By Nicole Patience MS, RD, LDN, CDCES, CEDRD
With this change of season, we watch the falling and swirling of brightly colored leaves ultimately providing a festive groundcover, while branches overhead are left bare and exposed.
Each year the “fall” of our tree canopy is as predictable as the forthcoming holidays. And with the holidays, many questions arise such as how to celebrate and how to feel comfortable especially if you, like many of us, have become more accustomed to being in a much smaller bubble. The personal boundaries we establish aren’t seasonally defined, and a breakdown or dismissal of these boundaries by others can bring considerable distress.
As we enter a new “season” of the ever-evolving landscape of the pandemic, we enter unchartered territory around social norms. We carry the burden of what the last year demanded physically, emotionally, socially, financially, and spiritually. We also carry hope for what is ahead. Such a mixed pot of many emotions. And the emotional resources we hold in reserve may be greater or smaller than the next person’s, depending on the day. Even our personal boundaries may have shifted and we may unknowingly find ourselves feeling out of our comfort zone.
This altered landscape presents challenges as we re-enter into our established family roles during upcoming holiday gatherings. Family members may expect that boundaries you have set to feel physically or emotionally safe during the pandemic will not apply to them or have passed with the change of season. There is legitimate stress of re-entry into family and social circles. The challenges of these exposures can be particularly difficult for those of us who are feeling more emotionally drained.
Some of us learned in junior high health class the importance of discussing consent and expectations in our relationships. Maybe it’s time to trot out this middle school wisdom and begin a conversation now with your loved ones about what feels comfortable for you. An open conversation about boundaries, safe topics of conversation, social distancing expectations, and physical contact might save some pain and discomfort from happening later.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this holiday prep blog when we explore more ideas on how to reduce the stress of coming out during the holidays.