Healthy Boundaries for the Holidays

Stop Being Bad . . . (At Saying No)

The point of boundaries is NOT to push people away, but to teach them How to Treat You.

Holidays can force us to spend time with people who verge on being toxic or unpleasant. Whether it’s forced time with family or social expectations, we often don’t know how to communicate boundaries without feeling guilty.

So, I am going to give you some practical steps to embrace the healthy part of setting boundaries. So you can start practicing this holiday!

1. Look at the Beliefs You Have about Boundaries.

If you have a hard time with setting boundaries, identify the limiting beliefs or stories you have about them. Think of boundaries as healthy instead of harmful. Remind yourself that boundaries show others that you care enough about the relationship that you want it to feel respectful.

2. Find the Balance Between Avoiding and Aggressing

If you’re too passive you don’t say anything and get walked over. If you’re too aggressive, you get your needs met while hurting, imposing or stepping on other’s needs. Boundaries are the way that we balance aggression and passivity.

3. Don’t Assume People Know What You Need

No one’s needs are the same. So don’t expect anyone (including yourself) to be a mind-reader. If someone is doing something that you don’t like, find a clear and kind way to say it.

4. Find Healthy Ways to Express Feelings Before You Explode

You’ve swallowed your feelings, held your tongue, been the bigger person over and over again. Then, anger and resentment bottles up inside of you, until you can’t hold it in any longer. Explosive emotions seldom get their intended result in relationships.

5. Own the Conversation

If you know hot-button issues can’t be avoided, decide what and how you are willing to share proactively and before you’re put on the spot. Maybe even make a list of simple, surface-level and socially accepted ideas you feel comfortable sharing.

6. No. Is a Complete Sentence.

Sometimes a simple boundary is just saying no without needing to feel guilty or give explanations. Need some help validating your no. Think of all the times others have said no to you. If others can say no to you, you ought to be able to do the same.

7. Keep It Light.

Finally, for people who you decide to see but want to protect yourself with, you can still protect your energy in the interactions. Keep a physical distance or space between you and others as they talk. Turn your heart away from those that are negative or critical. Keep the conversation light. Change the topic. Use humor, and focus on having fun. Listen at 50% or less (I love this one as a therapist ;)

8. Don’t Catastrophize the Consequences of Your Boundaries.

Finally, often we exaggerate the consequence of saying no. Remember to think realistically in terms of what you think is going to happen and what is actually going to happen, if you say no. Second, there IS a tactful way to say no. Below are some simple ways to say no without sounding harsh or critical.

“This sounds like something that may be for me, but I’ve just committed to sticking to 3 priorities right now.”

“Can’t do it this time, but will you consider me the next time this opportunity comes around?”

“Thanks for thinking of me. The timing doesn’t work for me right now.”

“What a wonderful invitation! I’m just too stretched to accept it.”

“My priorities are few and focused right now, I won’t be able to squeeze this in.”

“I wish I could say Yes . . . but (count silently to 3 ;), I simply cannot”

“I must commit all of my free time to ______. It’s what’s important to me right now”

“I’ll have to say no to that, but might I suggest __________?”

If you like what you saw here, stay tuned on my next article on Coping Using Comedy for the Holidays!

Michell Stanley

Holistic Psychology Therapist and Coach

Michell Stanley Founder & Executive Director

My mission is to help people use emotional challenges as opportunities for self-growth and evolution. My holistic approach shows people how to get more Balance, Intimacy, and Trust in themselves and in their lives in order to thrive in the present and secure their legacy.

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