Despite all the merriment and joy associated with the holiday season, it can be quite difficult for many people to maintain their health during the holidays. To-do lists, gift shopping, festive events, over-eating, and spending time with family members you’re typically not around often leaves people overwhelmed, short fused, and neglecting their own mental well-being.
A survey by the National Alliance of Mental health showed that 63% of people report feeling too much pressure during the holiday season. This increased pressure can drastically affect an individual’s stress levels. An increase in stress has many negative side effects on our health, including impairment to the immune system, increasing heart rate and blood pressure, as well as suppressing the body’s digestive system.
This is why it is so important to make sure that we set boundaries around our time, space, and energy as we go into the holiday season so that we can avoid finding ourselves in uncomfortable and stressful situations and make the move to prioritize our health and well-being.
What are Boundaries?
Boundaries are a way of honoring our feelings and are a form of self-care. Boundaries are like invisible lines that separates ourselves from others. They separate our feelings, our needs, and our physical/mental space from others. They keep us from overextending ourselves and show those around us what we are okay with and what we are not.
Setting Boundaries with Family Members
In an interview with Oprah, Dr. Brené Brown wrote “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” I believe one of the biggest reasons people struggle with maintaining boundaries with family members during the holiday season is because of the fear of disappointing others and because of longstanding people-pleasing patterns. People often feel obligated to do things a certain way because of family, culture, or tradition and often disregard how they actually feel in the matter. Refusing to set boundaries show that we prioritize other people’s comfort over our own needs. Setting boundaries with family members shows that you are choosing and loving yourself. Furthermore, it changes your role in the family system and allows you to prioritize your own needs so that you can be involved in a more sustainable way that does not risk your health and well-being.
Learning to Say No
Saying no to things is a great way of exercising our boundaries and respecting our limits so that we can avoid stressful situations. The holidays tend to ask a whole lot more from us than the rest of the year. Holiday parties, school events, figuring out how we can finagle our way into visiting our family plus the in-laws, worrying about presents, the list goes on and on. Realizing we can say no takes off a lot of unnecessary pressure. It even feels good. When saying no, make sure to communicate clearly so that you don’t leave any uncertainty. Also remember that you don’t really have to give an explanation. “No” itself is sufficient. You are not due anyone a long-winded explanation or justification. Saying no raises your value and shows the world around you that you care about and love yourself.
It’s all about Simplifying
The art of simplifying can go a long way. Learning personal boundaries within ourselves can help us choose what we care about. Getting wrapped up in some of the superficial aspects of the holidays can keep us from experiencing the true joy of the season. Choosing to simplify things over the holiday keeps us happy and our stress levels low. Simplify the shopping list. Simplify the decorations. Simplify the dishes you create. Simplifying things will allow you to reduce stress so that you can be present and enjoy the moment and be able to reflect on the true beauty of the holiday season.
Lauren Aguirre LAc, DiplAc
This information is generalized and intended for educational purposes only. Due to potential individual contraindications, please see your primary care provider before implementing any strategies in these posts.