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Tis' the Season to Set Boundaries

The holiday season is here and soon most people will be gathering together to celebrate with family, neighbors and friends. This time of year is filled with moments of joy, laughter and celebration. With that, this time of year can also bring moments of grief through traumatic memories, missing a loved one or sadness that things are not the way you wished they would be. One way you can care for yourself as you hold space for both grief and joy in this holiday season is by setting boundaries. If you are getting ready to enter a space that feels heavy because of dynamics or strained relationships, having boundaries in place can be your biggest ally and keep expectations clear.

Here at New Leaf, we have created 10 ways to set healthy boundaries during the holidays, and throughout the year.

1. Decide what your boundaries are ahead of time

You set yourself up for success when you plan your boundaries out ahead of time. By planning ahead, you give yourself time to think through the things that are important to you and the things you need to feel protected from. In addition, when you know your boundaries in advance, you are able to communicate those boundaries to people so that expectations are clear.

2. Think about the things that you really want to do

It's easy this time of year to make plans and think through the needs and desires of those around you. Make sure you take time to think through what is important to you or things that you would like to do. Speaking your needs and desires is a great way to care for yourself and sets a boundary that you get some say in the plans as well.

3. Excuse yourself from upsetting conversations

Family time can have a way of bringing up some triggering conversations at certain points. You already know most of the topics that have the potential to activate you so you can ask that those conversations not be had ahead of time. If those topics get brought up or you find yourself surprised by your emotions in a conversation, you can always excuse yourself from the conversation. Here are some things you can say to excuse yourself from conversations.

  • "I do not have anything helpful to add to this conversation at the moment so I'm going to walk away."

  • "I asked that we not talk about this and since that is not being respected, I am going to leave this conversation"

  • "I can tell this is something we are both passionate about this is not the time or place to have this conversation so let's change the subject."

4. Set time limits for your party

If you are hosting and nervous about people overstaying, make sure you communicate the timeframe before your celebration. If someone tries to stay past the communicated time, you can gently guide the conversation to an end by telling them that you were glad to see them and that you have to wrap up now. Some people may not respond well to this but remember,

you are only responsible for your boundaries, not people's reactions to them.

5. Have an exit plan

If you are attending a celebration or get together and are feeling overwhelmed, set a time for yourself that you want to leave. You can even plan out what you are going to say when you are ready to go. You don't owe a long explanations for why you are leaving. You can simply say that you're going to go home and thank the hosts for a great time.

6. Practice self care throughout the holiday season

The holiday season can be filled with events and move so fast. It is important to set time aside to take care of yourself. Try Turning off your phone, taking a relaxing bath, reading your favorite book, or snuggling up with your favorite cup of tea. Any of these practices can take your mind off of holiday stressors and reenergize you for your next event.

7. Being clear is the kindest thing you can do

If you are still practicing setting boundaries, some of these planned conversations may feel blunt or very direct but it is important to remember that when you are clear about your boundaries, it keeps everyone on the same page and that's the kindest thing you can do for yourself and others.

8. Have an ally with you

When in doubt, bring a friend. If you are feeling nervous about attending an event or being around a challenging person in your life, keep a friend or partner by your side. Having someone with you will not only make your time more enjoyable but they can help you stick to your boundaries if they get pushed against.

9. Don’t let guilt drive your decisions

When making plans and setting boundaries, don't let guilt be the thing that drives your decisions or lack thereof. If you find that people are trying to make you feel guilty for your boundaries, that is an indicator that your boundaries and activating something in them. You can stand your ground kindly by telling them that your decisions are final and you will not change your mind.

10. When setting boundaries, don’t shame people

When communicating your boundaries to others, steer clear of shaming language. You are responsible for the boundaries you set and you can communicate them in a way that does not shame people. Boundaries are about protecting yourself in whatever ways that you need. You can expresses those boundaries in a way that communicates your priority on protection without shaming. An indicator that you may be shaming someone is if you are labeling them as bad, instead of their behaviors.

We hope this list was helpful as you step into the holiday season. We know this time of year can be challenging but by setting healthy boundaries, you are advocating and caring for yourself in a way that will hopefully provide some relief.

As always, if you would like to know more about setting boundaries or are struggling to implement them, you can always talk to one of our counselors here are New Leaf and we would be happy to help!

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