As the pandemic continues and political tensions remain high, you may be less than excited to see certain friends and family members at holiday gatherings this season. Unfortunately, you cannot always avoid those who thrive on holiday drama, especially if your family is eager to host a large gathering after a long time apart. However, you can set boundaries that will let you reduce your stress and care for your mental health this season. Here’s a look at some helpful tactics for maintaining boundaries when you get together with loved ones.

Keep your expectations realistic.

It can be helpful to have discussions with friends and family ahead of time about avoiding certain conversation topics or setting limits on gift giving. However, know that everyone won’t always follow directions. Maintaining realistic expectations about how loved ones will behave will help you mentally prepare for your next gathering.

Have an exit strategy.

If you’re visiting family out of town, you may feel trapped in place, so you might consider booking a hotel room instead of staying with relatives. That way, you’ll have some breathing room where you can get a break and some alone time. Even at a dinner or holiday party, it’s useful to have an exit strategy when you need a moment to decompress—take a walk around the neighborhood or simply leave the room if your uncle just won’t stop talking about politics or your cousin won’t stop asking when you’re finally going to have kids. You might also establish an exit time to leave the party and stick to that.

Don’t rely on alcohol.

In times of stress, alcohol may seem like a way to get quick relief, but it most often only leads to trouble. Alcohol can heighten your stress and leave you with regrets later. Stick with a strategy of moderation to avoid piling on your stress.

Utilize redirection.

Family gatherings can go from peaceful to chaotic in a matter of moments, often due to the wrong subject being brought up in conversation. When you can, use redirection to stick to topics that won’t strike up controversy. It may also be helpful to have some distractions available, like board games or a karaoke machine to keep everyone having fun.

Another helpful strategy for setting healthy boundaries is to build a network of support. Seeing a therapist can lay the foundation for your mental health support system. Access a therapist through a virtual appointment within as little as 24 hours with MeMD.


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