Set personal boundaries before sitting down for Thanksgiving turkey

Setting boundaries to avoid stress, conflict, and weight gain during the holidays. Photo: Twentieth Century Fox 2005

WASHINGTON, November 20, 2012 — A Thanksgiving trio: Personal boundaries, weight loss, and avoiding conflict.  Setting boundaries is simple to learn and can help you avoid stress, conflict, and weight gain during the holidays.

Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season of giving and receiving and merry-making. We anticipate a delicious and abundant supply and variety of food and drink and are anxious to get together with our family and friends whom we rarely see throughout the year.

Along with the fun of the season, come the obligations, too. Your mother-in-law wants you to visit on date X which conflicts with another party. Your sister wants to exchange family gifts but she has six children and you only have one.  Your brother wants to invite his new girlfriend but no one likes her. And you keep saying “yes” to all of them because that’s the polite thing to do, and you’ve been doing it for years and years in order to keep the peace.

But saying “yes” doesn’t give you peace. It brings you stress, anxiety, and an overwhelming desire for the holiday season to be over before it starts. You get quickly bogged down with responsibility associated with each “yes” you make, and before you know it, you have allowed others to dictate when and how you will spend your holiday season.

“Letting someone else decide who we will be, how we will act, and what we will feel implies that we have given up our own life in exchange for whatever the other person wants us to be,” writes Karen Casey in Codependence and The Power of Detachment.  This is the foundation for general codependency, an unhealthy attachment to and fear of what others think of us.

When we are codependent, we are not free to make decisions based on our personal wants and needs. We are restricted and limited, because we are worried about others judging us for saying “no” or deciding against a family norm. We lack boundaries. As a result, we deprive ourselves and tend to overeat and drink to feel fulfilled.

Establishing personal boundaries can put a stop to the cycle of self-deprivation and get us on track to a more fulfilled life, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Boundaries are essential for increased self-esteem, freedom from fear, and improved communications in our relationships with our intimate partners, siblings, parents, friends, and co-workers. There are simple steps to take to start building your boundaries in time for Thanksgiving:

Don’t be ashamed to say “no.” If you don’t want to attend every party you get invited to or if you feel too burdened to send holiday cards this year, don’t. Choose the parties that fit your family’s schedule easily and send cards to family and friends you want to send cards, not to those you feel obligated to send cards. Social media and e-cards are a great alternative and can save a few trees, too.

Don’t be ashamed to put a limit on spending. In these tough economic times, if we don’t have the money, we shouldn’t spend the money. Talk to family about not exchanging gifts or only exchanging gifts between adult family members. Parents know better than anyone else what their children need and want. Leave it up to them.

Don’t be ashamed to put a limit on travel.  Everyone wants to see you and you want to see everyone. Realistically, travel cuts into our time, expenses, and our need for relaxation. Ask family to come to you or explain why you and your family simply need a break this season from travel.

Don’t be ashamed to limit the conversation. It’s inevitable. Someone is going to bring up politics and politics nearly always ends in arguments. Instead of engaging in the conversation, suggest changing the subject or simply leave the room.

Don’t be ashamed to be assertive (but never be abusive or controlling). Just because you feel comfortable asserting yourself, doesn’t mean others will respect you. Most people without boundaries will not respect those with boundaries. The best way to handle those individuals is to avoid them. Don’t insist on being respected. Instead, gravitate toward those who “get it” the first time, and there will be no conflict.

Making these simple changes will help you enjoy the party and your companions more, rather than worrying about pleasing everyone and indulging in too much turkey and stuffing.

To learn more about setting boundaries and increasing your self-respect and relationships, consider the following titles:

Codependence and the Power of Detachment: How to Set Boundaries and Make Your Life Your Own by Karen Casey

Setting Boundaries with Difficult People: Six Steps to Sanity for Challenging Relationships by Allison Bottke

 


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Paula Carrasquillo

Ms. Carrasquillo lives and works in the Washington, D.C. area. She earned a master's degree in communication and adult education from Regis University in Denver, Colo. and a bachelor’s degree in English from Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Md. In addition to her column for The Washington Times Communities, Ms. Carrasquillo contributes and edits stories for various online outlets including Elephant JournalPaula's Pontifications, and Places to Yoga. She also works as a Web editor and analyst for a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Bethesda, Md. In May 2012, Ms. Carrasquillo published her first novelette, Escaping the Boy: My Life with a Sociopath. Visit her online portfolio to learn more about her education, career experiences, and her next book.

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