified
Codependency
Recovery
Coach
who
helps
individuals
find
inner
freedom
by
breaking
free
from
codependency,
setting
healthy
boundaries,
and
speaking
their
truth.

Sign
up for
a
complimentary,
30-minute
consultation
to
learn
how
codependency
recovery
can
radically
transform
your
life
and
relationships.
You
can
follow
Hailey
on Facebook
and Instagram
or
visit
her
website, www.haileymagee.com.

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