4 ways to get through the holiday season

Note from Samantha: I am absolutely thrilled to have the lovely Natalie Shay, Psychotherapist and Stress Management Counsellor do a guest post for me.  Not only is she an incredibly warm and kind person, but she is an incredible counsellor.  I had the pleasure of working with her last year when I was really struggling with my skin and self-love issues and she really helped work through a lot of my issues.  This particular post is very fitting because I know we all get a bit overwhelmed during the holiday season, especially with the onslaught of family, work deadlines and holiday shopping.  These are wonderful tips to help you create some boundaries for yourself, which will help you learn how to put yourself on your TO-DO list this holiday season. 



Holiday time is here, and as fun as it is, it can also be very stressful being around our loved ones. So how do you cope? Let’s start with the basics – boundaries and self-care.

One of the first things I try to learn about a new client who walks into my office is whether they are able to set boundaries for themselves.  Why is this so important? Without boundaries, we cannot take care of ourselves, which can lead to stress or sickness. It is no coincidence that my inbox gets flooded during the holiday season with e-mails from people who are overwhelmed and have their health issues flare up.

Let’s take the famous analogy of being on an airplane when the air pressure drops. If you put an oxygen mask on a child before yourself, what can happen to you? I think you get my point. This is the same thing you need to focus on in your day-to-day life and even more so in times of stress.

So what is boundary setting? Some examples are learning to say no, listening to your body when it is burnt out and needs rest, doing something for yourself before doing something for others.

This may seem logical, but it can be overwhelming to try putting it into action.

So let’s start small.

1)   It's time to start taking care of you!

Why is this important? Many feelings are masked by not having boundaries in place. Feeling burnt out, angry, resentful, like you are trying to stay afloat… the list goes on and on. It’s time to start realizing that you have needs that aren’t being met, and that this situation is affecting your health and causing you stress. Write out why you feel you need to set boundaries for yourself around your family and friends and use this to remind yourself whenever you forget why you want to make this change.

With all the family gatherings, parties and shopping, it can be easy to forget that you need some “you” time. Look at your calendar this week and book off 1 to 2 days or nights for yourself – for you to do whatever you feel like. As tempting as it may be throughout the month to book something in, remind yourself that it is very important to take care of yourself. If that reminder does not work, think of it as a doctor’s appointment you cannot miss.

2)  Create a list

Create a list of the boundaries you feel you need to make with your family. You aren’t going to work on all of them right now, but you now have a list of boundaries you want to start implementing.

3) Pick one

Pick one boundary to start with this year. Write it out and start practicing it before your family gatherings. For example, you may decide that you will take half an hour a day for yourself.  Schedule it, and make sure to keep that half-hour for yourself. On the day of a gathering, continue this habit. Your aunt may want you to come by early to help set up, but this is more time than you want to spend with your family. Remind yourself this “you” time is crucial for your health, and let her know you can’t make it. This is time for you!

Another example may be deciding on how long you talk to a family member on the phone before or after the event. You can let them know you have 15 minutes, and when those 15 minutes are up you let them know you have to go. If they continue talking, remind them that you have something to do (even if that something is sitting on your couch for 15 minutes before the kids get home).

4) Write it down

Write down every time you respect your boundary. This will remind you that you are progressing. Any time you need this reminder, take a look at your list and see how you have been improving.

Remind yourself that this is a learning curve. You may not always do it “perfectly,” and sometimes you may not do it at all. You are not perfect; do you remember any past holiday season that went exactly the way you wanted it to? If so, you were probably on The Cosby Show (for those of you who are too young to remember, it was a show from the 80s of a picture-perfect family). Don’t beat yourself up! Recognize that you are trying to make a change and be GENTLE on yourself.  The gentler you are, the quicker the change will happen.

Start practicing some of these steps. Eventually they will become second nature, and you will feel empowered to set boundaries whenever you need to. This is what self- care is all about.


Want even more tips on how to set (and stick to!) boundaries around family and during times of stress?  Register for my upcoming webinar: Setting Personal & Professional Boundaries Like A Pro today! Click Here to Register








Now over to you: how will you put these steps into practice this holiday season? Leave me a comment below and let me know!


Natalie Shay is a Psychotherapist and Stress Management Counsellor. She works with individuals and consults with organizations with respect to topics such as stress management, burn-out prevention, work/life balance and emotional eating.  She works with clients to help them overcome ineffective habits and create healthier new ones. You can contact her at natalieshay@gmail.com and read her newsletters at www.natalieshay.com