Nervous System Support For Boundaries and Holidays

“It’s a new dawn

It’s a new day

It’s a new life”

Never have these words rang truer than the 2021 holiday season. In this co-COVID era, many of us find ourselves navigating, yes, unprecedented family dynamics—on top of all the usual holiday season BS. If you find yourselves struggling to name and hold your boundaries this holiday season, keep reading for TK things to support you through these liminal times.

You aren’t alone

Boundaries are hard in the best of times, never mind with the background of a pandemic and when divisions seem higher (or at least more public) than ever. 

When I finally asked my friend and my coven if they were feeling it too, the answer was a resounding YES. What a relief!

They might get mad

My relationship with boundaries changed when I accepted one hard truth, shared by my teacher Jane Clapp: people don’t like boundaries. Especially if they struggle with boundaries for themselves. In fact, it’s normal for others to respond with anger, shame, and blame. 

Knowing to expect this allowed me to find acceptance for this unfortunate reality and, from there, take action to support myself. It gave me space to troubleshoot versus being all in my feels and, often, breaking my boundaries.

You don’t need to explain your boundaries

Sometime in March or April of 2020, a new friend said, “Kait you don’t have to share anything you’re not comfortable with.” It was one of those offhanded comments that cracked me wide open. I began noticing how I was constantly overexplaining and sharing my reasons why I did something, from boundaries to breakfast.

Part of this, for sure, is my being a Questioner—always wanting to know the why of something in order to really engage with it. But there’s so much more here too. People pleasing, the fawn response, shame over letting people down, societal messaging, attachment style, etc. 

To be clear: there’s no hard and fast rule here. The invitation is to bring more awareness and to explain with intention, rather than out of habit or expectation.

Setting a boundary can feel like a lot in your body

So much of mindfulness and meditation focuses on releasing and letting go. That’s important in a world when we’re all slogged down with so much stress.

However, things like tension and activation aren’t inherently bad—they actually keep our bodies upright, can help motivate us, and offer opportunities to explore our edges and expand our capacity to be with and hold these things.

Taking time to lean into my strength—especially in my back body—before a hard conversation allows me to stay in integrity around boundaries. It also helps me feel more grounded, more capable, stronger, and more confident. 

Take time to make your list—and revisit it regularly with the receipt of new information

If the last two years have taught us anything it’s to stay flexible (well…to try). It’s taxing, certainly. However, finding ways to reduce decision fatigue is a powerful step you can take to make it easier to say yes or no without as much angst or effort.

I’ve found so much ease in a powerful and practical suggestion shared during a Sex Down South panel with Dirty Lola, Reid Mihalko, and Hema Latha.  

Take time on your own to reflect on what you are and aren’t comfortable with. This could be related to COVID and its precautions, or not. What conditions need to be met in order for something to be a yes? What’s an immediate no? What will change a maybe to a yes? 

As time passes, new information comes in, and you grow and shift, this list might change. Regardless, when a request comes in, you already know what your answer will be or what questions to ask to make the best decision for you.

It’s hard to turn things down (or be turned down) and can come with grief

FOMO is real. So is saying no to family holidays, friends’ weddings and baby showers, and other important events. Honestly, it sucks. A lot. So do things like competing needs, mismatched expectations, and opposing boundaries.

Doing your best to be with those feelings and practices like loving-kindness meditation can be powerful antidotes to the very normal (and expected) feelings of resentment, anger, loneliness, betrayal, and more that may arise as you face these feelings. 

Have folx on your side to cheerlead 

I’m lucky to be mostly surrounded by folx who get and love boundaries. It doesn’t mean we never have conflict, but rather our interactions are created with boundaries in mind, from pre-share check-ins—“Hey do you have the capacity for x?”—to gratitude when boundaries are named—“Thank you for honoring your boundaries.”

These same folx also make great cheerleaders when you set a boundary with someone else.

Lean into shared reality

Everyone and everywhere is at such a different point when it comes to COVID right now. I’ve found it endlessly supportive to have folx whose risk tolerance is more similar to mine. With them, I’m able to really share the hardships and commiserate, together. Shared reality is a powerful form of support.

Take care of yourself this winter

Whether you’re bingeing holiday romcoms, putting eggnog in your coffee every day, going for long walks, baking nonstop, seeing family and friends, all of the above, a combo of the above, or none of the above: boundaries are there to allow you to prioritize yourself and your needs. 

Your boundaries matter

In writing about making decisions for the holiday, epidemiologist Katelyn Jetelina of Your Local Epidemiologist writes:

“We also know that infectious diseases violate the assumption of independence…The decisions you make can impact the health of your kids, your grandparents, and the community around you.”

Your boundaries matter for so much more than yourself. 

You’ve got this.

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