Setting Healthy Boundaries During the Holiday Season

As a healthcare professional, your time off is precious. And we know that there is probably even more of a demand for your time, energy, travel, and finances during the holiday season, on top of what you experience at work. The hustle and bustle of the holidays can be exciting for some, while it can be stressful and daunting for others, especially as we are navigating through nearly two years of a global pandemic. That’s why it’s more important than ever to prioritize how to spend your time in a way that makes the most sense for your overall wellness.

Whether you’re having virtual or in-person celebrations with loved ones, there are a few ways to set healthy boundaries:

Set time limits
Even though Hallmark movies and social media platforms paint the holidays as happy-go-lucky and joyful, for many of us, that simply is not the case. Spending time with certain family members can feel uncomfortable or mentally taxing. Honor yourself by limiting the amount of time you spend there, either virtually or in person. Before the event, be clear about when you’ll be arriving and leaving.

Try to say “yes” because you want to, not because you feel guilty
As someone who dedicates much of their time to patients and coworkers in healthcare, you might find yourself feeling stretched thin. Overall exhaustion coupled with shopping, wrapping, cooking, entertaining and religious services could lead to high level of stress. As always, it’s important to be aware of commitment and energy levels. Try to remember that we all have a limited amount of time each day. When you say “yes” to one person, you may be saying “no” to something important to you, such as sleep or exercise. Remember to prioritize things that make you happy, too!  Say “yes” to some rest, relaxation and things that restore your energy levels.

Limit screen time
Social media is a great tool to help us stay connected and keep up with the latest news and trends. However, Instagram and other social media platforms typically only feature highlight reels. If you find yourself scrolling through stories or your feed and seeing nothing but perfection, take that with a grain of salt. People tend to only show what they want you to see – everyone has struggles and complexities in their life. Be cautious about endless scrolling, as this might cause a feeling of depression or hopelessness, especially if you are away from loved ones due to COVID or due to being far away from home.

Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” As a clinical professional, how do you remain present when you’re feeling overwhelmed? Mindfulness practices look different for everyone, so it’s important to try different techniques to understand what’s best for you. Some people turn to breathing exercises or meditation to ease anxiety; others seek outdoor activities to stay grounded. Mindful strategies can help us understand signals from our brains and bodies without distraction so we can stay calm.

As a health care professional, it’s essential that you honor the boundaries you’ve established for your home life as well, so you can feel refreshed and be at your best when you’re helping others.

Creating healthy boundaries doesn’t happen overnight; like any new skill, it takes time and practice to develop. And, if your boundaries get a little off track now and then, you can always refocus your attention.

We all deserve a healthy holiday season. Taking proactive steps to set boundaries with others, and with yourself, can make all the difference.

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