Setting Healthy Holiday-Season Boundaries and Strengthening Your Seasonal Spirit

An act of self-care, instituting boundaries this holiday season can help protect your recovery amid the hustle and bustle. By safeguarding you from triggering circumstances, helping you stay committed to your routine, and providing structure for holiday celebrations, boundaries can allow you to celebrate the holidays while maintaining your peace of mind and upholding your recovery. 

Related: How to Overcome the Overwhelm of the Holiday Season and Maintain Addiction Recovery


Boundaries are personal demarcations that help protect one’s mental and emotional health. In recovery, a person establishes boundaries to help prevent relapse and cultivate a sense of safety. Some types of boundaries include:

  • Emotional boundaries: Typically, emotional boundaries encourage respect for one’s emotions and the emotions of others. A person in recovery may set an emotional boundary around any manipulative or invalidating responses when openly expressing their feelings. 
  • Physical boundaries: Involving limits around proximity, touch, or personal space, physical boundaries can serve as a tool for a person in recovery to avoid triggering environments. 
  • Time boundaries: These boundaries help individuals manage their schedules effectively, such as by allocating periods for self-care, therapy, or support group meetings.
  • Social boundaries: A person setting social boundaries may choose to foster relationships that support recovery and avoid social situations that may jeopardize sobriety.
  • Material boundaries: To prevent excessive or impulsive behavior, material boundaries may implement guidelines around financial matters or material possessions.

By clearly defining your limits, boundaries can embolden you to prioritize your well-being. Some benefits of boundaries include:

  • Sense of empowerment: When explicitly outlining your boundaries, you take ownership of your sobriety and ask others around you to respect your recovery. 
  • Accessible alternatives: Stating your boundaries allows you to opt out of any uncomfortable environments and opens you up to exploring different activities that align with your recovery. 
  • Protection from triggers: When setting boundaries, you can reduce the likelihood of encountering situations that may put your sobriety in danger. 
  • Increased relaxation: When loved ones are aware of your boundaries, it can eliminate uncertainty and awkwardness, allowing everyone to simply enjoy each other’s company.  

Introducing boundaries this holiday season can be an opportunity to advocate for yourself while creating a supportive, understanding ambiance suited for celebrating the joyous time of year. 


Establishing personal boundaries requires self-awareness, clear communication, and consistency. Some important steps to setting boundaries are

  • Reflection: Considering your emotional, physical, and mental needs can help provide a framework for boundaries. It can also be beneficial to think about which areas of your life could be enhanced with boundaries, such as your relationships, social obligations, work life, or leisure time. 
  • Effective communication: Once you’ve decided on your boundaries, you’ll need to share them with the individuals in your life who will be affected by them. Choose a context that is conducive to open and calm communication. Do your best to avoid ambiguous or accusatory statements. Practice active listening, while also remaining resolute when expressing your needs. 
  • Follow-through: It may take some time for those around you to adjust to your boundaries. Do your best to remain consistent by reminding your loved ones to respect the boundaries you’ve articulated.
  • Flexibility: Just as self-reflection is an important initial step, the skill can also serve a valuable purpose while implementing and following your boundaries. As your recovery journey progresses, you’ll inevitably gain more clarity about your needs, potentially prompting you to adjust your boundaries. 

While boundaries are entirely based on one’s individual needs, the examples of holiday-season boundaries below might inspire you as you begin creating your own. 

  • Maintaining your routine throughout the holiday rush: Committing yourself to daily practices that benefit your well-being can help you stay grounded in your recovery amid the frenzy of the festive season. 
  • Exclusively attending sober events: You might request that any events you attend be alcohol-free. Or, you may limit your time at events involving alcohol or substances.
  • Establishing support: Communicating your triggers with your loved ones and asking for their support in navigating challenging situations can contribute to enjoyable, rather than stressful, holiday celebrations.
  • Bringing a sober guest: Having a supportive sober friend at holiday events can help you feel more connected and understood, while also reinforcing your recovery. 

Since everyone has their own perspective and experiences, you may encounter different responses from each of your loved ones regarding your boundaries. Some may provide enthusiastic and empathetic support, while others may require some time to process your requests. You may have to answer questions from loved ones who need further clarification, or you may have to face disappointment from your loved ones who are uncomfortable with changes. Unfortunately, some individuals may attempt to negotiate with or test your boundaries, while others may express defensiveness, especially if they perceive your boundaries as criticism. 

Regardless of the reactions you receive when communicating and implementing your boundaries, the vital benefits that boundaries infuse into your recovery are unchanging. Below are some ways to manage difficult feedback and maintain your boundaries.

  • Prioritize your why: Remain rooted in the reasons your sobriety is crucial to your quality of life, and reflect on how your boundaries provide essential protection to your recovery.
  • Don’t expect immediate acceptance: It may take time for your loved ones to adjust to your boundaries. Do your best to stay steadfast, while practicing patience.
  • Validate your emotions: Allow yourself to acknowledge and feel any hurt, frustration, or other difficult emotions when faced with negative feedback.
  • Be kind to yourself: You may encounter self-doubt or self-criticism as you implement your boundaries. Try to embrace self-compassion, remembering that protecting your recovery is courageous and commendable.

If you’re struggling with substance use disorder this holiday season, reach out. Our mountainside centers offer warm, welcoming retreats from the holiday rush. You’ll be supported by compassionate specialists and dedicated peers. With healing care, you’ll be able to celebrate the season with the presence of mind and hopeful anticipation for the coming year. 

Related: Five Reasons You Should Attend Addiction Treatment This Holiday Season

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