Personal boundaries could be your best gift these holidays.

Setting healthy boundaries is important for your health and wellbeing at any time of year. But when the holiday season rolls around, clear personal boundaries can help you navigate family gatherings, jam-packed calendars, and unreasonable expectations with confidence.

Let’s be honest, the holidays aren’t always a holly, jolly time. The festive season can trigger stress, anxiety, disappointment, grief, and loneliness. If you’re living with PTSD, December might even cause traumatic memories to re-emerge.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can take steps to minimise those feelings and find inner peace these holidays. Need a survival guide? Here’s our 12 days of Healthy Holiday Boundaries. 

1. Set your intentions

Intentions are powerful. So, give yourself time to consciously think about how YOU want to spend the holidays, who and what will make the time joyful, and what personal boundaries you need to put into place to make it happen. If you’re clear on what matters to you, prioritising your own needs and setting healthy boundaries will be easier. 

    I choose only moments and encounters that bring me joy these holidays.

    2. Accept your feelings

    The holidays can bring up a mixed bag of emotions. In any moment you might feel happy, sad, anxious, excited, angry or hopeful. It’s important to acknowledge and accept how you’re feeling without judgement or putting pressure on yourself to change the way you feel. Remember, feelings are just energy. They pass, if you let them.    

    I accept everything as it is right now.

    3. Know your boundaries 

    Getting crystal clear on your own physical, mental and emotional limits, and honouring them, is great practice for setting boundaries with others. It takes time, and self-reflection, but it’s worth it.

    Felt exhausted, divided and depleted after attending every holiday get-together last year? Try saying no this year. Can’t afford to buy a gift for everyone in your extended family? Suggest a Secret Santa gift swap instead.

    Knowing what pushes your boundaries will help you clearly, and lovingly, enforce them with family and friends when you need to.

    I set and maintain healthy holiday boundaries with ease and grace.

    4. make a holiday budget 

    Gift-giving, social occasions and festive food can be a burden on your wallet, so it’s good to remember that money doesn’t buy you love. Set your financial boundaries with a mindful holiday budget. And stick to it. There’s lots of low cost ways to bring joy to the season. Get creative and enjoy the process.

    I celebrate in abundance without financial burden.

    5. You do you 

    The festive season is about connection, not perfection. Striving for a picture perfect holiday celebration will only cause you stress and overwhelm. Have realistic expectations around family dynamics, gifts, wrapping, food, and celebrations. Do the holidays your way, embrace messy imperfection, and experience the joy of being enough.

    I am enough.

    6. Share the load 

    You are not solely responsible for everyone else’s happy holiday. And you certainly don’t have to do everything yourself. Are you hosting? Unless you love cooking and hosting is your thing…delegate. Ask people to bring a plate, wash the dishes, take out the rubbish. Sharing the load opens the door to shared experiences with community, and it reduces your stress. Win-win.

    I open my heart and welcome help.

    7. Lovingly enforce your boundaries 

    If you’re not used to setting boundaries, it can feel messy and uncomfortable at first. But with practice, you’ll be able to protect your values, energy, and thoughts calmly and with confidence.

    Uncomfortable with a conversation or joke? Want non-gendered gifts for your children? Speak up. Make ‘I feel’ statements. Hold your space. Be kind. Be your own advocate.

    I speak my truth with kindness and grace.

    8. Make time for grief and loss 

    The holidays can be a painful reminder of someone or something we have lost. When grief surfaces, take some time to honour your feelings and reduce the pressure to ‘celebrate’. Journal your feelings, create a new tradition, be with what is. Remember, grief is cyclical. It comes and goes in waves, so ride that wave until the next break.

    It’s okay to take time to grieve.

    9. Choose your moments 

    Happy holidays are made of uplifting, supportive moments. So if you’re in an uncomfortable situation or conversation and don’t feel you can speak up, protect your inner peace by removing yourself from the situation.  When the dust settles you can choose to communicate how your boundary was crossed if you want.

    I have the power to remove myself from any negative situations.

    10. take time out for you 

    Between decorating, planning, socialising and looking after people, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. But you can’t pour from an empty cup, so look for moments to rest, relax and reflect. Fill your cup by having a bath, taking a walk, jumping in the ocean or reading a book.  Small acts of self-kindness can make a big difference.

    I am important and deserve time to myself.

    11. Breathe 

    If you find yourself in Fight, Flight, Freeze and Fawn response amidst the holiday frenzy, your breath can help you return to a state of calm. Simple breathing exercises can quieten the chatter in your mind, and bring you back to your body.

    You can even do it now. Inhale – two – three – four.  Exhale – two – three – four. .

    I breathe calm and peace into this moment.

    12. Remember you are not alone 

    The holiday season touches us all in different ways. If you’re feeling lonely or struggling to cope, Lifeline and Beyond Blue are available day or night, all year round, to listen and support you.

     If you’re in crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.

    I reach out for support when I need it.