With Christmas approaching I wanted to share something with you to help you thrive through the festivities and not feel frantic and frazzled.
Christmas is meant to be a fun and loving time. But for many of us the reality is that we feel overwhelmed and over-stretched. It can not only leave us feeling drained, but also can steal the joy from what should be a joyous time.
If we’re already feeling at our limit as a working mum, the additional load of Christmas shopping, wrapping, Christmas card writing and social commitments can tip us into burnout.
If you want to feel festive rather than frazzled and avoid the risk of Christmas burnout then healthy boundaries are the way forward.
Boundaries, by definition, are anything that mark a limit. And healthy boundaries are about consciously recognising our limits (be they emotional, physical or psychological) and communicating them confidently and with compassion.
Drawing our boundaries is vital at this time of year. Without them we can be left feeling exhausted, resentful and angry – not a recipe for a happy Christmas!
But knowing our boundaries, honouring them and communicating them isn’t something that most of us are good at.
Frankly most women in my experience tend to be people pleasers and auto-accommodate. This tendency is actually part of our evolutionary hardwiring for survival. Being liked kept us safe as we were more likely to be part of the tribe. And there’s safety in numbers. So women are more likely to automatically accommodate the needs of others before our own. The good news is that boundaries are the antidote to this.
But boundary setting is a distinct skill set that’s not taught in school. So here’s are some tips to help:
1.Boundaries are individual
What is a boundary for me, may not be for you. Our boundaries are influenced by our personality, preferences, beliefs, values, past experiences, upbringing and many more things. So this unique cocktail makes our boundaries unique to us. So don’t judge yourself if you have a different boundary to those around you.
2. Boundaries live in our body not our head
If we over think our boundaries we can often lose touch with them. Perhaps rationalising them away or allowing our inner critic to tell us that we’re being weak or difficult.
The best way to recognise if we’re hitting a personal boundary (or if it’s been overstepped) is with our body. Notice if your body feels heavy or light. Or relaxed or stressed. Do you have tightness in your chest or stomach? Does your heart rate change when someone oversteps your boundary?
Our emotions will also give us valuable data. If you notice yourself feeling resentful, bitter, angry, anxious or overwhelmed there’s a good chance that you need to establish (or re-establish) your boundaries.
3. Boundaries belong to you
If we find ourselves in a place where we haven’t got healthy boundaries – perhaps with a particular person or situation – it’s easy to slip in to feeling a victim. Perhaps wishing that other people would understand that they’ve overstepped our boundaries. But it’s not their responsibility to recognise our boundaries. It’s our responsibility to know them and communicate them.
4. Boundaries are the foundation for kindness – if done with grace
What can stop us from enforcing our boundaries is an unhelpful belief that we’re somehow being selfish or difficult. But actually when we enforce our boundaries with integrity and grace they are the foundation for kindness. When we protect our own needs we are better able to support others with theirs. Boundaries actually keep our relationships healthy and happy.
5. Boundaries build self-esteem
When we let our boundaries be crossed it can chip away at our self esteem. Our integrity gets damaged and the unconscious impact is we tell ourselves that our needs aren’t important. By assertively communicating and enforcing our boundaries our self-esteem flourishes. But often it can be a chicken and egg situation. It can be hard to be assertive if our self-esteem doesn’t feel strong. So healthy boundaries require a degree of assertiveness and also a degree of stepping out of our comfort zone.
Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others
Boundaries are saying no even if it feels uncomfortable. And the good news is that you don’t have to explain your no.
It’s also about owning our boundary with “I” statements.
E.g. I feel………………..when……… What I need is……………
E.g. I feel overwhelmed when we have too many social commitments over Christmas. What I need is some downtime over the holidays so that I can enjoy the time with my children, so we won’t be able to visit you this year.
So if you feel like your boundaries might need some attention here are four steps to beautiful boundaries to avoid Christmas burnout:
1. Take an inventory
Grab a pen and piece of paper. Make a list of all the commitments, events and activities you have over the Christmas period. Try and capture everything in your mind and on your plate.
Review this list literally line-by-line and tune into your body. What do you notice happens for each item? Does your body feel heavy or light? Do you notice any tension in your body? What does this information tell you about your boundaries?
Go back through your list and edit it based on this review. Do you need to delete this item – do you need to say no when you’ve perhaps said yes? Do you need to delegate this item? If so – who can you delegate it to?
The next step is deciding who you need to talk to to establish or reclaim your boundaries. Maybe it’s a discussion with your partner to let them know how you’re feeling and the support you need from them to help you to communicate and enforce your boundaries. Maybe it’s a work colleague or a family member. Get clear on who you need to speak with and how you’re going to communicate your boundary with assertiveness and grace.
I hope this helps you move from a frazzled and frantic festive season to a more fulfilled one.
We’re genuine, like-minded women, just like you!
We’re a community, reinventing how we combine work and motherhood without sacrificing our sanity and wellbeing.