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6 Ways to Set Healthy Boundaries This Holiday Season

By Pam Dewey • boundaries, setting boundaries, healthy boundaries, self care, setting boundaries during the holidays, managing holiday stress, way to set healthy boundaries, boundary setting, mental health holidays • October 27, 2022

The holidays are a time to celebrate with family and friends. But too often, holidays become a time of stress and anxiety. People often overbook themselves or try please everyone.

HuffPost states, “A 2021 study by telehealth provider Sesame found that 3 in 5 Americans feel their mental health is negatively impacted by the holidays.” However, you can make your holidays more enjoyable. Experts suggest setting boundaries during the holiday season. Boundaries are simply what you find acceptable and unacceptable in how you interact with or are treated by others.

Nedra Tawwab, therapist and author of “Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself,” states that the benefits of setting boundaries include “peace of mind, clear roles and expectations, healthy mutually supportive relationships” and perhaps most important, “less frustration, anger, resentment and burnout.” By setting boundaries, you’re not only caring for your mental health; you’re building better, healthier relationships and potentially decreasing awkward and unpleasant interactions with family and friends.

Here are 6 ways to set healthy boundaries this holiday season.

1. Ask yourself some questions to establish your needs

Boundaries help you establish what you need, not what others need. It’s helpful to ask yourself questions to figure out what you want and need this holiday season.

Here are a few ideas:

  • What holiday traditions are important to you?
  • What gives you the most joy during the holiday season?
  • What do you find most draining or overwhelming about the holidays?
  • Are you saying yes to invitations out of obligation?
  • Would you be more excited about the holidays if you planned some self-care time?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can determine what boundaries feel good for you this holiday season.

2. Don’t overcommit yourself

A stressful part of the holidays can be rushing from gathering to gathering or committing to cooking, baking or buying too much. Instead of trying to attend every party and buy every person a present, simplify what you commit to. Maybe you can skip the office holiday party or omit the exchange of gifts with friends. Perhaps you don’t need to go caroling this year or hit all the stores on Black Friday. Give yourself time to relax and enjoy the season, which likely means saying no to some invitations.

3. Set a gift budget that’s comfortable for you

Everyone has different financial circumstances, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about this. Maybe you’re single, and all your siblings are married with kids. If you’re the only one contributing to the gift budget and buying gifts for your siblings, their spouses and all their kids, it can add up to a significant expenditure. It’s okay to spend less per person if you’re buying for many people or even if you’re not. You could suggest a gift exchange with a budget limit. You could also opt to buy secondhand gifts this year. Not only are secondhand gifts cheaper, these items also support your local community and are great for the environment. 

4. Ask for help from family and friends

If you’re the host of the family get-together, it’s okay to ask for help. Suggest a potluck-style holiday gathering, or ask your aunt with the impeccably decorated house to help you decorate beforehand. Many people also order food for holiday parties. You could stock up on pre-made items at a warehouse store, contact your local grocery store or order from your favorite local restaurant. As the host, you get to determine your holiday traditions.

5. Don’t skimp on sleep

We know mental health and physical health are tightly linked, so the better care you take of yourself, the better you’ll feel during the holidays. That means getting enough sleep, which might mean forgoing some parties or making a smaller shopping list. Or maybe you simplify your decorations. It’s also important to make sure you eat healthy foods, not just heavy or sugary seasonal foods. Tell your grandma you’ll pass on another cookie or pastry, or you’ll skip the gravy this year.

6. Create emotional distance if you need to

You may also need to create some emotional distance this holiday season. According to, “Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, in their classic book Boundaries, describe emotional distance in boundaries as a ‘temporary boundary to give your heart the space it needs to be safe; it is never a permanent way of living.’” If you have a relative or an in-law who often makes you feel uncomfortable or says rude things, it’s okay to distance yourself from them at a holiday gathering. It doesn’t mean you’ll never spend time with them again, but rather that you’re limiting your interactions with them during a time of year that’s already stressful.

Holidays can be stressful, so it’s important to ask yourself questions to determine your boundaries this holiday season. Creating boundaries helps you establish what kind of treatment you expect from others and what you need to feel happy and secure. Boundaries also help create healthier relationships with your friends and family.