Personal boundaries are the limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships. A person with healthy boundaries can say “no” when they want and still maintain close, honest, positive relationships. Healthy boundaries are especially important during high-stress times like the holiday season. To help you establish and maintain your own boundaries this year, try these helpful tips to care for yourself while also nurturing your relationships.
- Know your limits. Before saying “yes” to a request for your time or energy, know what’s acceptable to you and what isn’t. It’s best to be as specific as possible about your willingness to help, or you might be pulled into the trap of giving just a little bit more, over and over, until you’ve given far too much and find yourself exhausted and overwhelmed.
- Know your values. Every person’s limits are different, and they’re often determined by their personal values. For example, if you value family above all else, this might lead to stricter limits on how much time a request may take you away from your family. Remember what’s important to you and protect your time around it.
- Listen to your emotions. If you have feelings of discomfort or resentment, don’t bury them. Try to understand what your feelings are telling you. Resentment, for example, can often be traced to feelings of being taken advantage of. Time spent with family and friends should be filled with joy and feelings of comfort; set your limits so you are giving your time and effort in an amount that you are comfortable with.
- Have self-respect. If you always give to others, ask if you are showing as much respect to yourself as you show them. Boundaries that are too open might be due to misguided attempts to be liked by elevating other people’s needs above one’s own. During the holidays, this can show up as volunteering to cook/bake more than necessary for gatherings, agreeing to attend several events to please others or not to feel left out, or stressing about gift giving. It’s okay to say “no” and celebrate the season within your means.
- Have respect for others. Be sure that your actions are not self-serving at the expense of others – your friends and family also need healthy boundaries. Consider what is fair to everyone, given the setting and relationship. You don’t want to “win” at the cost of a healthy relationship.
- Be assertive. When you know it’s time to set a boundary, don’t be shy. Say “no” respectfully, but without ambiguity. If you can make a compromise while respecting your own boundaries, try it. This is a good way to soften the “no,” while showing respect to everyone involved.
- Consider the big picture. Some days you will give more than you take, and other days you will take more than you give. Be willing to take a big picture look at your relationships and see which ones are nourishing you and which are draining. But keep in mind, if you’re always the one who’s giving or taking, this might be a problem that you can fix.
This blog article was contributed by Cynthia Momsen, M.S., LPCC, Mental Health Therapist II at Nexus-Gerard.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 45 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.