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3 Essential Boundaries You’re Allowed to Set This Holiday Season

The holidays are here; for some, this time of year feels more stressful than “merry and bright.”  The holidays can feel like a time of incongruence, wrought with expectations. If we’re not careful, we can lose ourselves in the pace and hype of the season.  

Many of us don’t realize the toll the holidays are taking on our mental, emotional, or physical health until we feel as if it might be too late. This year, get ahead of the holiday stress by creating a plan and setting boundaries that honor how you want this season to unfold.  

If the idea of setting boundaries during the holidays makes you a little queasy and apprehensive, we completely understand. It can be easy to ignore our own needs at the expense of the expectations and obligations we might feel in this “season of giving.”   

But here’s the hard truth, boundaries aren’t about anyone else but us. The types of boundaries we choose can and should say much more about us than the recipients of our boundaries. Setting a boundary might actually be the most selfless thing you can do this holiday season.  

Boundaries help us honor what matters most and are fundamentally about connection—connection to ourselves and others and making sure we keep these connections safe, secure, and healthy. When we’re burnt out, we’re not showing up as the best versions of ourselves.   

Three Boundaries to Set This Holiday Season

Boundaries Around Your Time 

It’s not unlikely for our calendars to fill up from November 1st through January 1st. Even a calendar full of “good events” can come at the expense of our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. A sense of urgency and overscheduling during this season pulls us out of presence with ourselves.  

Before you start rattling off the yeses and filling every spare moment with memory-making activity, take some time to reflect. 

  • What brought you joy in past holiday seasons?  
  • What felt draining?  
  • What do you want to feel this season? What are your non-negotiables?  

Lay out how you want to spend your time and make a plan to prioritize the things that matter and remove those that don’t. Taking the time and space to evaluate the total weight of your yes allows you to give your yes to the things that really matter to you instead of agreeing to all the things and not being fully present anywhere.  

You get to determine how you spend your time and who you spend it with!

Boundaries in Your Relationships  

The holidays often mean more time spent with family or friends. And while that can often be a great thing— even in the most idyllic of circumstances, tension can rise due to increased proximity and amount of time together.  

If you have a painful past, strained relationships, or are working through childhood wounds, the holidays can be really painful. Being around family can be like a pressure cooker for uncomfortable, painful, and activating feelings. 

Before you attend a holiday event reflect on what would feel the most honoring to you:  

  • Are you attending the event out of compulsion or obligation?  
  • Are there harmful or toxic dynamics with this group of people?  
  • What would make you feel the most safe? How can you ask for or create what you need?  
  • Could you communicate boundaries in advance to set expectation?  
  • Are there internal boundaries you can hold without communicating them? (How long you’ll be at a gathering, topics that you won’t discuss, situations you’ll walk away from, people you won’t spend 1 on 1 time with?)   

Many of us carry around the belief that boundaries are mean and that if we really love someone, we would do anything for them. But that lack of boundaries actually harms us and the relationship.  

Boundaries help us determine where we begin and where we end. They promote safety and connection. Part of that connection is your relationship with other people, but they also encourage connection in your relationship with yourself. Prioritizing your own safety means realizing that not everyone is immediately safe. 

As Prentis Hemphill once said, “Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously.”   

Set Boundaries with Your Financial Resources  

According to the Everyday Health United States of Stress survey, worries about finances came in as the number-one stressor across all age groups. Just over half of all people surveyed (52 %) said financial issues regularly stress them out. (United States of Stress survey

Our financial worries don’t go away, and for most of us even increase around the holidays. As a result, many of us spend money we don’t have on presents, gatherings, and outings.

Before you feel the pressure to overspend this holiday season, take some time to reflect on what is within bounds for you and set boundaries that will keep you from stressing even more in January.  

  • When looking at your calendar, consider not just your emotional capacity, but your financial limitations – can you feasibly do all you’ve agreed to?  
  • What is your budget for gifts this year? (Needs some inspiration for gifts that don’t cost a thing this holiday season?) 
  • Are there events you want to host instead of going out?  
  • Are there boundaries or asks you need to make around gift exchanges?  
  • How can you focus less on tangible presents and offer your presence this season?  

In a season that can so easily get caught up in consumerism, remember that your humanity is the best gift you can offer those you love. Presents are great, but your presence is better. Slow down, make eye contact, ask questions, and laugh with your people this season. Connection doesn’t have a price tag.  

This holiday season can be different. We hope you embrace the beauty of the season and intentionally look ahead before you get caught off guard. Give yourself permission to feel what you feel, honor yourself and your capacity, and set the boundaries you need.  

Want to learn more about boundaries?

If you need a little help, explore the building blocks of a healthy boundary, what kinds of boundaries are available to us, and how to truly make them work for us with Onsite’s newest emotional health master class, Establishing Boundaries, Creating the Physical, Mental, and Relational Space You Need to Thrive is now available! Save 30% this week only with the code THRIVE!