Navigating the Holidays: A Guide to Setting Boundaries for a Stress-Free Festive Season

The festive season is upon us. During this time of year. with work Christmas parties, end-of-year events, family gatherings, school functions, and graduations, it’s easy to take on a lot and feel overwhelmed. This time of year tends to be bustling with activities. It’s crucial to manage our boundaries to avoid exhaustion and stress.

Numerous temptations can arise during the holiday season, such as exceeding our budget, increased socialising, elevated alcohol consumption, additional responsibilities, inadequate sleep, and overindulgence in food. While each one can be managed on its own,  combining these factors may lead to feelings of unwellness, resentment, burnout, and stress.

To protect our wellbeing and reduce stress, setting clear boundaries is so important. Healthy boundaries are essential components of self-care, defining limits with others and clarifying what we’re willing to undertake. Personal boundaries empower us to say no, protecting our energy and attention.

Though it can be challenging, setting boundaries during this season is vital, as we may feel pressured by others’ expectations. Whether it’s adhering to family traditions, attending work events, hosting gatherings, or responding to requests for help, its important to recognise we have choices.

Some people may find it uncomfortable to prioritise their own needs, especially if they’re accustomed to people-pleasing. It’s crucial to recognise that you’re responsible for your choices, not others. When you set a boundary, some people may not like it. It’s important to be able to tolerate the discomfort of ‘disappointing’ others. You aren’t obligated to ensure everyone else’s happiness or fulfil everyone’s needs and demands.


How to set boundaries

To start boundary-setting, identify your limits and remind yourself of the benefits of adhering to them. Maybe its so you don’t get sick, or overwhelmed, maybe it’s financial and you’re saving for something.  Consider your and your family’s values and needs, reflecting on what is truly important to you. Remember, that your values and priorities may change over time.

Despite potential discomfort, setting boundaries is about safeguarding your wellbeing, not upsetting others. Communicate your boundaries clearly, using “I” statements, and be firm yet respectful. Be prepared to repeat them, as some may attempt to push your limits.

Here are some strategies for implementing boundaries:

Financial Limits:

  • “I can spend up to $X on each family member.”
  • ‘’I can attend the dinner, if we choose somewhere cheaper’’
  • ‘’I’d prefer a low-cost option like a picnic or BYO BBQ’
  • “I will be responsible for selecting and purchasing X gifts; others can be managed by my partner/sibling, etc.”

Event Attendance:

  •  “I can attend the end-of-year party if I can leave early.”
  • ‘’I would like to come, I’ll make my own way there so I can leave if I need to’
  • I would love to spend time with you, this event isn’t for me, can we do x instead?
  • “I’ve chosen a quieter holiday season this year. Please understand if I decline certain invitations.”


  • When asked to bring a plate or contribute: “I’d be happy to bring dessert. I won’t have time to bake, but I can pick up some fruit for a platter or a cake from the local patisserie.”

Family Plans:

  • “This year, we’ve decided to spend Christmas day camping as a family. While I understand it might be disappointing, it’s our choice for this year.”

Peoples Behaviour 

  • “It makes me uncomfortable when you speak to me this way. If it continues, I will have to excuse myself.”
  • ‘’I would like to have you attend, this is a sober event, if you are ok with that I’d love to have you’’


Remember, boundaries are essential for self-care, particularly during the holiday season. Your responsibility is to prioritise your wellbeing, not to please everyone else at the expense of your mental health.

By Marie Vakakis


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