If you experience stress throughout the holiday season, it might be time to set some healthy boundaries to relieve yourself of the burden of over-giving. Boundaries are guidelines that set safe, reasonable and permissible limits. While spending time with loved ones can be a treat – constant togetherness, unhealthy food choices and exhaustion can quickly become symptoms of over-extending yourself. 

Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, defines healthy boundaries as “simply our lists of what’s okay and not okay.” By taking time to understand what healthy boundaries mean to you (as they differ from person to person), it will help you find peace and avoid uncomfortable feelings and situations. Additionally, setting boundaries can help to improve your health, self-confidence and relationships.

When establishing your boundaries, you may not only choose to decline “holiday invitations and houseguests [but also change or end] a personal tradition of holiday service or gifting to others,” according to Psychology Today. While setting boundaries might feel challenging, they should be communicated in “a calm, simple, and direct way without shaming or blaming the others” and then you can “pleasantly repeat a variation of your assertive statement” if you face resistance. Boundaries are set to protect your energy, but how others react to your boundaries is not your responsibility.

Here are a few examples of healthy boundaries that can be set throughout the holiday season:

  • Blocking time on your calendar for rest
  • Setting reasonable limits on gift-giving or purchasing
  • Creating assignments for other family members to help with preparing big meals
  • Limiting the time you are with emotionally charged individuals and settings
  • Making time for self-care (i.e., exercise, meditation, healthy hobbies)
  • Knowing your limits
  • Speaking up when needed – and in a calm, direct way
  • Saying “no” when needed
  • Giving yourself credit for your hard work

Check out this new resource on boundary setting: “The Book of Boundaries: Set the Limits That Will Set You Free,” by Melissa Urban.


“How to Reduce Holiday Stress by Setting Strong Boundaries,” The Family Centre, Dec. 1, 2021, familycentre.org.”