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Reduce Stress by Setting Healthy Boundaries this Holiday

More than half of Canadians say the holiday season has a negative impact on their mental health. While this time of year can be joyful, it can also be overwhelming and difficult. Holidays and celebrations bring with them a whole host of expectations from volunteering and donating to charity, baking homemade treats for the school bake sale to creating memorable moments, and finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list.

Falling short of these expectations can lead to increased feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. This year, plan ahead by developing a few coping mechanisms pre-holiday madness. You’ll be surprised at how effective they can be.

Establish a Game Plan

The first step to dealing with holiday stress is to identify the people and situations that contribute to feelings of anger, disappointment, resentment, fear, and sadness. Once identified, healthy boundaries can be established to minimize the impact of these emotions and build resilience.

Boundaries are limits that we set for ourselves and others to safeguard our state of well-being. While many people fear establishing boundaries will create negative and hurt feelings, it can actually make relationships better. With clearly defined boundaries, there are fewer misunderstandings, increased trust and respect, and an overall deeper connection. More importantly, they help us maintain control of a situation. Reducing the risk of spending too much time, energy, and money making those around us happy while ignoring our own needs.

What Do Healthy Boundaries Look Like?

  • Saying YES, not out of obligation, but because you want to

  • Allowing yourself to be late or to leave early from a holiday function

  • Managing your alcohol consumption

  • Sticking to your holiday budget

  • Asking your guests not to discuss politics or other topics that can flare emotions

  • Not checking your work emails on days off

  • Openly discussing your needs and expectations

Working Through the Process

While it may not be easy, planning ahead to establish boundaries can make a difference. Not sure where to start? We’ve outlined a 3-step process to help you get started. Start small, if it seems too daunting, and limit yourself to one area of concern.

Be Honest


You can’t ask for what you want without understanding what that is. Perform a self-audit to find those situations where you were overwhelmed, conversations in which you felt uncomfortable, or people to whom you feel resentment. Without seeing the pitfalls before you fall, it’s impossible to create support strategies to deal with them.

Be Clear


Possibly the hardest part of the process is communicating your boundaries with others. Practice what you want to say, keep it clear and to the point so the other person understands exactly what you’re requesting. Setting boundaries is not out of spite or to be mean, so avoid apologizing or explaining too much.


Be Steadfast


Not everyone will react how we want them to. There may be an awkward pause, they may have questions and some people may take offense, but, you’ve come this far so don’t retreat. Concessions will only be confusing and suggest your boundaries are weak and malleable. Stay firm.

Learning to set healthy boundaries is the key to living a happy life. While it’s not easy this time of year when the true spirit of the holidays is to give and receive. Giving gifts and spending time with family and friends is not the issue as long as you aren’t compromising your health and mental well-being to do it. If you have ongoing or seasonal mental health issues or experience particularly severe symptoms, give us a call to book a free 20-minute psychotherapy consultation.




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