Give Me Healthy Boundaries for the Holidays

By Mad Hatter Wellness

“The holidays are hard.” 

That’s a recurrent refrain this time of year. One very common reason is that we have relationships in our lives that can get pretty stressful over the holiday season. There is pressure to give the perfect gift and for celebrations to be just so. Some of us spend time with people we hardly ever see at the holidays, which can cause anxiety or discomfort. Hurtful things are said by family members. The holidays can also bring up feelings of grief and sadness about people we’ve lost and relationships that have ended. It seems that “the most wonderful time of the year” can be quite draining and demoralizing.

With all of this in mind, we’ve put together some ideas for setting healthy boundaries for you during this season.

Healthy Boundaries during the Holidays:

  • Spend some time thinking through your boundaries. What are healthy boundaries you need for your relationships? You could write down a list of boundaries that you can refer back to. You may want to write a specific list for a certain family gathering or holiday party. If it feels right to you, communicate the boundaries you write down with the people they involve. This could be in person or over the phone. You could simply send a text, such as: “I would like to leave the gathering by 5 pm to have some rest afterwards.”
  • Set a boundary about talking about other people’s bodies. One to consider: don’t talk about other people’s bodies. Oftentimes, people comment about weight loss or gain or other body-related changes. Since we don’t know what is causing these changes, and talking about these things can be hurtful and harmful, it is best to keep our comments about bodies to ourselves. Likewise, you can ask people in your life not to comment about your body or your family members’ bodies. 
  • Consider boundaries around identity, including gender and sexual orientation. You may interact with a relative who does not use your pronouns correctly or who isn’t safe to be out to. Think through what your boundaries are in these areas. Who are the people you can trust to have your back? Who do you want to communicate with in terms of what your boundaries are?
  • Do you have boundaries that are related to disability, mental illness and/or physical illness? It might be helpful to be clear with family and friends about your health (if it feels safe to do so) and what they can do to support you.
  • Be clear about touch. Your body belongs to you. You don’t have to hug everyone if you don’t want to. Or, if you love to hug, just ask others first. Everyone has a right to communicate what kind of touch is ok for them, and this includes among family members and close friends. Support the people in your life by honoring their touch preferences.
  • Consider communicating limits on gifts and spending on gifts. You may have someone in your life who loves buying expensive gifts, or you may be that someone. Communicate with your people if you have boundaries for spending during the holidays.
  • Make an exit plan. Sometimes we get guilted into staying with family longer than is healthy for us. It’s ok to let them know when you plan to leave and to stick to that schedule.
  • Brainstorm phrases to shift the conversation if someone is talking about something you don’t feel comfortable discussing. That relative who always asks if you are going to have kids, for example, may need a distraction to move on. You can also simply say that you don’t feel comfortable talking about something, and move away.
  • Take breaks for deep breaths and movement. Deep breathing and movement that your body can do and enjoy will help manage stress. Deep breathing activates the vagus nerve that affects mood, digestion and heart rate. 
  • Keep an open mind, while also listening to your heart. One of your relatives may also be learning about boundaries and trying to set them. People grow and change. You can assume the best (if safe to do so), and give people the chance to surprise you in a good way. Of course, if things are toxic and unhealthy, you can also recognize that and limit your interactions with that person.

Setting boundaries takes practice, and not everyone will receive what you have to say or do with kindness. However, communicating your boundaries is worth it to protect your peace. Give yourself permission to do what will keep you safe and healthy this holiday season.

We wish you moments of real joy and plenty of rest!

Do you have other ideas for setting healthy boundaries? We’d love to hear about them in the comments, or email us at

Additional resources:

Self Care Video on the Mad Hatter Wellness YouTube Channel

Setting Healthy Boundaries Video from The Prevention Connection

Holiday Boundaries TikTok from Maverique Therapeutic Services

Boundaries Flip Books These flip books create sentences for discussion on healthy and unhealthy behaviors and touch. This activity helps people explore personal boundaries and appropriate behavior.

Boundaries Flip Books for Kids These flip books create sentences for kids to have discussions about healthy and unhealthy behaviors and touch. This activity helps children explore personal boundaries and appropriate behavior.

Relationships, Boundaries, Safety and Sexuality Course Online course with information on how to be in safe and healthy relationships with friends, family and/or romantic partners.

Keeping Relationships Healthy Kit – Mad Hatter Wellness These tools were designed especially to help parents and caregivers start conversations about healthy relationships, boundaries and sexuality. Includes: Family Discussion Guide, Boundaries Flip Book, Empower Me Card Deck

Family/Caregiver Kit + Support Call – Mad Hatter Wellness Ideal for caregivers, families and small groups to work on healthy relationships, boundaries, and public and private places and behaviors. Includes: Family Discussion Guide, Boundaries Flip Book, Empower Me Card Deck, Additional support via a zoom or audio call for a caregiver consultation

Open Conversations Coloring Book This coloring book is designed to teach kids of all abilities about bodies, boundaries, consent, safety and healthy relationships.

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Mad Hatter Wellness YouTube channel