The pressure is on! T minus 3 days until Christmas. This holiday season I have been thinking a lot about healthy boundaries. As a therapist, I am often working with clients on recognizing unhealthy boundaries and learning the skills they need to effectively create boundaries that lead to healthy relationships and happy lives. Despite this cognitive awareness, I still find myself in unhealthy patterns and pulled easily into situations that do not serve my best interest. The holiday season can be especially triggering.
I recently read an article posted on social media that was describing the urge to “hibernate” in the winter. (Side note: I wish I could find the original post to credit, but it has been taken down.) I am not sure about you, but I find myself wanting to stay inside more, snuggle up with a blanket, and read a good book. Sounds like a plan, right?! The article pointed out that most other animals hibernate in the winter. If you think about our ancestors, they too “hunkered down for the winter”. They prepared most of the year by growing foods, canning fruits, preserving vegetables, and making a bounty of nourishment that could be enjoyed without leaving the safety of home. Life slowed down in the winter, because it was necessary for survival. Our bodies may still have that instinctual drive to hibernate and care for our basic needs.
This time of year, I find myself in constant opposition to rest and draw inward or to do “all the things”. There are parties with friends, holiday school performances, teacher’s gifts to buy, baking to do, gifts to buy, gifts to wrap, cookie exchanges, family gatherings, and holiday festivities that we dare not miss. Or, could we?!
We could choose to not to do “all the things” and chose to put ourselves first. What makes this choice so hard? It could be fear of offending others. It could be fear of regret or missing out. It could be self-imposed expectations that we use to define ourselves. It could be feelings of unworthiness. It could be any number of falsehoods we tell ourselves that keep us away from the truth. And, the truth is we are all worthy of holding space for ourselves. We all have the right to be here with honest personal emotions and to act in a way that is loving and care-taking. The truth is that when we put the needs of others ahead of our own, we set up the unstable ground of resentment, anger, and disconnection. Setting boundaries may not be easy, but it is a step towards acknowledging you are worth more than “all the things”.
As you go into the holidays, ask yourself, “what brings me joy?” Evaluate the underlying reasons for the decisions you are making. Make choices that serve your personal well-being. Notice when you are attuning to the needs of others and make the active decision to tune into your own needs. Say “no” when the action is not aligned with your needs, so that you can fully say “yes” with your whole heart when the action is aligned. Healthy boundaries will bring you greater joy and strengthen the connection of your relationships.
Tools and Yogic Philosophy for Setting Healthy Boundaries:
We set healthy boundaries physically and emotionally. This may be physical space, including personal body space when talking to others or where you will stay over the holidays. This may also include nutritional and exercise needs, including being mindful of the types of food and drinks that make you feel healthy and activities that continue to give you energy. To set emotional boundaries, be mindful of the ways you take on family member’s emotions, get drawn into arguments, or pulled into the old family drama. Decide what boundaries serve your well-being, set them, and do the hard work of staying in your truth despite the reactions of others. The last step is truly let go and let others make the decision to respect your boundaries. We can not control others or make them attend to our wants and needs. Setting boundaries is an action of decisiveness, as well as surrender.
Setting healthy boundaries comes from a clear sense of self. This is a 3rd chakra characteristic. Manipura or the solar plexus is our 3rd chakra. The 3rd chakra is governed by the element of fire. When our 3rd chakra is in balance, we feel secure, we are confident, and have a clear sense of who we are and where we are going. The 3rd chakra right is “to act”. So, in balance we know what we want, and we feel empowered to make the decision. To balance Manipura chakra, try this simple pranayama with mantra.
The Therapist Blog
Musings from the other side of the couch