Setting Boundaries for the Holiday Season and Beyond

Setting Boundaries for the Holiday Season and Beyond

The holidays can be a stressful time for some and may even bring up feelings of sadness. It is normal to have these feelings and let them be felt. Knowing a couple of coping skills can help you keep grounded when anxious feelings come up. 

Disclaimer: These are just tips and not actual advice from a health professional. This is not to replace a form of therapy. 

Setting Boundaries

If you are spending time with your family members this holiday season, you may know the feeling of being uncomfortable with some of the things they say or because of the way they act. This is normal. We do not have perfect families. Do yourself a favor and set boundaries with them. Although this can be a bit difficult, it is very well worth it.

  1. Recognize your triggers and predict them. A “trigger” is considered a difficult situation or event. Always try to be one step ahead of your triggers by:
    • Knowing what they are 
    • Recognizing the emotions that are brought up
    • How you can best take care of yourself
    • How you plan to respond to it
  2. Know that “No” is not enough
    • Some were taught that saying “no” is not polite or safe. However, “no” should always be enough. Other alternatives are “I feel uncomfortable,” “no, this is inappropriate,” “no, I am leaving,” or “I don’t want to have that conversation.” These alternatives are a better approach to saying “no” and clearly state your needs.
  3. Be clear about your needs and communicate them 
    • Identify your needs and boundaries in advance with others. We all have different limits and we have every right to set them. Once you have identified your limits, communicate them clearly and kindly.

Coping Skills

Once you have established your boundaries, you should begin to learn to cope with them. Keeping a list of coping skills can help you stay calm when certain triggers appear. Here is a list of a few coping skills that may help you:

  1. Deep breaths and count to 10 slowly:
    • Take a few deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling slowly. When you are ready, count to 10 slowly. If you prefer, count to 20.
  2. Write down your thoughts
    • Have a journal where you can write down what is making you feel anxious, angry or upset. Writing down these thoughts gets them out of your head and can make it less daunting.
  3. Practice mindfulness
    • Mindfulness can help ground yourself in the reality of what’s around you. Anxiety attacks can cause a feeling of detachment or separation from reality, practicing mindfulness can combat these anxious feelings as they approach or actually happen. Focus on physical sensations, such as digging your feet into the ground or feeling objects near you. These sensations ground you firmly in reality and give you an object to focus on. 
  4. Engage in light exercise
    • Walking and moving your body can remove you from a stressful environment and moving can help regulate your breathing. Moving around, whether it be by running, taking a nice stroll, or lifting weights, releases endorphins that relax the body and improve mood. Regularly exercising can help reduce anxiety over time.
  5. The 5-4-3-2-1 method 
    • The 5-4-3-2-1 method is a grounding technique and a type of mindfulness. It helps to direct your focus away from the source of stress. To use this method, you should complete the following steps slowly and thoroughly:
      • Look for 5 different objects: think about them for a short while, are the colors bright? Is the object round or a different shape?
      • Listen for 4 different sounds: think about where they came from and how they are different from each other
      • Touch 3 different objects: consider if the object is hot or cold, how does the texture feel and what are they are used for 
      • Identify 2 different smells: it can be any smell, your coffee/tea, your soap, or your laundry detergent
      • Look for 1 thing you can taste: notice the taste in your mouth, is it sour or sweet? How does the texture feel?

Sources:

https://www.bustle.com/p/how-to-set-boundaries-with-your-family-according-to-a-life-coach-16980926

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pain-explained/201912/how-set-boundaries-family

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321510#methods