How to Reduce Stress During the Holidays by Setting Boundaries

If the holiday season brings up images of endless security lines at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, frantic shopping at the Sawgrass Mills, and invasive conversations with your not-so-favorite family members, you’re not alone. According to a study by Sesame, 3 in 5 Americans feel their mental health is negatively affected by the holidays. Many of us feel stressed, anxious and even depressed during this time of the year, and it’s often because we feel we need to please everyone around us. 

This year, instead of overextending yourself and falling prey to the anxieties of the season, set some healthy boundaries, be true to you, and regain some of that holiday joy. 

Communicate Your Boundaries

As much as we wish people could read our minds, they can’t. While it may feel brutal to let people know our limits, it’s ultimately the best thing we can do for both ourselves and others. So, this year, set boundaries with family, friends, and coworkers.

For example, if you don’t feel comfortable at the yearly extended family holiday dinner, let them know you’ll be spending the holidays with your own nuclear family, or even just with friends this year. If the office holiday party regularly leads to uncomfortable situations, make other plans, or otherwise excuse yourself from the chaos.  People with healthy boundaries will understand and respect your boundaries. 

Say Yes Only If You Really Want To

Do your holiday gatherings include 15 different family events? Do you really want to go to all of them? If not, say so! The holidays shouldn’t leave you socially and emotionally exhausted, so know your limits and pick just a few events that you really enjoy.   

Set A Budget for Gifts

Sometimes this can be a hard boundary to set, depending on family dynamics and your social circle. You may feel pressured to financially match gifts or reciprocate a gift when given one. To ease this pressure and stress, set a budget for gifts. Let family know that you’d like to cap gifts at a certain amount, or that instead of things, you’d simply like to spend time with them. You can also always politely exclude yourself from gift exchanges. 

Prioritize Your Needs

While it might seem selfish, taking care of yourself, and maintaining your mental wellness can positively affect those around you. If you’re feeling anxious, tired or depressed, chances are you won’t be the “merriest” person to be around, but if you’re well rested and happy with yourself and your surroundings, those around you will feel good too! 

Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule, attempt to not eat ALL the holiday desserts, and remember to give yourself breaks throughout the day. It’s ok to take a walk outside after a family gathering, leave a party early to give yourself some “me” time, or simply take five minutes to make yourself a cup of tea. 

If the approaching holidays give you an impending sense of dread, overwhelming anxiety or the winter blues, reach out to loved ones or a mental health professional for help. As someone who cares for your mental wellness, it’s important to us that you feel safe and healthy during the holiday season. 

Think of boundaries like a fence around your yard… The fence keeps people in or outside of your yard. Remember, setting boundaries may be hard, but they can ultimately lead to a more enjoyable holiday season for you. 

Happy Holidays!

Dr. Lindsay Howard, Parkland, FL

Dr. Lindsay Howard, Psychologist, Psy.D.

Hi! My name is Lindsay Howard, and I specialize in therapy for the community of Parkland FL. If you’re an adult in Florida and feeling overwhelmingly stressed during the holidays, feel free to schedule a free 15 minute consultation with me to see if therapy is right for you

Skip to content