Tips for Healthy Boundaries and Communication

Tips for Healthy Boundaries and Communication

Dec 20 2021

While the holidays can be a wonderful, this time of year can also fuel increased stress with additional obligations, pressures, financial strains, and potential conflicts at family gatherings.

By: Becky Moorehead, LMSW

According to the American Psychological Association 2020 Stress in America survey, 64% of Americans reported feeling stressed about money.

Further, the National Alliance on Mental Illness reported that 64% of people with mental illness, including anxiety and depression, felt the holidays made their conditions worse. That said, preparing yourself in advance for these potentially stressful situations may help to lessen the impact of these stressors, both during the holidays and all year long.

Tips on establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries

One of the best ways to prepare yourself is setting healthy boundaries with yourself and those you will be seeing, and sticking to them. These boundaries can be helpful for making sure events stay comfortable and enjoyable for you. For example, you could:

  • Be selective about what events you attend.
  • Decide in advance the length of time you plan to stay at a gathering.
  • Communicate your preferences for family/friend gift exchanges (a specific dollar amount or opting out altogether.)
  • Excuse yourself from difficult conversations.
  • Communicate your needs and expectations.
  • Have a plan in place for action if the boundary you set is violated.
  • Avoid taking responsibility for others happiness.
  • Practice self-care.
  • Seek professional help if needed.

Navigating difficult conversations (COVID-19, politics, etc)

It is likely that you’ll be spending time with other people who may have different values, beliefs, and ideas than you. Sometimes, these differentiating ideas can cause tension when brought up in group settings. To help navigate these tough conversations:

  • Listen to understand rather than providing solutions.
  • Ask open ended questions to better understand the person’s point of view.
  • Focus on what the person is saying, not what you will say next.
  • Seek clarification as needed.
  • Affirm and validate even if you disagree with their position on the topic.
  • Recognize your emotions and pause before reacting.
  • Agree to disagree.
  • Set boundaries about which topics you are (and are not) comfortable talking about.
  • Have an awareness of what topics will activate a strong emotional reaction and have a plan in place for what to do if these topics come up, such as leave the room, change the subject, etc.
  • Have a plan for coping with emotionally charged discussions.

Resources available to help

If getting together brings to light that someone is considering hurting themselves, immediate action should be taken. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, receive immediate help by:

  • Calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
  • Texting the Crisis Text Line: 741741

Other resources may be available to you through your community or health plan. For example, Priority Health members have access to these resources for mental wellness:

  • 24/7 Priority Health Support Line: Priority health has an on-staff behavioral health team that is available 24/7, that can be reached from the telephone number on the back of members’ ID cards or by logging into their member center.
  • myStrength tool: Self-care and coping skills are critical to your mental health and wellbeing.  Members can sign up for a free myStrength account that includes interactive activities, coping tools and other resources at
  • Behavioral health virtual care: Behavioral Health virtual care is also available with the same copay as an office visit, allowing members to receive treatment from the comfort and safety of their own home.

About the author:  Becky Moorehead, LMSW, is a Clinical Program Specialist in the Behavioral Health Department and certified health and wellness coach at Priority Health.  She leads all operations and oversight of the myStrength program, Priority Health’s digital solution supporting the emotional health of our members.  Becky also leads and supports various clinical initiatives within the organization to promote access to mental health services.  Her clinical expertise and passion promote mental health awareness and access while stomping out the stigma associated with seeking essential healthcare. 

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