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Living Happier Through the Holidays: Setting Boundaries.

winter treesI love the holidays.  Every year I say I am going to take time to really enjoy them and before I know it they are gone. This year I am making a commitment to myself to stop, pause and really enjoy this time of year.  As part of that commitment throughout this season, I am going to be writing specifically about Living Happier in the Holidays: my struggles, thoughts, and  tips for the holidays. I would love for this to be a conversation so please share in the comments or via email any questions, struggles, thoughts or tips you might have. 

This is my last post in the Living Happier Through the Holidays series. I sincerely hope that it has helped you live happier.  I will be taking the rest of the year off to enjoy the Holidays with my family and friends.

The fascinating concept about this series is that it can apply to any part of your life, not just the holidays.  As you move through life and are confronted with a challenging time or situation it is important to be intentional, have a plan, know how you want to feel, make small changes and set healthy boundaries. Regardless of whether you had time to implement these concepts around the holidays you can start at any time in implementing them in your life.

I have discussed setting boundaries many times on my blog (herehere, and here).  Around the holiday’s boundaries can get even trickier.  For most of us holidays means family which means tradition which can translate to guilt and shame if we try to change anything.  So along with the challenge of setting a boundary we also have to deal with the inevitable, ‘but it has always been that way’ or ‘last year we did…” or “you ALWAYS bring the…”

During this time of year, it is easy to get caught up in the language of ALWAYS and NEVER and TRADITION. Therefore, it is even more important that you know how you want your holidays to feel and you have implemented small changes to make that a reality. Now, what if those small changes mean you have to make someone uncomfortable, leave someone out or do something different?  What if you have to set a boundary to make the holidays different this year?

Here are few ideas to keep in mind.

Boundaries are a healthy normal part of relationships.  Most of us weren’t taught how to create healthy boundaries.  It is OK to say no. It is OK to take care of yourself and your immediate family first.  It is OK to change plans, and do things differently.  It is NOT OK to maliciously hurt someone. It is NOT OK to not communicate a boundary. It is NOT OK to use passive-aggressive or manipulative tactics to get your way.

Setting boundaries can be uncomfortable. As I said above, the holidays also can bring a healthy dose of shame and guilt so be aware that when you make changes in the tradition, people can get uncomfortable.  Expect that uncomfortable feeling, and as long as you are clearly expressing yourself and not engaging in any malicious behaviors, all will be well.  Change is hard, and change takes time.

It gets easier. Yes, telling your friend you can’t do the annual shopping extravaganza will be hard this year.  But next year it will be so much easier.  AND knowing you don’t have to deal with the crowds, spend too much money and hear your friend spend the entire time complaining-will be worth it.

Setting loving boundaries allows you to celebrate and enjoy the holidays.  Your needs are not less important and over time with the help of small changes and loving boundaries the holidays can become a joyous festive time.

I would love to hear from you in the comments: What small changes can you make?  Where are you stuck between wanting to feel a certain way and unable to make the necessary changes?

Make sure to check out the previous posts in this series

Intro to the Holidays
Have a Plan
How do you want to Feel?
Small Changes

4 Responses to Living Happier Through the Holidays: Setting Boundaries.

  1. “It is NOT OK to not clearly communicate a boundary.” This sentence that you wrote convicted me. I think sometimes I send out blurry, unclear communication in order to avoid “making” someone unhappy with me. It is uncomfortable to decline an invitation or to disagree with someone, and making it unclear is how I avoid that. Now that it has been brought to my attention, I can try to get better with clarity, and OK with the discomfort. Thanks and happy holidays!

  2. Nancy Jane Smith says:

    Yay! Glad that resonated Beth. As with all this stuff it takes practice.

    Happy Holidays to you too!

  3. Love “the rules” of boundary setting. It’s exhausting trying to find that line (that…boundary?) between not-oversharing–and being too vague, between speaking my needs firmly and with empowerment–and lashing out, between getting someone to understand the boundary is there–and getting them to agree with it…and then sometimes you have to repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

    My small change for today was I (calmly) didn’t let someone talk over me on a conference call at work. The result was that what I had to say actually defused the situation. Go boundaries!

  4. Nancy Jane Smith says:

    YAY for small changes!! That is a great example of how sometimes setting boundaries makes other people feel more secure because they know where the line is. Totally counter-intuitive but totally true–I love it!