The good news: It’s the holidays! The bad news: It’s the holidays! This time of year can have you going from one extreme to another. Parties, family, friends, spiritual gatherings, shopping and oh yes, work. There are a lot of demands on your time and energy. The only way to happily navigate this time of year is to set boundaries that you can feel GOOD about!
If you are like me, you may have grown up hearing how setting your boundaries is essential, only to feel that “setting your boundaries” may feel like a generic term for “something doesn’t feel quite right, but I don’t know what it is or how to change it.”
There are boundaries for everything. You have to know what they are, when to use them and how to communicate them. There are a lot of moving pieces in boundary setting. Even when you know your boundaries, expressing them with firm compassion is often a challenge.
Simply put, a boundary is a limit. There are different kinds of boundaries; below are the two types you may be most familiar with:
• A physical boundary defines who can touch you, when, how and where that will or will not happen.
• Emotional boundaries are the limits you set on how people will treat you.
Your values and priorities guide your boundaries. You have to decide, “what’s most important” to you when you choose, say, how you are going to spend your time during the holidays. Once you know your limit, then you have to know when it is about to be or has been reached. The way you know this is through your feelings and emotions. When you feel bad, guilty, resentful, etc., it’s usually a boundary issue. Keeping all this in mind, below are a few tips for communicating with compassionate firmness to keep your boundaries intact.
1. Start with a list. What needs to get done? What can you delegate? What can you cut out or postpone?
2. Decide the top actions or activities you want to do (not that have to get done). You just cannot do everything, nor would I suggest you try. Decide what makes you happy and start here first.
3. What actions or activities make you feel guilty, resentful, inadequate, depressed, anxious, etc.? Put those on the bottom of the list.
Make these lists short and simple.
4. Once you know your limits, you have permission to say “no,” “maybe,” or “yes” or something else entirely.
5. Lastly, setting your boundaries is about communicating expectations (yours and theirs), adjusting if needed (not giving in) and acknowledging the invitation or request by thanking the person and then expressing your response.
Here’s a short example:
Bob: My mother just called, and she wants us to come over early on Christmas and help with cooking, set-up, and clean-up.
Susie: Of course! I love your mother and am happy to help. And…I feel like every year I end up doing the bulk of the work. What if we told her we can come over between 2-3 and would be happy to help with whatever still needs to be done?
Bob: I’ll try, but you know how mom is and how nobody else helps.
Susie: Yes, that’s the problem. Let’s tell her how much we appreciate what she is doing and that we are happy to come over by 2 p.m. and that it’s a great opportunity for other family members to step up and help her.
No more dialog. That is the conversation. Communicate it and repeat it verbatim as needed. The gem is the repetition! If you are not used to using compassionately firm language, practice saying it to yourself and out loud.
Happy Holidays and enjoy setting some new boundaries.
Julie Hawkins, is the Biz Psychic and Women’s Boundary Coach. www.juliehawkins.com