Setting Boundaries During the Holiday Season

Written by Christina Kuo, licensed therapist and a wellness advisor.

I look forward to late fall and winter each year, not only because I yearn for the cold, crisp air that it brings, but also the coziness of what this change in weather brings forth. There is a third reason: all my favorite holidays are concentrated in November, December, January and sometimes into February. Thanksgiving in late November, DongZhi Festival (Chinese Winter Solstice, which falls between December 21-23), Christmas holiday in December, New Year’s celebration in January, and lastly, the 15-day Chinese New Year celebration which falls anywhere in January to February, depending on the Lunar calendar. I look forward to catching up with my family and friends and sharing delicious snacks, foods, and small gifts during the holiday season.

While I love the holiday season, I understand that this can also be one of the most stressful times of the year. There are added social engagements, negotiating trips, family gatherings, cooking, cleaning, additional expenses etc. that cause added stress and anxiety, and things can easily get out of control!

Learning to set realistic and healthy boundaries with myself and others helped me reduce this stress and anxiety by providing the buffer and safe space that I need to take a step back and take care of my wellbeing while still participating and celebrating the holidays.

Setting realistic and healthy boundaries with ourselves and our loved ones during the holiday season is a form of realistic self-care that contributes to a healthy mindset. Setting poor boundaries can lead to feelings of anger, resentment, burnout, lack of compassion for self and others, guilt, and self-blame. After all, my goal is to ENJOY the holiday season with as little stress and anxiety as possible, and to be present for my loved ones. So, it is essential that I learn how to be in tune with my wellbeing and still be respectful while setting healthy and realistic boundaries. However, setting boundaries can be challenging, and contrary to common belief, setting boundaries with ourselves can be the most difficult thing to do. If we are not able to set boundaries with ourselves and hold ourselves accountable, then it would be even more difficult when we try to implement boundaries with others.

The following can be helpful while setting boundaries:


  • Listen to yourself, how do you want to enjoy this holiday season? Tune in to your needs and what you want to do to have a reduced-stress holiday. When you say NO to people and activities that deplete your resources, you are saying YES to people and activities that bring you joy and nourish your energy!
  • You have the choice to pick and choose which events/parties/gatherings to attend. This is on you. You can choose the duration of your participation.
  • If you are hosting, set a time limit, and think of specific ways you can take care of your wellness: for example, you can ask your guests to bring a dish to share so that you don’t have to feel pressured to cook all the dishes.
  • Set a firm budget and follow it: oftentimes we get carried away by not following our budget, and this can result in financial stress and anxiety while paying our bills. If you find that you have a pattern of overspending, ask yourself why do you need to spend more than you can afford? Is this an ongoing issue?
  • Plan ahead on how to handle sensitive and triggering questions: you know what they are, and they usually come from the same group of people. Ask yourself how you want to handle this: for them to drop the topic, or trying to persuade them to change their mindsets? Is this the appropriate time? How will this impact your mood?
  • Stick with your routine: you may want to “relax” your routine by skipping meditations, exercise routines, or having alone time because you are on vacation. However, these routines are what you may need to keep you grounded. Think of creative ways to continue your normal routine: for example, “I’m going to go for my evening walk after dinner.”
  • Avoid using shaming and blaming language with yourself and others. You can use respectful and kind language when setting boundaries with yourself and others.
  • Here are additional articles and specific examples to consider while setting holiday boundaries with yourself and others:

How to reduce holiday stress by setting strong boundaries

10 Realistic ways to set boundaries

Nurturing your well-being: self-care and boundaries during the holiday season

7 tips for setting boundaries during the holiday season

Learning to set boundaries takes time, practice, and self-awareness. So, take the time to reflect upon how you want to spend this holiday season, think of what is meaningful for you during this time of the year and prioritize them. Be realistic when setting boundaries and allow room for flexibility and reflection. Recognize and identify which boundaries are non-negotiable and set consequences when they are violated. Take time for yourself to relax and stay grounded. Finally, instead of looking for perfection, give yourself and others room for progress and improvement, have fun, and hold appreciation and gratitude in your heart.

Don’t forget to check out Everything Jersey City for holiday events, family fun events, and travel itinerary that will help with your holiday planning! Have a wonderful holiday season!

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Christina Kuo is a licensed therapist and a wellness advisor where she creates and delivers mental health wellness programs and workshops.  She looks forward to spending this holiday season exploring holiday markets while traveling, catching up with loved ones over yummy hotpots, making dumplings, and binge watching a couple of anime series while knitting.

Christina Kuo
Author: Christina Kuo