Establishing boundaries is a difficult action for many people to do. Figuring out what bothers you is one thing but to assert yourself and ensure people respect the boundaries you set is another. A line exists between politely pointing out things that make you uncomfortable and being rude, though, but where is it?

This holds even more true for those with mental illnesses. Those who do not struggle with a daily fight against their mind have a difficult time understanding the toll it takes. Learning to establish healthy boundaries is important for anyone with a mental illness. There is only so much you can accomplish, and putting your mental health first is the most important priority you can make.

The holidays tend to be an especially challenging time for those living with mental illnesses. The seemingly endless invitations to gatherings and get-togethers can be overwhelming. Actually attending those events and interacting with others can be even more difficult.

By learning to establish healthy boundaries during the holiday season, you can get through them with minimal impact. How can you establish those boundaries, though? The following suggestions may help you figure out where to start.

1. Respect Your Alone Time

Taking time for yourself is important, especially during the busy holiday season. It can seem like there is always something to do or someplace to be. Running ragged in multiple directions will surely wear you out during this busy time of year. Be sure to take regular alone times to recharge. Leave time to spend on self-care and activities you enjoy doing by yourself. Taking a moment to yourself is not rude; quiet time away from others allows you to be more present at social events.

2. Identify Triggering Situations and Avoid Them

You and your mental health come first. The most important thing you can do when establishing boundaries is deciphering which situations trigger your mental illness symptoms. If you place yourself in a position that will activate those triggers, you may find yourself in an uncomfortable or even intolerable situation. Create boundaries with your triggers at the forefront of your mind. Nothing can protect you from triggers quite as well as your good planning can.

3. Write Down a Pros and Cons List for Events

Each time you receive an invitation to attend an event, weigh out the pros and cons of going. This may seem like an obvious idea but the physical act of writing a list will help you process your priorities externally. It’s easy to build up situations in your head. When writing your list, though, you may find that the pros list isn’t as long as you thought it would be. When the pros don’t outweigh the cons, avoid going to that get-together. You can propose an alternative gathering in the future in a more comfortable environment.

4. Don’t Try to Fix Situations or People

The holiday season tends to bring out the more difficult sides in people. Trying to fix situations or change yourself to mend the situation may be a default reaction for you. However, this is one of the worst things you can possibly do when living with a mental illness. Putting the well-being of others ahead of your own will lead to an unmanageable (and overwhelming) situation. When you take care of yourself and make sure you are in a good place mentally, you can better help others. Always put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others with theirs.

5. Leave When You Need To

Do not feel obligated to stay for the entire event. You are more than entitled to go for an hour or two and then leave when you feel you’ve had enough. If the situation warrants it and you feel the need to do so, explain to the hosts why you are leaving early. But remember you do not owe anyone an explanation. If you need to leave on short notice, know that it is OK to do so. Your mental health is worth it.

6. Maintain the Boundaries You Set

Stick to your boundaries once you set them. You deserve to be respected not only by those around you but by yourself. You are worth the time and effort it takes to maintain the boundaries you establish. Let others around you know about your boundaries so they can do their best to respect them, too.

Take care of yourself this holiday season. With healthy boundaries, you can make it through the last few months of the year and into the New Year successfully. If you’re just beginning your sobriety journey, or are still struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, help is closer than you think. Call The Recovery Village to talk with someone who knows the weight of addiction and can guide you toward the kind of care that meets your needs.