It’s that time of year again – time for festivities, celebrations, and a constant stream of social events. The societal and cultural expectations surrounding socializing at this time of year can create feelings of pressure and a sense that you ‘should’ be attending all these events. For many, the thought of such high levels of social contact is overwhelming and exhausting, and not how they want to spend the festive season.
As this goes against the societal and cultural expectations and ‘norms’ people often struggle to say no and set boundaries. In this article, we will help you think about how to set healthy boundaries around socializing at this time of year, to enable you to socialize with others in a way that works for you.
١. Reflect & Identify Priorities
- Take a moment to reflect – What are the social commitments that you must fulfill and are non-negotiable. Consider how much time these commitments will take. How much time do you have left? How much of this time do you want to spend with others vs on your own? Who would you most like to spend this time with?
- Think about values not goals – Why might you want to do certain things and go to certain events? Is it because they are enriching experiences, where you feel genuinely connected to others? If so great! Sometimes, we can get pulled into doing things we may not feel like for many reasons – social media, expectations from family, friends and so on. If this is the case, weighing up your values can help prevent overcommitting.
- Making plans – Once you have identified who you most want to spend time with, think about how you want to spend time with others. What works best for you when socializing? Do you prefer going out or would you rather stay in? Do you like large group gatherings or smaller more intimate get-togethers? Wherever possible try to make plans that fit with your preferences for socializing.
٢. Set Boundaries with Yourself
Consider what you need to enable you to engage in non-negotiable events and to show up as the best version of yourself and really enjoy the events that are most important to you.
- Prioritize self-care – If you need rest, see if you can schedule some time for it. If you usually follow a routine when it comes to sleeping, eating, exercising, can this continue as much as realistically possible? If you’re anything like me the festive season is often an excuse to ‘write off’ the month and start again in January, but when I think about it, this is not that helpful or good for me!
- Ground yourself – Taking moments in a busy schedule to just go for a brief mindful walk or sit and read, meditate – whatever helps you feel centered and grounded can be a valuable investment of time when it comes to our wellbeing and ability to be present and enjoy the things we are doing.
- Set financial boundaries – Do you have a budget for gifts and socializing? If not, could one be helpful? Again, we may get pulled into spending for reasons that aren’t necessarily connected to our values, so reassessing these can help. Aim for meaning rather than monetary value of gift giving.
- Embrace imperfection – If you are hosting, remember that sometimes the more carefree events are the most fun!!
٣. Set Boundaries with Others
- Communication is key – Be open with loved ones about your needs and limitations. Communicate when your social battery is running low and you need to opt out of something, or if you are working on a budget, to manage expectations.
- Learn the art of saying no – It’s ok to say no! Politely declining an invitation and giving a brief explanation if appropriate can be liberating, and often people don’t react as negatively as we think they would.
- Delegate – If you are hosting or planning social events, can you get some help from others in the group?
When we move away from pressure, unrealistic expectations, and idealized versions of the socializing during the festive season that don’t serve us this enables us to slow down, reflect and connect with an experience of the festive season that does work for us and those that are most important to us. So, as counterintuitive as it may feel, healthy boundaries can be key to embracing the festive period for what it is meant to be – a time of connection, reflection, and joy. Remember self-care and boundary setting is not selfish or rude, it’s essential! You may even influence others to reflect and change their narratives when it comes to the expectations we hold.
Authored by Dr Charlotte Cousins, Clinical Psychologist, Lead for Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Education and Dr Gurveen Ranger, Clinical Psychologist, Lead for Adult Mental Health and Corporate Wellbeing both at Sage Clinics.
You can find out more about Dr Gurveen Ranger and Dr Charlotte Cousins and the team at Sage Clinics: here. For more information about the services Sage Clinics offers or to book an appointment please contact +971 4 575 5684, at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the chat function in the bottom right corner of the website.