Using Personal Boundaries to Survive the Holidays

December 25, 2019 Heidi Green, Psy.D.

Using personal boundaries to survive the holidays is a good idea. Let's face it, the holidays aren't always a blissful time for everyone. Grief, dysfunctional family relationships, and old resentments can rear their ugly heads this season. It can be especially difficult to manage painful feelings when the messages you see and hear all around you say this should be the happiest time of the year. One thing that can be especially helpful as you survive the holiday season is to practice using personal boundaries.

Survive the Holidays Using Personal Boundaries with Family

You might feel pressured to spend more time with family members than is comfortable for you. There have been times in my life when strained family relationships made the holidays especially difficult. One approach that I have found to be extremely helpful is to set expectations with family members ahead of time. When I let people know in advance that I will only be available to attend a family event for a specific period, it makes it easier to leave when I feel ready to go. It can be especially helpful to have another plan like volunteering or meeting with friends to create a rationale for leaving if your family tends to lay on the guilt.

If your family tends to get into arguments during large gatherings, setting and using personal boundaries around conversation topics may be useful. In my family, social and political topics can get heated, so it's better when we agree to avoid those conversations. If certain people are unwilling to avoid problematic topics, remember that you don't need to stay in an uncomfortable discussion. Let people know you will leave the room if conversations don't stay neutral and respectful. I've found it helpful to say that I'm more interested in hearing about people's work, hobbies, and current projects rather than hearing their political positions. 

Survive the Holidays Using Personal Boundaries with Yourself

The holidays can bring up intense emotions, and I have found myself struggling to refrain from lashing out in the past. I realized that using personal boundaries with others is important, but it's just as important to set boundaries with yourself. Here are some examples of boundaries I think are helpful to set with yourself before entering a potentially stressful family situation:

  1. If I feel triggered, I will excuse myself to the bathroom or get some fresh air.
  2. I will use my coping skills like breathing techniques or mindfulness exercises to calm myself if needed.
  3. I will have a friend on-call who I can text if I need emotional support.
  4. I will not give in to any urges to raise my voice or say something angry at anyone.
  5. I will not tolerate others being unkind to me. I will let others know when they have crossed my boundary.
  6. If I no longer feel capable of using my skills, I will leave.

Being clear about your using personal boundaries, both with yourself and with others can help you survive a difficult holiday season. What boundaries have helped you get through difficult situations with family?

APA Reference
Green, H. (2019, December 25). Using Personal Boundaries to Survive the Holidays, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 24 from

Author: Heidi Green, Psy.D.

Heidi Green is a clinical psychologist and self-love aficionado. She lives her blissful life in Arizona where she enjoys hiking, kayaking, and snuggling her rescue pups. Find Heidi on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and her blog.

Please note: Dr. Green shares her personal opinions and experiences and nothing written by her should be considered professional or personal services or advice.

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