Establishing boundaries is difficult for many people. Figuring out what bothers you is one thing, but asserting yourself and ensuring people respect the limits you set is another. A line exists between politely pointing out what makes you uncomfortable and being rude. But where is that line?

This holds especially true for people with mental health disorders. Learning to establish healthy boundaries is vital for anyone with a mental health condition. 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 a challenging time for those living with mental health conditions. The seemingly endless invitations to gatherings and get-togethers can be overwhelming. Attending those events and interacting with others can be even more difficult.

By learning to establish healthy boundaries during the holiday season, you can make time for what’s important while maintaining your overall health. You can build and maintain these boundaries by understanding your needs, practicing specific actions and communicating with those around you.

1. Respect Your Alone Time

Taking time for yourself, especially during the busy holiday season, can help you manage your overall health. 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 time to recharge. Leave time for 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. One of the most important things you can do when establishing boundaries is deciphering which situations trigger your mental health symptoms. If you find yourself in a position that will activate those triggers, you may find yourself in an uncomfortable or even intolerable situation. Good planning can protect you from triggers and help maintain your well-being.

3. Write Down a Pros and Cons List for Events

Each time you receive an invitation to attend an event, weigh 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 can bring out the more difficult sides of people. Trying to fix situations or change yourself to mend the situation may be a default reaction for you. Putting the well-being of others ahead of your own can 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. 

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 host why you are leaving early. But remember, you do not owe anyone an explanation. It is OK If you need to leave on short notice. 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 and hopefully enjoy the last few months of the year to start the New Year well.

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