• Christmas schedules can be overwhelming, and old people-pleasing habits may slip in, especially around family

  • Coach Michelle Elman offers her 8 tips for healthy boundaries around Christmas commitments

1. Be selective about which events you attend

Christmas is a time when our schedules get more packed than we can manage and that’s a recipe for burnout. This year, only say yes to the events you want to go to, and no to the ones you think you should go to. 

You don’t need a reason to say no, just turn down the invite with a simple thanks for the invite and wish them well for the holiday season.

2. Family don’t get a different set of rules

Family time seems to be most pressured this time of year and as a result, fights are totally normal. No matter what the argument is about though, we always want to maintain our boundaries and be proud of our own behaviour. If a family member is speaking to you in a manner that you would not accept from anyone else, then set that boundary. 

3. Accept you won’t make everyone happy

Even people pleasers aren’t liked by everyone so entering into the holiday season trying to appease everyone is just going to doom you to failure. Someone might be annoyed you can’t come to their party, one family might be annoyed you are spending time with another family, someone might think they put more effort in your present than you did in theirs. Let people have their opinions. Their opinion of you is none of your business! And if you keep trying to make everyone happy, what you might find is the person who is most unhappy is you.

4. Do not go in debt buying presents

Getting a present for everyone in your life can be really stressful… and expensive! If you can’t afford it this year, then be honest. If someone cares about you and loves you, they won’t want you putting yourself in financial difficulty in order to get presents. They might even be relieved and be feeling the same financially as the cost of living crisis has impacted most people, it just isn’t discussed because money is still too much of a taboo subject.

5. Body shaming is never OK… but especially not at Christmas!

With lots of food around this time of year, suddenly you might notice an increase in the number of comments on your eating and weight. It is normal to gain weight in the winter months and you are allowed to enjoy your Christmas comforts without anyone commenting on your body. Set a firm boundary around body shaming and ask the person to stop commenting on your appearance. If they refuse to stop, then state that you will be exiting the conversation. Your body, your business and no one should have to justify their body.

6. Honour your own Out Of Office

Have you ever signed off for Christmas and then started everyday checking your emails anyway? What is the point in your Out of Office then? Learn how to switch off this festive season and actually create some work boundaries for yourself. You will burnout if you are never able to full switch off and create a clear distinction between your work life and your social life. 

Unless you are a surgeon, most emergencies are not actual emergencies and if you have the fortune of not having to work over Christmas, at least try to enjoy it!

7. If you wouldn’t see them any other time of the year, Christmas is not the time

It always seems like Christmas is the time of the year where people who you never see any other time of the year reach out for a catch up. Whether it’s you returning to your childhood home bringing old school friends back into your life or distant family relatives who only get in touch yearly, limit how many of these obligations you are committing to. 

An easy question to ask yourself is do you actually want to see them? And if you only see them yearly as an obligation, the likelihood is the answer is no.

8. Make some time for rest… and play!

Even if you have to block out days in your calendar to enjoy some quiet time, then do it! This time of year is meant to be a refresh so that we go into the new year with more energy, but that’s not possible if you have given all your time and energy to everyone else. It’s meant to be a holiday so if it isn’t feeling like one, make some time for your idea of fun! There’s a lot of conversation around the importance of rest but the importance of play should also be emphasised. If you’ve had enough sleep but still feel exhausted, it could be because you are lacking in the fun department!

Michelle Elman is a coach and the author of The Joy of Being Selfish

Further reading

How to say no politely and get your time back

7 ways to cope with Christmas after a break up 

Managing negative body image during the festive season

Setting boundaries will set you free: beating codependency

Why do I feel like a child again when I go home for Christmas?