Set Boundaries to Reduce Holiday Stress
By Diane Petrella, MSW
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season places extra demands on our already busy lives. If you’re like most people you may feel pressure to take on more than you can comfortably handle. You may struggle with balancing your needs against increased family obligations. This added stress often results in over-eating and using food to calm anxiety. So, what can you do to prevent this from happening? Set your boundaries! Setting strong boundaries is one of the best ways for you to enjoy the stress-free holiday that you deserve.
Me – Boundary - You
Boundaries are the emotional borders we place between ourselves and other people. They reflect how we treat ourselves in relationship to others. For example, someone with strong boundaries can easily say “no” when they don’t want to do something; someone with weak boundaries may say “yes” when they really mean no because they fear displeasing others. Healthy boundaries support you in making strong, confident decisions; weak boundaries encourage people-pleasing.
Boundaries and Weight
How does setting boundaries relate to food and weight? When you disregard your own desires and make decisions based solely on pleasing others, you betray yourself. You literally become weighed down by denying your own needs. This lack of self-respect breeds frustration and discontent. It erodes your self-worth. You further betray yourself and your body when you then use food to emotionally soothe and numb yourself to that pain.
When you no longer disregard yourself by people-pleasing to others’ expectations, you will actually experience a sense of lightness in your mind and body. Gone is that feeling of deprivation often associated with restricted food choices. You no longer need food to fulfill you because you know how to fill yourself. It’s all connected!
For instance, my client, Helen, felt burdened for months with the notion of traveling this holiday season. She knew her parents wanted to see her children and felt obligated to drive the six hours to visit them. But with increased job responsibilities and limited vacation time, she yearned for the simplicity and comfort of staying home this year. But she couldn’t say no! The stress of doing something she didn’t want to do increased her tendency to over-eat. After working on this for several weeks she finally mustered the courage to reveal to her mother her true thoughts. She survived her mother’s disappointment - and felt relief. The added bonus was that after making that call she exercised for the first time in months! Once she no longer felt weighed down by the burden of denying herself, she became emotionally liberated to exercise and to manage her food intake.
It wasn’t merely staying home this holiday that helped Helen get back on track. It was finding the confidence to be true to herself.
If you equate setting strong boundaries with selfishness, it may be hard for you to take good care of yourself. Setting healthy boundaries doesn’t give you permission to be unkind or to devalue the needs of others. It’s about being self-respectful, honoring your desires and confidently conveying what you want.
Here are four tips for authentic holiday cheer and improved self-confidence:
- Say “yes” when you really mean yes.
- Say “no” when you really mean no.
- Say, “I’m not sure about that – but I’ll get back to you,” when you’re undecided.
- Say “I apologize if this is disruptive for you, but after thinking about__________ I realize that that doesn’t really work for me, so I won’t be able to________ ” if you’ve changed your mind about something (which you have the right to do!).
What boundaries will you set this holiday season?
Diane Petrella, MSW is a psychotherapist and life coach. She offers her clients a spiritual approach to weight loss and helps them develop a loving, respectful relationship with their bodies. Receive a free copy of Diane’s Seven Easy & Effortless Weight Loss Secrets by signing up for her monthly e-newsletter, Living Lightly, for spiritual insights and tips to release weight with confidence and love. To contact Diane directly visit her website at www.dianepetrella.com