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Are you dreading your brother’s house on Christmas? Set a beginning and end time. You get to decide when you show up and when you leave. Don’t want to go to the Christmas potluck? Skip this year. Setting boundaries around the holidays is an act of self-care. It is a way to honor your feelings. Setting good boundaries can actually be viewed as a gift to yourself.

Around October, many of my clients share their frustrations, fears or concerns as the holidays near. Holidays are about togetherness, but for some the Holidays are a reminder of family dysfunction or triggers.

Common concerns that I hear are:

  • “My in-laws are going to have a fit if we don’t stay with them”
  • “I am worried that my brother is going to drink too much”
  • “My mom is hard to please and wants things her way”
  • “Being with my family is stressful”


Boundaries are our limits with ourselves and others. They can be internal or external. Internal boundaries are our boundaries with ourselves. External boundaries are our boundaries with others. In order to have good boundaries with ourselves, we have to be in touch with our feelings. In order to have good boundaries with others, we have to be willing to sit with discomfort. Others may feel hurt, mad or upset about our choices. It is our job to set our boundaries, hold them and then take good care of our emotions.

Plan Ahead

We have to learn to adjust our expectations. Holidays are about gathering. It is unrealistic to expect that we will get together with a large group of people and not have some discomfort. We can think ahead to plan on how we will manage feelings of discomfort that arise. If my dad gets negative, I will take a walk. If my sister starts talking about politics, I will remove myself from the conversation. According to Lori Ryland “Remember that those with strong opinions are very rarely convinced of an opposing view.”

Opting Out

There are also times where it is best for our mental health to opt out of certain events. Remember that you may get push back for this. Seek support from those who will respect your limits. If you decide to opt out of certain events, be mindful about what your self-care plan will be. How will I take care of myself this year? What new rituals or activities would feel loving?

Helpful Reminders

We cannot control other people

It is not our job to make everyone else happy

Boundaries can feel uncomfortable, it doesn’t mean that they are wrong

We get to choose what events we go to

We get to choose how long we stay

Healthy boundaries require internal work and external work

They start by us becoming clear about our own needs.

We can ask questions like:

  • What do I need this holiday season?
  • Am I comfortable with that?
  • How do I want this season to look?
  • What feels important to me or to us as a family?
  • What traditions or rituals matter to me?
  • What do I want to embrace this year?
  • What do I want to let go of?

What does a healthy boundary look like

A healthy boundary looks different for different people. Here are some examples of what healthy boundaries can look like:

  • Staying in a hotel VS. a family member’s home
  • Skipping an event that makes you feel uncomfortable
  • Leaving early if that is what works for you
  • Going to events or planning events that make you feel happy
  • Not doing things out of obligation
  • Limiting your alcohol intake
  • Setting a clear start and end time
  • Not doing things out of obligation
  • Honoring your financial limits
  • Setting a budget that makes sense for your family

Remember to keep your self-care routines during the holidays. Focus on your basic self-care, such as rest, good meals and maintaining some routine. Just like children, we are more likely to break down emotionally when we are overly hungry or tired. Take the time to go for a run, go to your work out class, or grab a meeting while you are traveling. It is our regular routines that help to keep us emotionally grounded and connected to ourselves.

Modern Therapy and Wellness, LLC provides individual and couples therapy to residents of Louisiana. We have therapists who specialize in couples therapy, anxiety, boundaries, addiction, grief and chronic illness. Contact us for a free phone consultation. We provide virtual therapy and in person therapy.

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