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How To Set Boundaries During the Holidays

The holidays are around the corner and while this is an exciting and joyful season, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with busy schedules, family dynamics, and financial stress. This time of year moves quickly and with increasing demands on your energy and time, it’s important to know your limits.

When you are clear about what really matters to you, it will be much easier to see the big picture and let the small stuff go. If you experience a heightened sense of stress during the holidays and have trouble balancing your needs with those of loved ones, having boundaries in place will help you handle this season with more ease and integrity.

Get Good At Saying No
Learning to say no is one of the best ways to practice self-care. It’s not selfish to know your limits; in fact it’s the opposite. Saying no can be tricky with family around the holidays especially if they are used to you always coming to a particular event or showing up at a certain time. Saying no is a healthy practice even when the person you’re saying no to doesn’t like it. If someone takes no personally it isn’t you, it’s them. Your self-care practice is being clear on what you are available for—and try your best to say no in a calm and clear way.

Let Go Of Expectations
Let’s face it, everyone has some expectations for the holidays. There is pressure during this season to be cheerful and happy—it’s no surprise that nearly 25 percent of the population feels depressed around the holidays. Well-intentioned sayings like “Holidays are meant to be full of joy,” can leave you feeling like you’re a failure if things don’t go smoothly.

Letting go of expectations to have a made-for-TV holiday experience helps ground you in reality and give yourself permission to have whatever experience you are having. It’s natural to want to be happy over the holidays, but when your expectations become too great it becomes challenging to stay present and enjoy what is actually happening. This is a great time to let yourself and your family off the hook—recognize this is a stressful time of year and do your best to focus on what is right in front of you.

Acknowledge Your Grief
Holidays often bring up a sense of loss. It’s perfectly normal to feel sad when you’re going through a difficult time or missing a loved one. If you’re feeling down about missing someone who is no longer present, reflect on what that person meant to you. There is no right or wrong way to handle grief during the holidays. The best thing to do is to be honest about what you are feeling and reach out to people you trust for support.

If a certain gathering or party feels emotionally taxing know that it is OK to change your mind and not go or leave early. By acknowledging your feelings and leaning into them (if you can), it’s much easier to set those necessary boundaries and take good care of yourself.

Slow Down The Pace
Making a point to slow down this time of year is a very effective way to set a boundary with yourself. Once Thanksgiving hits, everything speeds up and the new year arrives in the blink of an eye. Living in this intensified period causes the body to produce more stress hormones. Extra stress in the body makes it difficult to sleep well and (close to impossible) to avoid eating all those holiday sweets.

The quickest and most effective way to lower stress hormones is to slow down your breathing. When you notice your heart rate increasing from non-exercise related activity, practice extending your exhales to soothe the nervous system. Do this for at least a minute—and observe how much you relax.

Take Care of Yourself
Usually during the holidays it’s all about taking care of others and self-care falls to the wayside. The fact is if you don’t have the energy and time to do a few things for yourself it will be very difficult to show up for others. When you respect and value taking care of yourself, you set a powerful example to everyone during this season.

Carving out a little extra time to rest, hit a spinning class, or eat a healthy meal is a great way to show up for yourself and lessen the stresses in your life. When you put your needs first, you will feel grounded and have much more love and joy to share with those around you. And after all, that’s really what the holidays are all about, right?


Photo by Lani Trock.

This article originally published on The Everygirl.



  • What a great reminder! Thank you! Happy holidays to you! :-)

    • ashley

      We all need good boundaries this time of year, myself included ;) Wishing you a wonderful week my dear! xoa

  • Clara

    Thank-you for your comment on allowing grief for those not present – a beautiful sentiment and one that usually gets swept under the rug at Christmas time x

    • ashley

      Hi Clara,
      You are so welcome and thank you for echoing this important part of the holidays. Sending light and love your way. xo

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