Mental Health — we all have it, and now we should all strive to be more open and vulnerable about it. 

TheraPieces* is a Slice of Culture monthly column by Mendez, a graduate student pursuing her Master of Social Work degree in clinical/medical social work.

During the holiday season, there can be a lot of emotions felt during this time for various reasons related to love, loss, broken relationships, and loneliness. Although the holidays can be very uplifting for some of us, not all may feel the same way.

All the time spent preparing, decorating, planning, and gathering can be extremely overwhelming which is understandable as to why many people may not fully or at all participate in those holiday festivities.

With the past two years that we’ve all had due to COVID-19, the holidays may not be so different when it comes to affecting our mental health.

When it comes to keeping our peace, safeguarding our energy and feelings, as well as standing firm on what’s best for us at the moment, setting healthy boundaries can do a lot of good for us when it comes to improving our self-esteem, managing our stress, and even improving our relationships.

Setting boundaries doesn’t mean that you are putting up a wall to yourself against everyone else, because sometimes it can be understood that way and misleading to those close to us. However, setting healthy boundaries is best for us so that when we feel most like ourselves again, we are able to give that proper love and attention and time to our families, friends, and/or loved ones, or even just to ourselves.

Here are 5 ways in which you can learn to set healthy boundaries for the holiday season:

  1. Knowing your limits
    • Knowing our limits is the very first step when creating boundaries for ourselves and others. Knowing what we can and can’t handle is important because too much of what is stressful can really put our mental health in a harmful position. Keeping a log of things that are most stressful for you during the holiday season can help lessen those stressors and understand yourself better to what is most needed for you right now.
  2. Learn what your needs are
    • Knowing what we need most during the holiday season is important so that we are able to give it to ourselves the space and time to rejuvenate. Whether it is sleep, alone time, food, or just wanting to stay home, we want to place boundaries that value our feelings and our time the most. Identify what exactly feelings you are having and write them down as well as ideas of what you are most in need of at that time.
  3. It’s okay to say “No”
    • This could be a tough one if you are easily receptive to guilt. However, this is the most important one as you are being honest with yourself and others about the boundaries you want to set. Allow it to yourself that it is okay to say no. Remember that you do not need to explain yourself to anyone if you do not want to. Since sometimes just saying “no” can be awkward here are examples of some phrases you can use that sound like an appropriate decline:

“I am not able to fully participate at this time but I appreciate you thinking of me.”

“I am not feeling up to it right now,but maybe we can schedule for another time.”

  1. Be consistent
    • Being consistent with your boundaries helps you to keep a routine of your needs. Being strict with your boundaries is important to restoring yourself and for others to respect your boundaries as well. If you don’t take accountability in taking your boundaries seriously, others may not do the same. Being consistent with our boundaries helps us keep track of our needs and being back to our fullest self.
  2. Communicate sternly and clearly – it is key!
    • How we approach to confirm our boundaries all relies on how we communicate them with others. It can be anxious to approach those with our boundaries, so it’s okay to affirm with yourself these phrases.

“I can do this”

“I can approach my loved ones with my boundaries without feeling guilty”

“I am entitled to putting myself and my needs first without seeming self-centered”

When communicating your boundaries, it’s important to be clear, specific, and concise and to the point so that you set respect on those boundaries as well.

A reminder that placing these healthy boundaries will put ourselves first in an unselfish way. In order to give our truest and most genuine self to others, we must take care of ourselves first.

Having to disappoint loved ones is okay, and you will survive knowing that disappointment is a part of life. Remember that you do not need to change the minds of those committed to misunderstanding the peace you need at this time.

If you are not okay, that too is okay and you are not alone. This holiday season, commit to your needs first in order to do the same for your loved ones later.

Via @positivelypresent on Instagram

If you want a specific topic related to mental health covered, Daniella Mendez may be reached at dm3728@columbia.edu.

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