Ask nearly anyone that knows me well, and they will tell you that I am big on boundaries. They come up so frequently that clients, noting a lengthy pause, may say: “You’re going to ask me about the B-word, aren’t you?” I love it when my clients can anticipate when boundaries may come up in our conversations.
A lot of people think boundaries are all about saying “No.” In reality, boundaries are about saying “Yes,” but only when safe and appropriate.
Why am I bringing up boundaries now? Traditionally, the holidays are a time of year when we let our guard down, and boundaries fly out the window. So let’s do it differently this year.
Where can you use boundaries to keep you safe and sane during the holidays?
Time. We only have so much time, yet we try to cram so much into our schedules around the holidays. Things to consider:
- Travel or no travel? Do you have time to fly to Texas for the holidays? Yes, your family wants you there, but it’s an excessive amount of time, and possibly you don’t have that much time to give.
- Divide and conquer. We don’t have to do it all ourselves! Ask your support team for some help. Who can help with grocery shopping, meal preparation, or gift shopping? Who can assist with gift shopping?
- Must do. May do. Can’t do. We might not be able to attend every event we are invited to. Make a list of the “must-do” and “can’t do” events and stick to it. You may want to leave a bit of time for the “may do” category if some unexpected free time comes up.
- Review the calendar early and often. I can’t stress this enough. Now is the perfect time to sit down with stakeholders and plan out the season. The earlier possible conflicts are identified, the better.
- Discuss shared holidays/family expectations. This is a biggie. It’s better to negotiate shared holidays now, not the day before a big event.
Money. Most of us have a fixed amount that we feel comfortable spending for holiday events. Following these guidelines will help prevent the January surprise.
- Set a budget (gifts, events. etc.). We have so many expected and unexpected things to plan for this time of year. In addition to gifts, think about event tickets, extra groceries, extra gas, etc.
- Track expenses frequently. It’s critical to set a budget and equally as important to track it regularly.
- Create a gift list. We probably can’t buy gifts for everyone, and frankly, everyone you might think of may not even want a gift. Make a list of the “must buy” (like grandkids) and then create a “may buy” list (like Aunt Martha) if there are discretionary funds available.
- Explore alternative gifts vs. commercial gifts. Gifts don’t have to come from the store. Possibly provide gifts of time, charitable donations, hand-crafted items, etc. These gifts may even mean more to your recipients than you think.
- Provide personalized gifts. If well-thought-out, gifts don’t have to be expensive. An example may be an inexpensive box of monogrammed stationary for someone who likes to send hand-written notes.
Energy. Energy is not unlimited. Yes, we can get more of it with great sleep, nutrition, and other self-care routines. Here are some keys to successful energy management.
- Manage expectations. Success is well-managed expectations. We may not have the energy to do everything we want to. Realizing this early will allow the allocation of energy resources to the truly important things, like spending time with our family and friends.
- Communicate needs. It’s hard for people to help us if they don’t know what they can do to help. Speak up early and be specific. “I’d appreciate it if you would do the grocery shopping for Thanksgiving dinner by Monday evening.” This is a very specific, time-bound request for assistance.
- Disengage if necessary. Sometimes we just need a break. When feeling overwhelmed, it’s okay to sneak out for a few minutes of meditation or deep breathing. You, and probably those around you, will be better for it.
- To host or not host. Sometimes it’s hard to give up long-standing commitments like hosting a New Year’s Eve dinner. Just because we’ve always hosted doesn’t mean we need to continue. Ask around and see who might be available to take over that responsibility. If no one puts their hand in the air, make the event a potluck.
- Limit the length of events. This can be a game-changer. Instead of “Come for brunch at 11:00 AM,” rephrase the invitation to “Join us for brunch 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM.” Then stick to the boundary and gently nudge people out the door at 3:00 PM. This will save a ton of time and energy.
Health. This is the time of year when we may throw our good habits out the window. Be aware of how this may affect you.
- Limit alcohol. There may be a lot of opportunities to indulge, but limiting alcohol to your regular intake will help maintain your sleep schedule and energy availability.
- Focus on sleep. Yes, there are going to be events that keep you up past your regular bedtime. Staying as consistent as possible with your sleep schedule will pay off more than almost any other habit.
- Be mindful of nutrition. Chances are there will be a lot of opportunities to indulge in things your body hasn’t consumed in a while (Pigs in a Blanket, anyone?). Be as consistent with nutrition as possible, even having a healthy snack before attending a right, calorie-laden dinner party.
- Be your own COVID health advocate. If you don’t feel safe going to an event, don’t. The worry and concern about exposure will weigh far heavier than having to turn down an invitation.
- Continue exercise/meditation routines. Whenever possible, stay with your self-care routines. I know it’s hard with so much more on our plates, but the dividends of maintaining self-care will pay off big time!
Social media. We almost can’t get away from social media, can we? This time of year, it’s even more ramped up than usual.
- Try not to compare. People live their lives differently. Comparing your gift to someone else on your Facebook feed will not serve you well.
- Be aware of FOMO. We can’t all go to everything. I encourage people not to post limited-invite events on social media. But, if an update of an event is posted, remember that you were probably invited to an event someone else wasn’t. As a general rule, it all balances out.
- Be aware of emotions. This is an emotional time of year. Be mindful of how scrolling social media serves you. Do you feel better or worse after looking at your feeds? If it’s better, great. If it’s worse, this might be an excellent time to reduce the amount of time spent on social media.
- Think about taking a social media break. I’m guessing the minutes and moments I spend on social media would be far better spent doing another priority on my list. Now might be a good time to reduce social media time or take a break altogether.
- Try to engage in person, not electronically. The new Vitamin C is connection. Yes, connecting with family and friends is powerful in any form, but face-to-face is much more powerful. “Research conducted by Lee et al. (2011) revealed that while face-to-face communication can predict enhanced quality of life, internet communication cannot.”
Phew! Lots of stuff to think about. What boundaries can you put in place right now that will provide safety and control this holiday season?
Cindy Jobs, PCAC, ACC
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