Clients tell me all the time, “I hate the holidays”. There are many stressors as people are attending family gatherings and trying to meet everyone’s expectations for the season. One way to decrease holiday stress is to set firm emotional boundaries.

Being with family can often trigger old wounds, cause you to fall back into past roles from growing up, and end up with hurt feelings or fights. Because of this, it is key to set emotional boundaries. This is when you protect yourself emotionally from a person who isn’t safe for you. This could be someone who is overly critical and judgmental, creates emotional tension, or someone who triggers emotional pain or stress.

When setting emotional boundaries, you are surrounding yourself with an invisible shield of protection from the unsafe person. This includes lowering your expectations. You should expect them to be how they have “always been” and do what they have “always done”. If you expect it, it won’t hurt as bad. You have predicted the pain- so it has less of an impact.

Lowering your expectations for the unsafe person to be somehow different this time will also help your shield to be stronger. This is a process of grieving that relationships may never be what you want them to.

If you set your hopes too high that they won’t do what they always have done, then you are sure to be disappointed. It is common to say to yourself “Of course they did ____. That is what they do” when you have good emotional boundaries.

So protect yourself this holiday season by decreasing your stress with emotional boundaries. What are some ways you do this with loved ones during the holidays?