As the holiday season approaches, so too does the wave of peopling. There is a never ending stream of parties, gatherings, concerts, family obligations, and just general craziness. And attending these events is a myriad of people who we know and love, know and don’t love, don’t know, and some we don’t want to know. This is why it is so important to establish boundaries, both during the holiday season and for the rest of the year.
This is why I am about to say some things that will blow your mind (they blew mine when I figured it out):
- You do not have to do everything or attend every event to have a truly joyous season.
If you are attending something because it is an obligation, it may not be something that you need to attend. If you come home feeling worn out not because you had a great time, but because of the stress and worry, let this be a sign unto you. If you skip the neighborhood block party, will you be shunned until the 4th of July? Probably not. Will you feel a little less stressed if you do not attend you fifteenth cousin’s cookie exchange that is an hour and a half away? Given that this person is probably not your BFF, I’m guessing it would eliminate some stress. We totally stress ourselves out trying to meet our party obligations; let’s quit that nonsense. Crazy and joy are not synonyms.
2. Stay away from the “Joy Stealers.”
You know those people…you are trying to engage in pleasant conversation, and everything you say is one-upped, put down, or the worst “that’s okay, but…” They try to suck you into their drama, because the world truly does revolve around them. Sometimes, you think you can overcome this by being nice, but you can’t – and this is not a failing on your part, but an indicator of how far they are entrenched in this unhealthy way of thinking. Their joy is ruining yours. I know that we have all heard “be nice” growing up, but to continue to let these people, especially around the holidays, steal our joy accomplishes nothing. It just makes us feel yucky. And who needs that type of negativity? Avoid these people. Take them off your Facebook feed. Keep your joy, and share it with those who will appreciate and reciprocate that joy instead of hijacking it.
3. Keep your dance space.
People will try to make you feel obligated to do or say or be or attend or dress like or eat or not eat or whatever. Think about this one…I have a list of things I don’t eat because I am a kidney donor and because I am not a grain eater (especially wheat; it makes me itch). But someone will always ask me to just take one bite because “one bite will not hurt.” True, while one bite may not hurt, several just one bites will be a disaster. Same goes for both of my guys, who have figured out that certain foods make them feel crummy. So I have to keep my dance space, and I am terribly sorry if I offend someone along the way. But food and love are two different things, and I will share the love, but not the food. Same thing goes for the other crazy things that seem to go on during the holidays. Family pictures for one – if everyone is wearing black but you look like a corpse in it, stand up for yourself. Keep your dance space, because you don’t want that immortalized in a picture that everyone will have on their walls. Tofurkey not your thing? Bring your own protein. Volunteer to bring something you will eat. And don’t let anyone guilt you into doing anything. Nothing good can come from that.
Establishing limits is not selfish, but one of the best things you can do to care for yourself. Not setting these limits allows people and things to trample your psyche, which physically and emotionally wears you down to the point of exhaustion. Been there, done that. You are important, you deserve to set limits on your time and how people treat you, and you need to make some decisions about what makes your perfect holiday season and not conform to Christmas cards or Lifetime movies. Learning to say no to these things is one of the best things you can do for you and your family.
Now, set your boundaries, keep your dance space, keep your joy, block out time for you and your family to do nothing but drink hot chocolate and watch “Charlie Brown Christmas,” and really enjoy this holiday.