Everyone knows that there is physical health that we have to take care of. From high blood pressure, to cholesterol levels, to making sure you are drinking enough water, nobody argues with the importance of exercise and our bodies being able to do what it needs to do to get us to where we have to go.

We have a more difficult time with accepting and noticing how we feel emotionally; perhaps you are one of the many humans who push off the way you feel emotionally to be dealt with at a later time, if at all, giving it no importance and telling yourself, “I am fine, just keep going.” The problem with this is that those emotions do not really go away; eventually, our brain prompts us to pay attention to them, and after some time of us ignoring them, these may turn into conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Many cultures around the world acknowledge that we are not just physical beings; we are composed of mind, body and soul. All three of these need attention, care, and specific needs. Life is about balance and problem solving and when we are depleted of our energy, whether it is physical energy, emotional energy or spiritual energy, we feel the effects one way or another.

The holidays are a time of family, love, sharing, being together, making memories, giving and receiving. Perhaps they are also a time of reflection, of gratitude, of acknowledgement of blessings, of giving thanks, of growing our faith. They are also a time of stress, spending money, having people in your space that you may not get along with and feeling overwhelmed.

So, how do we get through the holidays with our emotional place intact? We can start by setting good boundaries. Boundaries are things that keep us safe; they create a barrier against things that may not be welcomed and they can also help with simply letting people know what is ok and what is not ok. There are physical boundaries that are all around us, like walls, fences, doors, etc.

There can also be emotional boundaries, which is when we let people know what is ok for them to do and what is not ok for them to do. These may also look like limiting how much someone is involved in our life, in our marriages, in our relationship with our children or in any area of your life. Many of us struggle with this, since we may worry about being rejected, or arguing with people during the holidays or “causing problems.” We have the right to set these boundaries with all people. However, I encourage you to think about what you need and what you feel since you are also important, valuable and needed.

How do we set boundaries with people? We start by checking in with ourselves. Where is the emotional place where I start to feel uncomfortable with others? How much does this person bother me? What do I need in order for me to feel good, and when do I start feeling bad/angry/sad/stressed/worried? Once we have identified those things we can then move into a place of communicating these boundaries with people by using “I” statements. These can sound like, “I need…” “I want…” or “I appreciate that and I would like…” or any variation of these. Your goal is to let people know where your “emotional fence” is. You are communicating, “this is as far as you can go.”  We all have this right, and it is something many of us struggle with, particularly with people who are close to us. It is a skill that as we practice it, we will get better at doing it.

Even though the holidays are for giving, we should also spend some time honoring ourselves, acknowledging ourselves, and asking ourselves, how am I feeling? What do I need? What don’t I want to do? Also, don’t forget the basics—get sleep when you need it (or when you can get it), eat the cookies but also balance that out with a healthy meal, practice self- care when you feel your stress levels going up by doing something you enjoy, even if it is for five minutes. Take time to pause. Things will all come together, and it will all be okay.

Marias Healthcare Shelby/Conrad provides mental health services including counseling and medication management for anxiety, depression, addiction, and lifestyle changes. Please contact 406-434-3100 to see how we might help you.

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