Boundaries & Stress Management During the Holiday Season

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Written by Meghan Ringler, MSW Intern

The holiday season can be cheerful and joyous as time with loved ones is shared and traditions enjoyed. However, the holidays can be a time of stress as conflicts between family members and friends is escalated and the pressure to achieve the “perfect” holiday get-together can be over the top. The stress from the holidays can lead to strained relationships and personal exhaustion.

Stress is a normal part of life, and serves an important biological mechanism as it is our bodies way of responding and interpreting new experiences. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental and emotional responses. Thus, the holiday season is a time where the body is interpreting and reacting to the experiences happening around them. Meaning, Aunt Sue’s rant at the Thanksgiving dinner table possibly created stress for you and others, as it was a new experience for the body to adjust and react to. Though this type of short-term stress is frustrating, long term stress can have negative impacts on our bodies. In efforts to defend against the long term effects of stress, it’s important to create and define our boundaries.

Though the holiday season can be a difficult time as conflicts and stress are increased, it’s important to protect ourselves using the power of boundaries. Boundaries are the limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships. A person with healthy boundaries can say “no” to others when they want to. Boundaries should be based on your values and the characteristics that are important to you. The holiday season can be a time where boundaries are created as individuals are defining what is a mutually respectful and appropriate relationship with family members. However, when we lack self-esteem we may be more prone to boundary violations from friends and family. Thus, to better enjoy the holiday season it is important to consider what relationships, values, and types of interactions are most healthy to you. Though it’s not always possible to remove yourself from stressful situations, it is possible to define your needs, wants, and values in those situations.