healthy boundariesAmid the holiday celebrations, are you faced with relatives that ask too much or tend to deliberately push your buttons….all your buttons? This can create a toxic gathering, more so than the eggnog. It not only puts us on edge (sometimes over), it creates tension for everyone. Setting healthy boundaries is important for a peaceful season. Try the strategies below to avoid the drama.

1. Simply, and politely, walk away. This is such a commonly suggested solution that it seems almost clich√© to offer it up, but it works. Take a walk or a quick nap. After all, holiday meals are sleep-inducing. Don’t think of yourself as a “wimp” for doing so. It makes a statement just as loudly to refuse to engage in conflict, especially when you’re able to hold yourself together enough to keep from slamming the door on your way out. If you give in, they have accomplished their intended outcome.

2. Prepare ahead. Write down and rehearse some responses to comments or questions you might be faced with. A calm and clever comeback can divert the guilty party when they see they haven’t gotten the best of you. I always find myself thinking of what I could have said….don’t be like me.

3. Use humor to diffuse the tension. If that pushy aunt asks why you aren’t married yet, simply laugh and reply with something like “if only there were someone worthy.” Following the tip above and preparing some handy material will prove most beneficial.

4. Limit your time and exposure to unhealthy situations. If this means planning an early departure ahead of time, do it. Sure, it’s important to respect other relatives and tolerate a bit for the sake of holiday cheer, but it’s okay to set limits and you shouldn’t feel guilty about doing so. Put yourself and your feelings first and explain later to family who may not understand the situation. Cut out graciously and continue your evening at home. This is exercising healthy boundaries at its finest.

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5. Be proactive. Lightheartedly make a statement before anyone has the opportunity to harass you. Let everyone know you’re there to eat and enjoy quality family time, not to justify your life choices. Facing the issue head-on puts you in control of the outcome and your emotions.

Setting healthy boundaries is, unfortunately, an essential part of family gatherings. Determining which approach suits you best will depend largely upon your personality and how comfortable you are with conflict. Speaking with supportive family beforehand can decrease the dread you’re experiencing and chatting afterwards can be therapeutic. And, do yourself a favor, don’t rule out therapy.