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Healthy Boundaries around the Holidays

With October through December having a large cluster of holidays, this time can bring joy and excitement, a sense of closeness and community.

Alongside those feelings, this time of the year can also bring about a sense of isolation, stress, anxiety, and the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Whether those feelings stem from tension in relationships, feeling no sense of community, lack of support, or the lack of resources that provide safety and stability, these feelings can make it harder to be able to enjoy spending time with others this holiday season.

Alleviate some of these feelings by approaching the holiday season with an emphasis on advocating for yourself and feeling confident with setting healthy boundaries.

With these two strategies in place, this holiday season may be a little more joyful and a little less stressful.

why is setting boundaries during the holiday season so important?

Some benefits of setting healthy boundaries include:

  • We develop a greater sense of awareness of our triggers
  • Better ability to self regulate
  • Increased feelings of being in control of emotions
  • Leads to better interpersonal relationships
  • Increased self respect
  • Could encourage others to also set healthy boundaries

There can be challenges around setting boundaries.

Sometimes we may feel guilty or that we are being selfish. Other times we may worry that we might upset others by setting boundaries.

But boundaries are not set in stone, and they are not meant to control others. They are meant to help us create an environment where we can feel safe and to foster healthy relationships for everyone involved.


Below are some boundaries that we may consider this holiday season:

  • Giving yourself permission to say ‘no’ to holiday gatherings you do not feel comfortable attending
  • Deciding which holiday traditions you want to partake in
  • Deciding to set boundaries around alcohol intake at gatherings
  • Completely checking out of work during your time off
  • Deciding certain topics of conversation are off the table at family gatherings
  • Deciding you need alone time to recharge
  • Setting boundaries around gift giving
  • Deciding how to handle situations and gatherings around COVID

Setting boundaries can seem daunting at first, but with practice and support, over time you start to feel more comfortable and confident.


Here are some things to keep in mind when setting boundaries:

  • Make sure to set boundaries at a time when emotions are not heightened and the environment is neutral. Take time to process your emotions and acknowledge any hurt or trauma that might be influencing you before deciding a boundary.
  • Ask for support from those around you. Whether that means support in forming a boundary, practicing setting a boundary, or support with accountability. This support can come from friends, trusted family members, or even counselors and therapists.
  • Keep open communication. Boundaries are not meant to be rigid. Leave space for yourself to make changes and adjust as needed.
  • Have a plan ahead of time. Knowing what you want to say to others as you are setting a boundary can help us feel more confident. Also knowing how to respond if there is pushback against a boundary or disrespect of our boundaries is important to plan for ahead of time so we are able to resolve things in a healthier way and to advocate for our own needs.


Most importantly, remember that setting boundaries is a lifelong learning process that takes patience, energy, and self awareness.

Practicing boundary setting can benefit us year round, especially in those times of the year when life may become more stressful or overwhelming.

To continue to learn more about setting healthy boundaries, here are some resources:


By Olivia Cosgray (she/her)

DVN Adult Training Program Coordinator