Full of delicious food and magical joy, the holiday season also brings something particularly special: togetherness. With travel delays and gift shopping, it can also be a stressful time for some. And while it’s fun to reunite with family or hometown friends and honor your holiday traditions, it’s important to take time to honor yourself and your personal space.
While “space invaders” can be annoying, researchers have found that people who infringe upon your personal space can also cause feelings of discomfort and anger. During a time that’s supposed to be for happiness, love, and laughter, it can be hard to set boundaries with your loved ones. So, how do you ask for personal space when togetherness is a big part of celebrations? Here are three ways to protect your peace during the holidays.
How to Set Boundaries During the Holidays—and Keep Them
The word “boundaries” might sound like a wall you build to isolate yourself from friends and family, but it can actually be a self-care practice and a way to communicate your needs to others. “A boundary is a cue to others about how to treat you,” therapist Nedra Glover Tawwab says in her book Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself.
But how do you know when you need boundaries? According to Tawwab, the signs can include but are not limited to:
- Feeling overwhelmed.
- Not having time for yourself.
- Feeling resentful toward people who ask for your help.
- Feeling burnt out.
All of these signs can easily be felt during the holidays, making it hard to appreciate its warmth and magic. So, what does a boundary look like?
“It can be explicit,” Tawwab continues, “such as saying ‘I’m about to share something that I’d like you to keep just between the two of us.’ Or implicit, such as having a basket for shoes and socks right by the front door for guests.”
Once you’ve communicated your boundary, it's important to take action and keep it. “When [a boundary] is violated, you need to reinforce it,” Tawwab adds. Be firm and assertive, reminding them of your needs.
Schedule Time to Get Grounded
Yes, the holiday season is for “together time,” but there is such a thing as too much time together. Before spending extended time with family and friends, it's important to communicate a visitation schedule so that everyone’s expectations are managed—but don’t forget to include your self-care in that schedule.
During this high-stress time of year, it's important to find time to relax your nervous system. You can do so by sitting down in a quiet space and simply breathing. Breathwork is proven to be super effective in improving mental health and is so easy to do. You can even take a free class on how to do it. So go ahead and share it in the family group chat—you’re gonna need some breathing room this year.
Avoid ‘Difficult’ People
“There’s always that one family member that wants to know all your business, question your decisions, remind you of all the negative things you have going on in your life, and give their plans for your life,” said Shawndrika Cook, LPC in a Choosing Therapy article.
When dealing with people like this, remember to respectfully dismiss their unsolicited advice and “redirect the conversation with love,” Cook says. “Shift the atmosphere by using positive words and creating awareness of why you are here together. To make memories, love each other, and appreciate the value of your family.”
With the frustrations of having to find the perfect gift for your mom or make an elaborate feast alongside your best friend’s annoying partner, it's easy to forget the true meaning of this time of year—love. Love yourself and others by making your boundaries known this holiday season so that you can truly enjoy all the merriment that comes with it.