Boundaries: Holiday Edition

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Accurate, huh? I thought so, too. I think between the usual-holiday-bustle and talking about whether or not to even GATHER for the holidays, the 2020 Holiday Season feels neverending. Add in a nice dose of family dynamics to the decision-making process, and we have ourselves quite a dilemma! 

I want to give us (and yes, us, me included) just a couple practical ways to set some boundaries that enable us to love others well and remain as sane as possible over the next couple weeks. 

Relational boundary work is hard. It’s messy and it takes a lot of energy and effort, two things most of us don’t have right now. So instead of going all-in these last two weeks of December, I encourage us to be realistic in our goals. Here are a few ways we can do that: 

  1. Maybe this is not the year to swear off holidays altogether, but maybe it IS the year to scale back quite a bit. A couple examples: 
    • “With the current health situation, we are just not comfortable meeting inside. We are available to visit outside, with masks on, from 11-12 p.m. Does that work for you?” 
    • “I am just not up for an overnight stay this year. Would you be willing to meet up for a few hours on ___(insert date)___ or would you prefer to wait a few months to celebrate in our traditional way?” 
    • “This year has been taxing on our family. We have decided it’s best for us to not give or receive gifts this year, but we do look forward to seeing you soon!” 
    • “You know, I’m not sure what my holiday plans are yet. I seem to go back-and-forth every day. I will let you know as soon as I’m able, and I also understand if you need to make concrete plans for yourself.”
  2. Take some time to reflect on your emotional limits: 
    • “What do I feel able to give, emotionally, to those around me this year?” 
    • “Do I really want to bake cookies or am I just wanting to hold onto something that feels ‘normal?’” (My current conundrum) 
    • “I am not going to make it to midnight on December 31 this year. I am just too tired.” 
    • “I miss everyone! I am going to take some time and send holiday cards, even though I haven’t done it in a few years.”
  3. Nothing has to be permanent, even boundaries. 
    • Remind yourself, this year is different. We all change, so our boundaries can and will change. What you decide to do this week may be different from next week. 
    • Guilt is sneaky – it signals to us that someone may be upset with us if we’re not consistent. I encourage you to see and experience guilt as a normal and healthy emotion, just like happiness or sadness. Your behavior does not have to change based on your feelings, especially during the holidays. 
    • Allow those around you to grow and change, too! It sounds cliche, but it’s true: we’re all in 2020 together. Knowing our limits and what we want will help us accept others’ needs and wants. 
  1. HALT – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired?
    • We often get stuck making decisions when our basic needs are not met. If you find yourself struggling to figure out what you want, ask yourself, “Am I hungry, angry, lonely, or tired right now?” If you answer yes to any (or all!) of those needs, try and meet that need rather than avoiding it in order to “push through.” 
    • Regarding the above, if you find yourself both hungry AND tired, I recommend eating a snack and then taking a nap. Works like a charm!

History often repeats itself, whether we like to acknowledge it or not. You know yourself better than anyone, and if you find yourself around others with whom you’ve been in relationship with for a long time, you know how things will go. Trust your gut! What is it saying to you? And then use these two questions as a journal prompt to ground yourself: 

  1. What kind of person do I want to be in this situation? 
  2. How do I want to be treated in this situation? 

Setting intentions is often all it takes to feel more calm in the midst of chaos. And if there was ever a more chaotic year than 2020, please enlighten me! 

See you in the New Year!

Written by Lauren Eisleben