I have a friend whose nickname for her former husband is Toxic Tom. He was just one of those people who walked into a room, took over, bullied everyone within a fifty-foot radius, and sucked the life right out of her. He made demands on her time and energy that she felt obligated to fulfill. While a certain amount of give and take is important in any marriage, she was all give and he was all take. That is, until they got a divorce, the most definite boundary line she could draw.
When you’re seeing family and fulfilling obligations during the holidays, you may not be able to avoid the toxic people you would normally dodge. So it’s extra important to be aware of those who affect you adversely. And have a plan for delineating what you will and will not tolerate from them, and where you will draw the line. In other words, establish boundaries.
Who are those people who leave you feeling depleted?
You may not have even been fully conscious of this before. But some people make you feel stressed and uncomfortable. They may invade your space a little too much—physically and emotionally. They may want more of your time and attention than you are able to give. They may simply drain you of energy.
Think about it—your time and energy are all you’ve got. Your currency, so to speak. If you spend it all on toxic people, you will have none leftover for yourself and others—those people you would really like to be around. So while you’re noticing who drains you, also notice who energizes you. Who brings out the best of your enthusiasm, your spark for life? Those are the people with whom you will want to spend your time and energy.
Assess what you do to sabotage your own boundaries.
It’s not always the other guy’s fault. You want to please—not a bad thing in and of itself—but sometimes you want to please to the detriment of your own well-being. Stop over-committing, no matter how good the friend or how fine the cause. If volunteering to organize your club’s holiday event makes you stressed, then remember to say no next year. Listen to yourself. Take time to meditate, or just be still and quiet during the hectic holidays. Tune into your body, and take your cue from your inner self.
Think through what you might say to people who make demands that violate your boundary lines. If you have rehearsed how you will address these demands, you will be better able to follow through when the time comes. For example, if a friend insists on a holiday lunch—even if you like this person—stop and think. Will your time and energy be better spent elsewhere? You may have to put him off if you are making other things a priority at the moment. You might say, “I have to make my family a priority right now, but let’s do it after the holidays.” Or whatever is true. Of course, if you would genuinely like to connect and feel your friend is one of those people who gives you a boost, then by all means, say yes.