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Boundary Setting during the Holidays, at Work, and Beyond

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Boundary Setting: For them, for us, for everyone’s mental health

ESPECIALLY during this time of year, the practice of setting healthy boundaries is crucial. Not only setting boundaries for yourself, but for your family and as an example for young ones watching, to create healthy habits and behaviors and ensure we have energy and excitement to last through the entire holiday season or generally that is sustainable.

Referencing our blog post on burn-out, if you become exhausted from your environment, whether it’s work, personal life, social life, or the time of year, if you take a break (i.e. vacation, self-care time, or spa day) and then go right back to the busyness you aren’t actually addressing or fixing the problem. So step one, circle back to that post and create a space and environment that doesn’t bring you to the edge of burn-out.

HOWEVER, during the holiday season that is not always possible. There are work parties, (even virtual can take a toll), friend get togethers, celebrations, kids concerts, cookie baking, shopping, and the list goes on and on. YES, many of the items are fun and wonderful, but after a week’s worth of obligations it can be a lot for even the most extroverted person.

We want to reassure you, saying no is okay. First, let’s give you some language to use when you decide to lay down those lines in the snow/sand and say no for the sake of your mental health and wellness.

  • “That is not going to work for me.”
  • “I’m preserving my energy; can we find a different time to make that work.”
  • Our personal favorite, “Let’s look at early January, when it’s less busy for all of us. That will be better.”
  • “Thank you, but I need to pass. I appreciate being asked. Have fun!”

Additionally, when you are at work, you’re at work, it is not required to text or call anyone back immediately. Schedule when you will respond, so you don’t have something ‘hanging’ over you.

Here is a line to use when you’re open to rescheduling.

  • “I’m working on something else right now, but I can meet with you at [insert the specific time of day that is open on your schedule] today [or day and time that does work] to discuss your question.”

Work boundaries got you down. Let’s chat about those as well. For those of us with bosses in the room (we see you!) Here is a great one to use with your manager or supervisor:

  • “I won’t be able to take on that project right now and complete it in the time frame the customer wants. We could extend the deadline or see if someone else can help work on this.”
  • “I’m committed at the moment and want to deliver on what I have already taken on, let’s discuss ways to find a solution or consider other options and timelines to meet the objective.”

Being an EAP, Employee Assistance is our focus, here is a list of ways to lay down those boundaries in an office or professional setting. Which to be clear, is just as important if not more so as our personal boundary setting exercise.

Setting healthy boundaries in the workplace:

  • Identify Your Priorities.
  • Learn to Say No. (With respect)
  • Take Time Off.
  • Look for Examples of Professional Boundaries.
  • Communicate Clearly.
  • Establish Boundaries With Coworkers. (Like shutting your door, wearing headphones or blocking your calendar and letting your colleagues know you need to focus)
  • Silence Notifications. (During meetings or those blocked work times)
  • Create Built-In Breaks. (Schedule them on the Gcal!)
  • Text with Tess for some back-up. All Northstar Clients and partners have access to this mental health support texting tool.

Again, we realize that this time of year is hard. We all want to do it all and mostly find it fun. If you start with your priority list, what is most important to accomplish, with your friends, family, loved ones or yourself, you will win out. (P.S. Those are your values, hold ‘em high!) Set time for those values and explaining to others that you are working to make time for all priority items, those that will accept and understand truly care. What a great way to start the new year -with fresh healthy habits! Even family members (or people at work) who nag at us about our priorities -now is the time to start creating space and build your ‘imaginary snow-fort’ to ensure you are filling your own cup with protective mental health activities that will serve you this holiday season and into the new year!

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