The holiday season can be a wonderful time of year to spend with family, friends and loved ones. The magic of twinkle lights, snowy days, and holiday cheer can fill us with such joy, it’s no wonder it’s called “the most wonderful time of the year.” But for some of us, the holidays can come with increased stress and pressure – to show up to the extra work events, to work harder during the busy season, and to navigate some challenging conversations that we might spend the whole year trying to avoid. While the holiday season can be joyous, it can also be stressful and feel laborious. It can be especially important during this time to consider boundaries so that you don’t feel burned out by the new year. So, let’s talk about boundaries today.
Boundaries are a top issue discussed in my counseling space – how to identify them, how to set them, and how to implement and maintain them in a world that will inevitably challenge them. Boundaries are hard, and so very important for our well-being. If you are currently identifying what your boundaries are, consider your values and healthiest relationships. If you do not feel that you have healthy relationships, consider what you believe a healthy relationship would look like. What do you notice? This can be a great place to start to identify what might work for you.
You might notice that you have really healthy boundaries in some areas of your life, and maybe porous or rigid boundaries in other areas. This is okay, and completely normal. If you find that porous and rigid boundaries are negatively impacting your wellbeing, try to be curious (as opposed to judgemental) for why your boundaries may be showing up differently in different areas of your life. Notice if you need to and if you can shift any boundaries to allow yourself to have healthier relationships. This can be a great prompt for self-inquiry, and sometimes, something great to work on with a mental health professional too.
While boundaries can be really healthy, they can also feel really uncomfortable when we try to implement them into our relationships. Remember, healthy boundaries are meant to keep you safe, not to hurt others. If you have found yourself thinking of some areas and relationships where your boundaries need to be re-identified or discussed, it may be a good idea to plan ahead and think about what is important to say. A gentle start-up and intentional conversation can be really impactful to avoid blame or disrespect. If it still feels healthy and safe, be willing to compromise and hear the other side. You do not have to agree with pushback that compromises your safety and/or wellbeing. If you have already communicated your boundaries and find yourself encountering challenging pushback, it can be really helpful to ask for a break or use a gentle start-up to communicate that this is not something that you want to talk about further.
If boundaries are something that you believe you need more support with, it may be good to reach out to a mental health professional to go deeper and get additional support and tools. Please find more resources on boundaries below.
If you are interested in exploring boundaries with professional therapy services or would like to work with a mental health professional, please contact The Works Counseling Center for more information.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: 988
Cloud, H., & John Sims Townsend. (2004). Boundaries. Zondervan.
Setting Boundaries. (2000). Science, 288(5467), 769l769.
Soft Startups communication skill Save the conversation for a calm moment. Use gentle body language and tone of voice. (n.d.). https://www.therapistaid.com/worksheets/soft-startups
**Please note that this blog post is not to replace or provide professional counseling services; this blog is not professional or medical advice; this blog is to provide an informal discussion on boundaries as it relates to professional counseling and mental health.