5 Healthy Boundaries I Set to Protect My Physical and Mental Health During the Holidays

Can you believe that the holiday season is once again here? That means that it’s that time for me to set some healthy boundaries again. 

I don’t know about you but around this time each year I find myself starting to feel down and in need of a break. And yet it’s also the time of year when I receive the most requests for work, service, and social events.

If you’re like me, you might benefit from hearing about the five healthy boundaries I set to protect my mind, body, and spirit during the holidays. Keep reading to learn more. 

1. I set email limits

The first boundary I set revolves around setting email limits. If I don’t do this, my email inbox will be a source of stress and anxiety. 

During the holidays, I find it important to protect both professional and personal boundaries around my email inbox. 

Professionally, it can mean deciding on setting an out-of-office reply and not checking emails until the holidays are over. 

Or, it can mean only checking emails once or twice a day and being okay with having a slower response rate. In fact, if you haven’t relegated checking emails to once or twice a day, now might be a good time to try it out and if it’s helpful, you could continue doing so throughout the rest of the year. 

Setting email limits can also mean giving colleagues a heads up if you’re taking time off from work. If they know in advance that you’re taking time off, perhaps they’ll send fewer emails or they won’t be surprised or concerned if you take longer than usual to respond. 

Alternatively, if you’re not taking time off work, you may want to give loved ones a heads up if you’re going to be working during the holidays. This will help them be more understanding if you can’t make it to every single social event or gathering you’re invited to. 

2. I schedule down time

The second boundary I set involves scheduling time to myself. Do I need to mention again that the holidays tend to be an eventful season? With everything going on— the change in seasons, in temperature, and in the amount of daylight we get— this time of year can also be difficult and triggering for some of us.

For instance, as an introvert who has struggled with depression and anxiety, this time of year is not all joyful. And since I get easily overstimulated by big social events, I like to make sure I schedule both social activities and then downtime to follow so that I can recharge.

This downtime also allows me to give myself grace and compassion if I don’t always feel happy during festive seasons.

Remember that it’s okay to create your own traditions that include time on your own to take things slowly, rest, and reflect. 

3. I protect my “best” time for high-priority tasks and events.

Another really important boundary I set not just during the holidays but also throughout the year is protecting, honoring, and holding sacred my “best time.” 

I’m an afternoon person, by that I mean that that is the time I work at my best capacity. You might be a morning or evening person. Regardless, I protect my best time for personal and professional tasks and events that are top priority. Making tamales with family might be top priority one day while working on my writing might be top priority another day.

To protect your best time, it’s necessary to take notice of your energy levels and capacity during different times of day and during different parts of the year. Do you work best in the morning, afternoon, or evening? Does this remain the same during the holiday season? If so, how can you protect this “best” time from anything that may distract you from the most important tasks and events?

It’s up to you to decide what your priorities are during the holidays and then set aside your “best” time for them. 

4. I ask for help

A boundary I often forget to set is the one around seeking help. It may sound contradictory, but asking for help can be a way to set a boundary because you get to decide who gets to support you and in what way they can do this. 

I am constantly having to remind myself that it’s okay to allow others to provide assistance when needed. Part of it has to do with my cultural and gendered upbringing and another part of it has to do with my wanting to be mindful of other people’s time. But there are others who can and are more than willing to offer their support. 

If you have too much going on or simply need a break, are there ways for you to ask for help?

Can someone provide you with company and accountability as you wrap up this semester’s assignments? Is there a colleague who can assist you with a work-related task when you are feeling overextended? Can someone bring you food and medicine if you’re not feeling well?

it’s okay to ask for help and to provide others with help too. It helps to do things in community. 

5. I honor my needs

The last of the five healthy boundaries I set involves some self-reflection to get to a place where you can identify your needs and honor them. 

It’s taken time for me to get to the point where I can distinguish my personal and professional needs from external expectations and obligations.

This year, honoring my needs means moving abroad before the December holidays. (I’ll share more about my journey moving abroad in a separate blog post and on my social media.) 

Honoring your needs may mean taking a break from work. It may mean deciding not to celebrate the holidays with a toxic family member. It may mean deciding to create new traditions altogether. 

At the end of the day, you get to decide if, how, and with whom you celebrate the holidays. Setting graceful and healthy boundaries helps. 

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