Creating Boundaries for Christmas

Christmas seems to start earlier and earlier every year. My pumpkins hadn’t even started decomposing before my local supermarket was littered with tinsel, chocolate tins and fake trees and now we are nearly there it feels like it’s been forever!

Now, I’m not a scrooge or anything, I like Christmas as much as the next person. I like bimbling around the different Christmas markets and hunting down towns with the nicest festive light displays. I even like the cheesy music and films that come with the season (well, most of them…)

But it isn’t all easy. This year, as we all try and navigate another Covid-19 Christmas, I’m still not entirely sure what the ‘big day’ is going to look like this year. Everything feels up in the air right now and I can almost feel my to-do list spinning around my head like the rings of Saturn.

It’s the usual stuff;

‘Have you written your Christmas cards?’ ‘When are you going seeing Grandma?’ ‘Have you finished your Christmas shopping?’ ‘When do you finish work for the holidays?’ ‘You coming over for Boxing Day?’ ‘I’ve not seen you all year, you have to come to the party!’ and the best one… ‘Make sure you’re looking after yourself!’

I’ll be honest, I’ve had those moments where I flop on the sofa with my weighted-hoodie-blanket thing and think ‘you know what, I’m happy here for Christmas’. Alone. Quiet… Moody.

The feeling passes, and I realise that wouldn’t make me happy. Maybe it would be easier, but “Christmas comes but once a year”… Right?

Cancelling Christmas isn’t an option this year, instead it is important to set some boundaries. Easier said than done? Agreed.

Boundaries can be hard over the holidays. We all seem to have less privacy at this time of year, with additional pressure to be available for others, but that doesn’t mean you cannot prioritise yourself. Setting some boundaries will help us manage our sense of overwhelm, and very much necessary for our own peace of mind over the next few weeks.

Give yourself permission to say ‘no’.

I can’t pinpoint a moment in my life when it suddenly became so scary to say ‘no’… I mean, how can such a small word become such a big deal?

This year, I’m learning to say it, and trying my best not to defend myself or debate that decision. It is really important to manage expectation and also not to stretch yourself.

Speak to your loved ones.

It is easy to feel like you’re in this alone, like you don’t want to be a burden over Christmas. But actually, your loved ones do want to be there for you and understand how you’re feeling. Having someone in your corner will help you navigate the holidays.

I had a very honest conversation with my boyfriend this week and let him in on what I’ve been thinking and feeling over the last few weeks and it did feel like a weight lifted. (Perhaps even helped me understand it enough to put it into words for this blog!)

Find a balance between socialising and self-care.

One thing I love about Christmas is togetherness, but that doesn’t mean I want to sacrifice some alone time. It can be an intense couple of weeks so it is okay to enjoy time with family and friends, as much as you enjoy a frosty morning walk on your own.

Find what works for you, and try not to schedule too many parties, meals and events in a short space of time. Give yourself time to fill up that self-care cup so you can be present and happy when you are socialising.

Be flexible.

You might be pulling a face now, but boundaries can be flexible.

It’s good to set rules, but if we are too rigid which might risk feeling isolated. It’s good to have some flexibility and spontaneity over Christmas. We can keep our fingers crossed for snow and switch our plans from our Grinch move day to sledging and snowman-building.

Challenge the expectations of Christmas.

One thing I struggle with at this time of year is the ‘traditions’, and the things we ‘need’ to do. And this might be anything from the budget for gifts, when the tree goes up or even making sure we have a plan for every weekend throughout December.

This is probably the one I’m still struggling with this year, and the idea that everything should be perfect. When I can, I try to remember that the most important thing is to be spending Christmas with loved ones – not about the gifts, the food, the decorations, the activities, the films etc.

Well, I hope this helps just one person – even just a little bit – to get through the holidays. And if you’re reading this and want a few more tips and tricks for managing mental health and recovery over the holidays you should check out our other Christmas Blogs and Resources.

Wishing you all the very best for you and your family this festive season x

Contributed by Lucy Robinson,
Fundraising, Marketing and Communications Manager