This blog post is the first part of our first ever free Peachie Moms Academy Mini-Course called How to Set Healthy Boundaries. With the holidays fast approaching and family time looming, we know that this time of year, more than ever, establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries is critical to our mental health and emotional wellbeing. This mini-course aims to support you in identifying areas in which you can improve your own boundaries with others and then learn ways to follow through and implement new strategies to make the holidays with family an occasion you not only tolerate but actually enjoy.

The truth is, family gatherings are tough. Regardless of how much you love your loved ones, someone always manages to offend someone else, tensions rise and, before you know it, you’re soothing hurt feelings with pumpkin pie or Christmas cookies. Healthy Boundaries (and learning how to set them) are key to having happy holidays with your family. When you set and maintain appropriate limitations with friends and family members, you’ll find yourself happier, more calm and (dare we say it?) even looking forward to these annual events. Seriously!

Now, how does one know when one needs help setting and maintaining those elusive healthy boundaries? We’re so glad you asked! Here are some true/false questions to help you determine if you could use some help in this area.

True or False

I have difficulty saying “no” to people.

I often feel ashamed.

I have a hard time knowing how I’m really feeling.

I am overly sensitive to criticism.

I feel as if my happiness depends on other people’s feelings about me.

People take or use my things without asking.

I would rather go along with other people than go against them, even when I know they’re wrong.

I often feel hurt by the words or actions of others.

I tend to take on the moods of people who are close to me.

I often feel scared, afraid or anxious in social situations.

I would rather take care of others than take care of myself.

Well? How’d you do? We’re betting you can guess that answering “true” to these questions indicates you could use some help in the healthy boundary department.

Clearly, setting healthy boundaries isn’t just for family gatherings around the holidays which we’re assuming you’ve realized by this point in the mini-course. Even if you only answered “true” to one or two of the questions listed above, that’s significant. You deserve to go through life feeling stronger and more confident than the person characterized above. And you can.

The first step in setting healthy boundaries is a big one so take a breath… Before moving further, you must admit you need help with this. You have to look at yourself, your relationships and your life up until this point and see that you’ve been missing something. Then, you have to want to change.

Let’s start right there.

Find a calm space. If the kids are in bed or happily engrossed in some screen-time, brew yourself a cup of herbal tea or light a candle. Feel safe and relaxed in this moment. Then breathe. Take three deep breaths in through your nose, feeling your lungs expand as your rib-cage grows wide, and then let the air out slowly through your nose. Focus your gaze on your candle or your mug of soothing liquid, and relax.

After you’re in this safe mind-space, think about the relationship that is most important to you. Perhaps it’s with your partner or your child. Maybe it’s with a parent or sibling. Examine the conversations you have with this person, the respect they have (or don’t have) for you, and how you’ve created boundaries there. If you feel as though you’ve established healthy boundaries and communication in this relationship, that’s wonderful and you can skip the next paragraph. If not, let’s start there.

Pick one area of this relationship where you’ve felt scared, taken advantage of, or hurt. Think specifically of a moment in which you’ve felt something from that list above as a result of your relationship with this person. Ask yourself if this is okay with you. Now, we are mama bears to our Peachie Mom readers so we’re going to go ahead and say that, even if you feel like it’s okay with you, it’s just not okay. Period.

Now, reflect on other relationships and social interactions you have each day. As you consider how you are triggered into feeling or acting certain ways, getting a sense of not having a voice or place to say how you feel or what you think, and even dreading interactions with these people, know that this is not your fault. Most of us are not taught how to set healthy boundaries as children, let alone as adults. We often get stuck in social constructs out of comfort and consistency instead of through pleasure and self-assertion. These patterns are absolutely not your fault, but you can and should definitely change them.

Remember those deep breaths? Go ahead and take three more. Then, make a mental note of just one boundary you’d like to improve. Perhaps it’s being able to say how you feel about something even when you know you’re in the minority. Maybe it’s not feeling defeated before the party even starts because you’re worried about what others will think or say about you or how you look. Or it could even be feeling confident enough to sit at the same table as that pumpkin pie without the anxiety of an impending binge.

And now you know. You know where you’re ready to begin and, what’s even better? You know you’re actually ready to do this. To learn strategies and implement techniques. To feel stronger and more confident. To live a happier, healthier life.

In parts two and three (a video and an interactive Peachie Moms Academy Activity) of this mini-course, you’ll uncover your triggers, come up with awesome comebacks, and learn some self-care techniques to make your holidays not just tolerable but actually enjoyable. All you need to do is sign up below and check your inbox for the peachie goodness coming your way. If you’ve already subscribed to our newsletter, go check your inbox ‘cause we’ve already sent parts two and three your way (see? We really do take good care of our Peachie Moms!). After that, you’re part of the Peachie Moms family and will get news on new courses, events and resources as they become available.

Now, we keep it real around here and we know we tackle some tough topics. With that in mind, please remember to ‘like’ our page on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram. Through our social media channels, you can reach us directly should you need any additional support working through the material here. We know this is hard and we’re here for you, we promise. Ready? Let’s do it! Refill that tea and take a few more breaths. We can’t wait to join you on this journey!