During this time, I invite you all to do a quick check in with yourself, how are you really feeling about the holidays? Do you feel ready to handle difficult conversations? Are you taking care of yourself during this busy time of the year? There are steps you can take to feel confident in setting boundaries to protect your mental health, when making the choice to attend that dinner party with friends you may have had a falling out with or the relative that does not approve of your lifestyle.
Many find that setting boundaries is difficult and awkward, but it doesn’t need to be when you take the time to think about why you are setting this boundary. The intention behind any boundary that you create is to protect your mental health, minimize discomfort, and make the event more enjoyable for yourself and those around you. Take the time to think about why you set a boundary, why is it so important for you to let someone know you don’t want to discuss a topic or won’t be attending their event.
When is the best time to let someone know about your boundary? When you feel ready to do so! And when it won’t be detrimental to someone else. Meaning, if you are invited to a party that you absolutely do not want to attend you let the host know well in advance. If you are unable to cancel your attendance to a gathering be prepared to set your boundary the day of. You may feel some anxiety creep up when you share that you don’t want to discuss a topic, so remember your why and how important it is for you to set this boundary.
The how is often the most difficult part. When letting someone know in advance you won’t be attending their party this can look like giving them a call and saying, “thank you so much for the invitation to your party but unfortunately this year I will not be able to attend, but maybe you and I can just spend some time together soon.” This lets the host know not to expect you, that you appreciate the invitation, that you enjoy their company, but maybe a party is too overwhelming for you right now. If you are setting your boundary the day of it is important that you have someone in your corner to support you, when you maybe say, “sorry that’s not something I feel comfortable discussing…” If the conversation or people you are around begin to cause discomfort you can say something like, “excuse me I just need to step out for a little bit.” This gives you the time and space to take a few deep breaths and rejoin the party when you feel ready. Having someone to support you will provide reassurance of how important it is for you to set this boundary. This also eliminates the feeling of isolation that setting boundaries causes for some and creates a positive experience in your new practice of that setting healthy boundaries.
Take the time now to really take care of yourself as the holidays can be very draining mentally, physically, and financially. Boundaries are important to set with others but even more important to set with yourself. During this time stretching yourself to thin and trying to go to all the parties or dinners you are invited to may seem manageable right now. However, if you find that the only way it’s manageable is if you leave work a little earlier one day and make up for it by working later the next day, stay up a little later prepping the night before and maybe skip lunch the next day to make sure you can go buy the gifts you need, you will end up burning out. Plan out your time and really ask yourself what you can handle and how many events it is reasonable to attend or host without straining your mental, physical, and financial health. It is difficult to set boundaries, but you have to start by setting them with yourself and putting your mental health first.