When we over-accommodate and overextend we end up resenting the person we’re trying to love and support. With the holiday season upon us, it’s easy to find yourself saying yes to others at the expense of yourself. If we don’t manage our boundaries, we can quickly find ourselves feeling spent and exhausted. 

Follow these 5 tips to create a happier holiday for yourself and those you love!

  1. Know yourself. To practice healthy boundaries, we need to be self-aware enough to know what we’re feeling, when we’ve gone too far, what our triggers are and what kinds of things help us feel healthy and whole. Something as simple as knowing if you’re an introvert or an extrovert helps us know the best way for us to recharge. When we know our preferences and strengths, we can access them easily without apology and guilt. 
  2. Permission to say no. There are lots of invitations to do more during the holidays. Everything from holiday parties to gift exchanges. Just because you’ve always “done it that way” doesn’t mean you must keep doing it that way! Try to tune in and ask yourself “Is this value added? Meaningful? Does this gathering, event or tradition fill up my cup or leave me feeling empty and drained?” It’s ok to decline invitations or make adjustments to your commitment so it feels easier to access for you. Remember when you make your decision, you’re telling others, not asking. 
  3. Make a smaller commitment. Do you always host and handle all the cooking and cleaning? Ask others to contribute this year. Say you’re happy to host, but would love to make it a potluck or assign dishes for guests to bring. Many hands make light work. When you share the load you can return to the joy of the gathering rather than the feeling of being burdened by having to do it all. 
  4. Keep it light. The holidays can be a minefield of pent up emotions and sometimes difficult family history. Mix that with unmet expectations and alcohol and before we know it someone can get set off and boom! Our divisive political climate right now can also contribute to disagreements that might start to spiral out of control. When conversations start to feel like you’re walking on eggshells, it’s time to disengage sooner and pivot to something lighter. If others initiate topics that feel like they could get prickly, you can simply listen, hear the other person’s thoughts and not join or respond. Try coming back to safe topics and something that everyone can agree on like something you feel grateful for or how delicious the meal is!
  5. What part is yours? What part is not yours? When thinking about boundaries, we have to remember to identify what part is ours and what part belongs to someone else. If you uphold a boundary, like deciding when to leave a family gathering and others are upset by your early departure, the only part that belongs to you is your decision to leave. You’re not responsible for fixing their disappointment. When we bend and compromise what’s right for us to make someone else happy, we start to merge into codependency and ultimately find ourselves in a very unhealthy pattern that leads to feeling victimized by the person we’re trying to please. 

Ultimately, the holidays can be what you want them to be! You can have a more enjoyable experience when you stay connected to what your needs are and maintain healthy boundaries with others.