Honoring the Space Within and Between: Five Tips for Setting Healthy Boundaries

The holiday hustle is upon us, which means longer to-do lists, numerous invitations, increased expectations, and more often than not – more stress and pressure. Amidst the busyness, it’s easy to lose sight of yourself and your loved ones and begin to feel resentful. 

One of the best ways to care for yourself and others is to establish and honor boundaries, and here are five practical suggestions to help you get started!  

  1. Decide upon your boundaries beforehand.

Spend some time thinking through what you might need in this upcoming season. When you have clarity about your boundaries, it’s easier to implement them. Ask yourself:

What is important for me to do this holiday season? 

– What would be a gift I could give myself?

How do I want to show up for love this season, and what do I need to do to get there?

  1. Don’t feel obligated to attend every event and don’t let guilt be your guide. 

It’s okay to say “no” to the work party, the extra family gathering, or the craft-making event. Know your limits and give yourself permission to opt out. And remember – you are not responsible for pleasing others, so don’t let the “shoulds” and “ought-tos” guide your decision making process.

  1. Make space and time for self care.  

I don’t know about you, but I often abandon some of my regular self-care routines when I’m on vacation, traveling, or hosting family and friends. While varying up your routine can be refreshing, be mindful to still engage in your regular self-care habits. For me, this means getting outside for some exercise and finding time for prayer and devotions. How about you?

  1. Identify and accept your emotions.

Whatever you might be feeling as you head into this holiday season, know that it’s okay. Accept your emotions for what they are, and don’t try to deny or escape them (which is tempting to do if you’re in a hard space or think “I shouldn’t be feeling this way; what’s my problem?”). Research has shown that avoidance of negative emotions makes them stronger and more long lasting, but when you name the emotion for what it is, you create space between yourself and the experience which then allows you to choose how you want to respond.

  1. Communicate clearly and directly. 

Say what you need directly to the person and don’t feel pressure to over explain (you don’t need to justify your decisions, values, or feelings)! As we say in our house: clear is kind and kind is cool. 😉 

Here are some phrases to get you started:

– I’d like to…

– I’m more comfortable with…

– This is what works for me.

I can only do this / meet then

– I’d prefer that… 

I’d encourage you to take a step towards health – both individual and relational health – this holiday season by honoring the space within and between!

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