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  • Writer's pictureOlivia Foote

Boundaries During the Holiday Season

The holidays are here! For some this is an exciting, nostalgic time enjoyed with family, for others this can be pure hellfire. Working as a counselor I have seen patients who experience both ends of this spectrum. So, it is not lost on me how blessed I am to have a wonderful family that I celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year with, BY CHOICE.

Even falling into the category of exciting nostalgia, the holidays can be tiring. It is a lot of pressure to shop, cook, and socialize, all the while trying to meet the expectations of those you love. Sometimes all of the “togetherness” can really leave me worn out. Plus, throw some COVID into the mix to really complicate matters. Now try navigating your holiday plans!

It took me a long time to figure out there is an antidote for holiday fatigue. It’s this thing called Amazon Prime. Just kidding, it’s boundaries. But for real, I am a recovering people pleaser, and setting healthy boundaries has been no easy feat. With the arrival of COVID, it has been a great opportunity for me to practice the discomfort that comes when I have to woman up and be assertive. I had a mentor when I was in my early 20’s who was this badass lady from South Side Chicago with a solid right hook and a winged eyeliner so sharp it could cut you. She exemplified assertiveness and teaching those around her how to treat her. When I have to set a really hard boundary I still embody her to get brave (minus the right hook).

Therapists will not stop talking about boundaries, but what are they? A boundary is simply taking responsibility for what you need to be happy, healthy, and safe. They aren’t about other people. It’s about honoring your feelings equally to the feelings of others. Sometimes it can feel brutal to set them, but as long as it is done with compassion, it is valid. There are many types of boundaries but some main ones are physical boundaries, emotional boundaries, material boundaries, sexual boundaries, financial boundaries, intellectual boundaries, and time/energy boundaries.

Here are some examples of boundaries pertaining to holidays 2020 that you may wish to use:

Physical: “I am asking guests to wear masks in my home with the increase of COVID cases” or “I am not comfortable having family in my home this year.”

Emotional: “I am not in the right place emotionally to talk about this right now” or “Can I have some of your time to discuss how I am feeling? I could use some support.”

Intellectual: “I’m happy to discuss our differences as long as we both feel respected and heard” or “I’d rather move onto another subject of conversation so everyone enjoys being together”

Time/Energy: “I’m complimented you’d ask me to host, but I need a day to relax and recharge” or “I will come, but will only be able to stay for an hour so I can get some rest.”

Now, let’s say that you get brave, you channel your inner South Side badass and practice setting boundaries with friends, family, and co-workers. Your fear comes true—the other person becomes upset. It is okay for them to be upset. It is not your responsibility. Again, the boundary is about you and not others, and if they become upset it DOES NOT mean you should not have set the boundary. I usually respond by validating and putting some love on them, followed by applying my sharpest winged eyeliner, to remind myself that it is okay to honor my needs. If you have a people pleasing friend, I highly recommend gifting them a good liquid eye liner this holiday season.

Stay safe, stay healthy, stay joyful!

Olivia Foote, LPC

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