The holidays can be physically, emotionally, and financially exhausting. So why do we agree, year after year, to fly to Aunt Milly’s house to sleep on her cat-pee scented sofa in the basement (lol) just to deal with the same frustrations? Juggling all of this while maintaining your sanity can be rough. Add in kids, husbands, exes, crazy uncles, and new baby mommas, and it’s even less manageable. But how do we let crazy Aunt Milly or our bitchy sister Karen know that we don’t want to stay at their houses and we’d prefer to book a hotel without hurting anyone’s feelings? Well, I’m here to help with a few practical suggestions for setting holiday boundaries.
Some people love the holidays while others absolutely hate them. I’m somewhat in between honestly. Not having a family to spend them with makes me somewhat indifferent, however I’ve learned that my alone time during the holidays is priceless. Not to mention I can take days off from the office and head to someplace warm, which I usually did BC (before COVID-19). The holidays have a way of bringing up some pretty messy shit between family members — or so I’ve been hearing from friends and coworkers for the last month, (the inspiration for this blog) lol. With that said, I decided to write a post about setting healthy boundaries. You may ask yourself, “How does she know since she just said she doesn’t have family to spend them with?” My answer, “It’s all relative to setting boundaries and parameters in your normal life.”
You probably have been feeling a lot of pressure to get the perfect gift, make your travel plans, take the time off work, etc. Listen, you don’t have to do any of this. You don’t actually have to go outside your comfort zone (especially during COVID) and travel to anyone’s home if you don’t want to. This year has been uniquely hard, and you shouldn’t have to take on the emotional health of others at your own expense. If you want to go to Mexico, or stay home and sleep, Netflix all day in bed, or go out to a bar and order Postmates at 4am, then GO FOR IT!
Chances are, like a big percentage of the world, you’ll probably end up travelling home this year to suck it up, again. Here are some things I’ve come up with to help you suck it up a little less and enjoy yourself a little more this holiday season.
-It’s important to make a plan in preparation for your arrival to Aunt Milly’s couch (i.e. pack the Febreze). Let the holiday host, and anyone else necessary, know your plans in advance. “I’ll be arriving at this time and I will leave at this time”. Communicate if you have plans to stay in a hotel or will be seeing other friends while in town, and on what days. Make it very clear what your plans are. If you are staying at a family member’s house and think you may want to get out of the house for a minute, check ahead to make sure ride shares are available in the area.
If you’re planning somewhat of an extended stay, maybe send ahead some things you’ll want to have. When I used to visit my friend (who I hope isn’t reading this), I would send my own sheets and blankets ahead because I couldn’t stand hers, and it made a big difference in my mood.
If you have kids it will be even more important to break it to the family ahead of time if you plan on skipping certain things. Sometimes you need to create your own traditions or see others in town, and that is absolutely fine. Just smooth the road ahead of time and prepare them for what you’ll be doing and not doing, it makes things just easier. We don’t need Aunt Milly making extra green bean casserole expecting you to be at the pre-New Year’s dinner if you aren’t planning to attend. Save her the trouble!
The time it will take you to travel to your holiday destination is a great time to reflect on some of your recurring holiday triggers and how you should or shouldn’t react when those triggers occur. If you know that your ex’s new girlfriend is coming, try to think about how you’re going to keep calm or keep distance without coming off as rude. This is also a time to remember that you aren’t the same person you were growing up and family dynamics change over time. It’s okay to not be okay with the way things are now, just because you always used to put up with them before. While you can’t change or control other people, you can control your reaction to their behaviors. You are in control of making this the best holiday for YOU.
When you arrive, depending on how long you have traveled, you’ll most likely feel a heightened sense of anxiety. This is totally normal. If you’re traveling with kids, multiply that feeling by about twenty. You’ve already reflected on your triggers and how to deal with them, so now is the time to remember your game plan. Maybe your sister really annoys you, or your family members’ house isn’t as clean as yours. Just let it go and breathe. Get settled in and get ready mentally. The most important thing about the holidays is actually being together, so remember that you can’t choose your family and find balance in accepting the truth of who they are and loving them for them. A crucial piece of advice I can give from experience is don’t bring up the past. It won’t get you anywhere and will definitely stir up drama, so save that for another time. Also give yourself a break during your stay. If you need to go nap in your old bedroom and reminisce, then do so. Sometimes a trip down memory lane is the best diversion ever.
In a nutshell, make this holiday as great as it can be. Control the things you can and let go of the things you can’t, and remember “NO” is a complete sentence. Plan ahead and communicate those boundaries!
Here are some fun holiday photos from my childhood. Enjoy my little trip down memory lane <3