“It’s the most wonderful time of the year….”
Can you hear the music in your head? I can!
While I am astounded at how earlier and earlier each year, Mariah Carey, Michael Bublé, and hosts of Christmas cherubs begin gracing us with their melodies, I can’t say I am complaining!
The holidays are often a beautiful time filled with thanksgiving and gratitude…
They can stressful as, let’s be honest, the holidays can be activating with trauma triggers, disordered eating thoughts, and difficult dynamics within family and friend relationships.
Thus, we can hold space for all the emotions that come up around this time each season.
So how do we navigate the next few months in a way that feels safe?
Let’s chat about boundaries, shall we?
What are boundaries?
Simply put, a boundary is a line that delineates where we end, and another person begins.
Boundaries protect us, just as a traditional boundary (door/fence/wall) does. There are different types of boundaries: physical, sexual, mental, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, time, material etc.
What do boundaries in action sound like?
“I am looking forward to seeing you! It is important to me to see my partner’s family too on thanksgiving so I will plan on seeing you in the morning and then will be heading to their house in the afternoon.”
“I won’t be guilt tripped into spending more time than I am able to give this Christmas.”
“I don’t feel comfortable talking about politics at the dinner table.”
“Let’s pause on this particular topic and revisit next week.”
“Conversations or debates about others spiritual beliefs right now are inappropriate. Can we change the subject to something more neutral?”
“Please ask me/my kiddo before hugging me/us/them. We are working on learning their boundaries and I don’t want them to be confused.”
“I’m so sorry you are feeling under the weather! Would you like to attend virtually? We can face time briefly. If you aren’t feeling well, I request that you do stay home.”
“I need to have lunch. Starving myself before dinner isn’t helpful for my recovery.”
“No thank you, I am not drinking tonight. May I have a sparkling water instead?”
“I so appreciate your offer to stay with you. I would feel comfier at the Ramada down the street, though.”
“Have fun running your turkey trot! I’ll watch and wave!”
“I’d love to have dessert however my fullness is telling me I’m satisfied right now. May I have some to go?”
“Excuse me, I’m still hungry so I am going to go get another scoop of this stuffing, it’s delicious!”
“We don’t use words like that in this space.”
“Actually, my pronouns are they/them. Thank you for letting me share that with you. What pronouns do you prefer?”
“That person isn’t in the room, let’s be mindful that they aren’t here to give their side of the story and talk about ______ instead.”
“I am really missing them today. Thank you for just allowing me to feel my feelings and not fix or avoid my emotions around grief.”
“This tradition doesn’t fit with my values any longer. I won’t be participating. I can’t wait to see you after!”
“I’m not financially in a place where I can afford gifts right now. Please don’t feel pressured to purchase me anything. Just wanted to let you know. Would love to spend some quality time together. Are you free next week for a morning hike?”
And my personal favorite
Because No is a complete sentence, y’all
Saying no authentically allows us to also say yes authentically.
People pleasing at the expense of our own mental health and comfortability leads to resentment. You are responsible for your choices and outcomes. Not protecting others from their emotions.
Gentle Reminders, identifying and setting boundaries is uncomfy. It can be unsettling to have a boundary set with you as well as be the boundary setter. Just because it is uncomfortable, does not mean it is wrong!
We cannot grow in our comfort zone.
Quick facts on boundaries
- A boundary does not mean we never review a certain topic again. A boundary provides you with a pause to keep you and others safe in knowing what you/they are able to mentally and emotionally process in that moment.
- Boundaries are not selfish.
- Boundaries are valid.
- They are also flexible meaning they can change as they fit your journey.
- They may need to be communicated more than once as people are not mind readers.
- Those who do not respect your boundaries? May be a good time to revisit what you need to do to protect yourself as not everyone will understand or agree.
However, your boundaries are for you- not them. There is a difference between boundaries and expectations. Perhaps do some internal digging on what the difference is for you.
It is ok to leave the gathering, go home early, take a break outside to ground, or not go at all.
Remember, holidays may hold some powerful experiences. Your experience is valid. We also go forward knowing that the present moment is not the past, nor is it the future. You can direct your present in a way that returns power to you. You have choices.
And what a gift that is.
Happy holidays everyone!
Winter Groeschl, LPC