Guest written by Missy Modell, a musical parody artist and activist focused on the intersection of social justice and pop culture. Missy is the founder of YES MAM Creative, a consultancy for mission-based brands. You can find Missy on Instagram at @missymodell.

Consider this your survival guide for navigating the holidays (and beyond). Although a time of great joy and merriment, this time of year can also spark tremendous stress, discord, and wreak havoc on even the strongest of households and relationships. When you combine family and/or partner friction with the pressure of the season, it’s easy to fall into old behavior patterns and feel burnt out or psychologically maxed out. 

Setting boundaries is a really healthy answer to the above problems. Often people reference family-only boundary-setting when discussing the holidays. However, creating boundaries with all of your relationships during the holiday season (employers, children, partner, family members), leads to more joy, empowerment, and even freedom. No doubt that when you start to set boundaries where none had existed before, people may have a difficult reaction to start. While you can’t fundamentally change people nor rewrite the family you were brought up in, you CAN change the way you interact and react with situations. Thinking of it in this way may help: boundaries are designed to keep you protected and prioritizing your NEEDS. 

Boundaries can protect your material possessions, your emotions, your physical space, or your spiritual beliefs. They are not “mean.” They simply draw a line between what belongs to you and what belongs to others.” - Tiny Buddha

The more you practice non-negotiable boundary setting, the stronger your communication and capacity for understanding what works for you becomes. The more you know yourself and what you need, the more able you are to express it. We like to think of this as “outside the bedroom’ and “inside the bedroom” tool building. Creating a strong sense of self by creating boundaries allows for the confidence to express your needs in your daily life, whether it’s about pleasure or the world beyond. 

It is possible to create healthy boundaries for yourself and be kind and compassionate towards others at the same time. Here are a few ways you can get started.

5 Ways to Effectively Set Boundaries

  • Get Comfortable with the Word “No.”
    With a swirl of invites sent your way, and tasks thrown on your plate, be reasonable with what works for you. The demanding holiday season can get overwhelming, so make sure to align with what feels good for you. Not comfortable with traveling? That’s ok! 
  • Share What You Need.
    People aren’t mind readers (unfortunately) and aren’t always able to pick up on your cues. Do you need help cleaning up? Want to sneak away with your partner during a stressful moment? Simply stating your need in the moment, with no emotion is an honest thing you can do to prioritize your needs. 
  • Take Some *Alone* Time. 
    With a lot of socializing and being “on” constantly, it’s important to take some moments alone with yourself to reconnect and ground. Sometimes being around family can throw us back to a high school version of ourselves, and it’s helpful to take a beat, solo. That could be a walk, pleasure session, or combo!
  • Take a Digital Detox.
    The holidays can be particularly triggering, and I find it really helpful to take a pause from the scrolling and focus on soothing activities (puzzles, board games, cooking, etc.). Boundaries can also apply to technology! 
  • Remove Yourself from Uncomfortable Conversations.
    You don’t need to engage in situations that are not healthy or productive. We all have an aunt or uncle who wants to go down a political rabbit hole, but that doesn’t mean you have to! Saying something like “while I appreciate your position, your language/this conversation is making me uncomfortable. Let’s not fight and enjoy our time together. Let’s change the subject.”

  • Setting boundaries is a journey - requiring courage, compassion, and practice! Make sure to stay calm and direct. Remember: the more work you do to create these boundaries, the more empowered you will feel in ALL areas of your life, outside and inside the bedroom. Happy holidays!

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    Further Readings:

    How to Reduce Holiday Stress by Setting Boundaries: Tiny Buddha
    How Host's Can Set Holiday Boundaries: Architectural Digest
    How to Make & Maintain Sexual Boundaries: Allure