The holidays can be a challenging time for anyone. This is especially true for those of us working through codependency. In fact, for some of us codependents, the holidays can feel like tiptoeing barefoot across a room of broken glass! Why?
Well, first and foremost, because many of the issues we face as recovering codependents are often more present and more prominent during the holiday season, making them even more stressful and overwhelming than normal.
For example, this is one time of year when we can all too easily slip back into old relationship patterns and feel that old pull to assume responsibility for other people’s happiness rather than take care of our own needs.
Then there are is all of the shopping, the parties, the social commitments, the family gatherings, the extra financial pressure all of these things can bring, and so on, and so on…
It can be extremely difficult to find time for one’s self during the holiday season – not to mention sticking to any kind of a routine – and we often excuse our unhealthy choices because “it’s the holidays.”
Unfortunately, sacrificing your healthy coping mechanisms and balanced routine in the name of the holidays all to easily leads to more stress and even more unhealthy choices.
To successfully manage these and other issues, it’s vital that you know how to set and maintain boundaries and to plan in advance for potentially problematic situations.
The following are several strategies and tips that I’ve used over the years to set and keep my own boundaries, as well as prepare for possibly difficult situations during this challenging time of year:
- It’s Okay to Say “No” – Set a schedule for the holidays and stick to it. You don’t have to say, “Yes” to please others just because it’s the holidays. In fact, saying “yes” when you don’t really mean it only creates additional anxiety and stress, leads to more feelings of having to take responsibility for others, and can even lead to resentment and anger. Create a plan, stick to it, and don’t feel guilty about not taking on everything that’s asked of you.
- Remain in Control of You – Just like sticking to your schedule, drive yourself to and from events and be empowered to arrive late, leave early, or skip something entirely if you feel it’s best. The more dependent you are on others, or the more dependent others are on you, the more challenging it becomes to come and go when you want and need.
- Accept Others for Who They Are – Just as you need to remain in control of you, you need to let go of trying to control anyone else. If you have family members or friends that drink or get drunk, do not see yourself as in control of their behavior. The same goes if they eat too much or too little, swear, or do anything that makes you less than pleased or uncomfortable. Each of us is responsible of our own behaviors and the only behaviors we can control are our own. You can express your feelings in an assertive yet respective manner. And, if you can’t, don’t make excuses for them or yourself. Just avoid situations and events with these people or suggest alternative times to be together.
- Surround Yourself with Supportive People – Be sure to spend time over the holidays with the people who are supportive and caring, not demanding and demeaning. Call or get together with a friend or coworker who accepts you for who you are. Enjoy the simplicity of the conversation and the peace of mind that comes from being with that person. The holidays are about sharing gratitude, joy, and love… The easiest way to do so is to surround yourself with people who make you feel those very things!
If you make the time to take care of your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, act according to your own values and beliefs, and take responsibility for your own happiness, you’ll be able to set the boundaries you need to continue with your recovery from codependency as well as truly celebrate the spirit and meaning of the season.
Keep reminding yourself that if you can set and maintain healthy boundaries, your life will continue to change for the better and you’ll find yourself surrounded by more and more people who respect not only your boundaries, but you as a person. Now there’s something truly worth celebrating!
Are you working through codependency? How have you coped with holiday challenges in the past? Have you tried any of the suggestions above? What’s worked for you? What hasn’t? Be sure to share your thoughts and questions using the comment section below so we can all learn from and help each other…