Mind & Spirit

Why setting boundaries during the holidays is good for your mental well-being

Why setting boundaries during the holidays is good for your mental well-being

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Mind & Spirit

Why setting boundaries during the holidays is good for your mental well-being

It's okay to say "no"—even during the holiday season. 

I like Christmas and I like hanging out with people I love. But outside the realm of get-togethers brimming with chocolate and shrimp rings (the greatest of all appetizers), there are plenty of things about the holiday season I don't like. I don't like forced fun or party games. I don't like hauling myself to soirees when I'm so tired I've stooped to eating half an Advent calendar for dinner. And I don't like finding myself cornered at a party debating politics with someone who I swear has called me the wrong name on purpose.

Which is why I propose a holiday season defined by boundaries; by hard nos and polite declines, and by the celebration of refusing to do anything you hate. Here, four tips that'll help you put yourself first this holiday season. Have a merry little Christmas indeed. 


Tip 1: Don't RSVP "yes" to events you don't want to attend.

One of the biggest Christmas myths is that you have to attend everything you're invited to. And frankly, if any of us were to try and attempt that, we would collapse in on ourselves like dying stars. The thing is, it's okay to say you can't make a party (lord knows I love to cancel), but it's even better to let a host know in advance by responding accordingly to their invitation. Read: say, "Thank you, but I can't make it!"

Which is a reasonable response—and not one anyone's about to take personally. People are busy. We're all trying our best. And while we like to think of ourselves as the most important people on the planet, most of the time our appearance at a shindig won't make or break it. (Especially since you can always grab a coffee after the holidays when everything's a little less rushed.) Take the pressure off yourself, and give your friends and family credit: They'll understand if you're already booked. Because if you were hosting a party, you would too.


Tip 2: Be rigid in your stance.

But that said, sometimes a "can't make it, sorry!" isn't enough. Sometimes, high on the magic of Home Alone and dozens of baked goods, someone will push you to change your mind. (Which is my nightmare: I just said I already have plans—and it's nobody's business if those plans involve me, my couch and a Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives marathon.)

So to that end, advocate for yourself. You don't owe anyone an explanation outside of your initial response, and you certainly don't have to feel guilty for knowing and respecting your limits. Are there exceptions to this rule? Absolutely. (PSA: Don't ditch your best friend five minutes before a friend-date because you can't be bothered to walk down the street.) But gauge the appropriateness of your decline, and if the host seems especially hurt, offer to grab dinner when everything's slowed down. Or, be as honest as you feel comfortable with: Tell them you're feeling burned out, sick and tired, and right now you need to have your own back. Which is fair. Nobody needs a fatigue-spawned flu in the middle of December.


Tip 3: Excuse yourself out of triggering conversations.

And then sometimes, we find ourselves at a party with people we're confused by. Whether it's friends of friends or extended family members, the holidays are rife with people who do not (and will never) share your political views, regardless of how right you may be.

The thing is, it's not up to you to make them feel comfortable. It's also not up to you to educate them on why their beliefs are problematic if you're having this conversation next to a convoy of children descending on gifts. So as you're getting verbally poked with harmful rhetoric, handle it in a way that helps you reclaim control. You're allowed to engage and to call somebody out. You're allowed to say that you don't welcome these opinions. You're allowed to say that the person is wrong. You're even allowed to say that you'd rather not speak to this person anymore because you find what they're saying to be scary or dangerous. Or, you can simply walk away. 

Just remember that being put in this position isn't okay. So it might also help to let the host know what happened, and that you'd appreciate not being included in events this other person will also be attending going forward.


Tip 4: Leave when you want.

The thing is, sometimes parties and Christmas events are easier to attend when you know you can leave whenever you want. Which is true: As an adult in charge of yourself, you can leave a place at any time. Not only that, but you can leave without saying goodbye or turning it into your own version of the "So Long, Farewell" song from The Sound of Music. You can just go.

Which is my favourite move. Whenever I've had enough (whether it be 30 minutes, 10 minutes, or three hours) I tell whoever I'm standing next to, and I depart. I just leave. I leave and feel relief and pride over knowing my limits.

Like right now. It's time for me to watch Netflix and drink my weight in sparkling water. So you're the person I'm telling. And the relief and pride have already set in.




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Mind & Spirit

Why setting boundaries during the holidays is good for your mental well-being