Four Ways to Enforce Healthy Boundaries this Holiday Season

by Lydia Johnson, M.S. (Certified Holistic Career Coach)

The holiday season is jam-packed with fabulous food, family time, and celebrations. Unfortunately, these months are often also packed with unique challenges– the urgent emails from your boss during your PTO, the cringeworthy remarks from that one relative, and perhaps your signature struggles that are so often triggered by family dynamics and extra stress.

If you’re the type who is grateful for personal growth, well, congratulations, my friend– Tis the season for practicing healthy boundaries! Let’s dive into some practical strategies for creating and enforcing real-life healthy boundaries this season.

Understanding What Healthy Boundaries Are (and Aren’t):

Boundaries are commitments you make with yourself, outlining specific actions you will (or won’t) take in response to a situation.

Don’t make Jonah Hill’s (alleged) text mistakes– Boundaries are all about YOU and YOUR behavior, not about attempting to control others’ behaviors.

A simple formula for a boundary would go something like this:

If [situation happens], I will/won’t [action].

For example:

  • If my family asks me to cook more dishes for Thanksgiving, I will say no and suggest buying the item instead.
  • I will not reply to emails that I receive during PTO. I will respond to any texts from my boss because she will only text me in critical and urgent situations.

This is a great start, but there are four ways we can do even better.

Hack 1: Acknowledge the Struggle with Setting Boundaries

Boundaries are only needed for tricky situations, so take a minute for some self-compassion.

You’re doing a hard thing.

For instance, “I feel pressured to reply to my boss’s emails on PTO because I’m worried I won’t get a promotion if I don’t. That’s tough, especially because I care about my career and providing for my family. It’s common to feel this way, and it’s OK that it’s hard.”

Hack 2: Do a Reality Check

Some of us suffer from being too creative when imagining the worst-case outcome (me!). Take a minute to do some fact-checking about what you believe to be true. Do you have evidence to support this?

This serves as both a reality check and a way to bring your fears into the light, letting you decide which beliefs to keep and which to let go.

Example: “I worry I won’t get a promotion if I don’t respond to emails on PTO.”

Reframe: “Responding to emails 24/7, including on my time off, is not a part of my job description. In fact, my boss does encourage me to disconnect during my time off, and my coworker recently got promoted even though she took a week-long vacation without checking her emails.”

In this situation, you also have an opportunity to address your fears proactively. You could have a conversation with your boss where you express your concerns and ask for advice on handling emails on PTO, giving you the peace of mind you needed to disconnect. You could also ask for support in your plan, for example, requesting that they contact you via cell for urgent situations because you plan to pause your inbox.

Hack 3: Plan for Challenges & Leverage Pre-Coping

Make your boundaries anti-fragile by building coping mechanisms for challenges you may face. We want bouncy ball boundaries, not glass balls, OK?

Make a list of likely challenges and then make an if-then action plan for each challenge. Sometimes, this is called “pre-coping,” where you forecast challenging situations and decide how you’ll cope with them.

Example: What if I keep getting email notifications when I’m off, which makes it hard for me to detach from work mentally?

Plan: I will delete Slack and email from my phone for the week. I will provide my boss with my cell phone number in the case of an actual emergency.

Hack 4: Remind yourself of your big why behind your boundaries

Enforcing healthy boundaries can feel like an uphill battle– So revisit your motivation to inspire you to stick with it when the going gets tough.

Ask yourself: What makes this so important to me? Why is this a worthwhile commitment?

Write your answer somewhere to reference it when you need a pep talk. I often translate my big why into a short phrase or mantra I can remember in the moment.

For instance: “I’m committing to mentally detaching from work this week because this week is all about family. I’m intentionally prioritizing being present with my family over being a perfect employee this week. I’ll remind myself: “This week is all about family,” when I’m tempted to work.

I hope your holidays are full of only happy struggles (like buckling your jeans after eating Thanksgiving) and very few stressful struggles… but when you do face those challenges, I hope these tips can help you navigate them more smoothly.

If you have more tips that work for you, let me know in the comments!


Hi, I’m Lydia Johnson, MS!

I’m a dual-certified career coach who specalizes in helping ultra-busy professionals designa fulfilling, burnout-free career that leaves space for the rest of their life.

If you’re looking ahead into 2024 dreading your job, let’s chat. You spend WAY to much time at work for it to be something that leaves you drained and unfulfilled.

Design Your Thriving Career

?Hi, I'm Lydia Johnson, MS

?Hi, I'm Lydia Johnson, MS

Holistic Career Coach & Founder of ThriveCulture Coaching

I’m a dual-certified career coach and Industrial-Organizational Psychology consultant on a mission to banish Sunday Scaries and help you reclaim your life from work stress. I specialize in helping ultra-busy people design a fulfilling and burnout-free career that leaves more space for the rest of your life. Whether you need to overhaul everything, find a new job, or make your current role work better for you, I’m here to help.

You can learn more about my holistic and evidence-based approach on my website or jump on the phone for a FREE 20-minute consult call to learn more about how career coaching can help you finally enjoy a fulfilling, burnout-free career.


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