Setting Boundaries for the Holidays and Beyond

Setting Boundaries for the Holidays and Beyond

The holiday season can be full of joy, excitement, love, and togetherness. But, with all the togetherness can also come more discomfort, stress, and ultimately more symptoms of anxiety and depression. That is why it is crucial that you learn how to set boundaries with family and friends during the holiday season and beyond. 

Setting boundaries is not always easy. You might be tempted to keep things quiet or ignore your feelings to keep the peace. You might be concerned about damaging relationships or  upsetting others. But, if there are people or situations that often impact you negatively, you should do something to protect yourself. That is what boundaries are all about—protecting yourself. Boundaries are healthy and an important tool to help you cope with anxiety and/or depression.


Boundaries are a way to make sure your needs are being met and to respond to your feelings. If you do make others angry by setting boundaries, that is also ok. Healthy boundaries can help you to keep your sanity and to keep relationships in your life healthy. How healthy is a relationship that is built on hiding the way you feel? Boundaries are something you are doing for yourself. Your needs are important and you deserve respect. 

Here are some boundary-setting tips:

1.) Stay Calm and Be Firm

Be direct and firm in what you are and are not willing to tolerate. What is ok and what is not ok? Being passive-aggressive or dropping hints without specifying things is likely not going to achieve much. Difficult family members are often careless and are likely to not even notice your hints, or not care. 

Do your best to speak in a calm tone. Prepare yourself ahead of time and take time outs when/if needed. Address your concerns with kindness and respect. Reacting with anger and defensiveness will only cause more tension and drama, and make people less likely to take you seriously. 

2.) Keep Things Realistic 

Think about your needs and boundaries realistically. For example, don’t seek out or put yourself in situations where you will be harmed. If you are invited to an ex’s family’s home for the holidays you can’t expect them to not talk about your ex. If your family always gets intoxicated near the end of the night often leading to arguments, make a plan to leave after dinner. If you suspect a situation is going to cause harm then turn down the invite. If you feel symptoms of anxiety or depression creeping in at the mere thought of attending an event, make the choice to avoid it or leave early. That is you setting a healthy boundary. 

boundaries holidays and beyond

3.) Be Willing to Walk Away

If a situation is making you uncomfortable, if you are in the presence of toxic people, you can walk away. It is ok to leave the situation. Hang up the phone. Walk out of the room. You don’t have to explain yourself and you don’t have to apologize. You have the control in these situations to exit. Setting a healthy boundary is showing people you won’t tolerate these situations by leaving them.

4.) Choose Who You Want to Spend Time With

Find the people in your life who treat you with respect, who value you, who make you feel good and equal. Spend time with those people. Those people will help you to set boundaries. You deserve to be valued and respected. Your needs are important. Sure, sometimes you might need to spend time with others who are not the nicest but limit your time with those people. Prioritize the people who deserve your time and energy. 

5.) You are your own boss 

How you react in a situation is ultimately your choice. If you have a family member who keeps belittling you or making derogatory comments you can choose to ignore it or to walk away. You choose if you speak up and say “that crosses the line” or “I would prefer we didn’t talk about this.” You can choose to not attend the event. You control your life, no one else does.

How can you prepare for holiday get-togethers?

If you are nervous about attending an often toxic family event but still feel like you should go, there are a few things you can do to prepare. 

You can reach out to trusted family members ahead of time and express your feelings and concerns. This will hopefully give you another person who can give you support during the event, so you won’t feel like you are tackling this uncomfortable situation on your own. Practice self-care before and after the event to help manage symptoms of anxiety or depression. 

boundaries holidays and beyond

It can also be helpful to rehearse some responses to difficult topics ahead of time. You can say things like “I prefer we talk about that another time” or “Let’s keep politics out of this event,” and so on. You can make a list of questions or topics you can bring up if conversations require a change. Have an exit plan and always permit yourself to leave early. 

Take Care of You

Whatever you do, make sure you prioritize your needs. Do your best to avoid toxic situations and don’t ignore your feelings. That will only lead to resentment of others. 

If you struggle with setting boundaries or coping with anxiety or depression, we can help. Our counselors and therapists regularly work with clients on setting boundaries so they can take care of their mental health. 

Ready to begin counseling in Virginia?

Whole Journey works with clients throughout the state of Virginia and North Carolina via our online and telehealth counseling platforms. Our counselors are professionally trained in helping people to live healthier, happier lives. We want to see you thrive. Call our office at 757-296-0800 to schedule an appointment.