The holidays can be a busy and stressful occasion, but they don’t have to be. Instead of saying yes to every gathering and signing up for a list of activities and responsibilities, check in with yourself. While the holidays are all about giving and putting other people first, it’s also OK to prioritize your needs and protect your mental and physical space.

Ask yourself: What do you need and what is best for you? No holiday plans, traditions, or obligations should overtake that. Here’s five ways to set boundaries during the holiday season. 

Stay Separately

Perhaps you’re flying home for the holidays, but home is not the best or healthiest environment. It’s perfectly fine to stay separately. You can attend the holiday traditions and dinners and don’t have to sleep under the same roof. Purchasing your own accommodations allows you to create physical space and to remove yourself for a time period throughout the day. Creating a safe place for yourself will allow you to protect your mental health and allow you to rest and recharge.

Disengage From Negativity

There’s always that one aunt, uncle, or cousin who rubs you the wrong way. Sometimes, awkward conversations come your way. For instance, when you get questions about your career, living arrangements, relationship status, and babies. But remember, you don’t have to respond. It’s OK to disengage when needed and exit out of conversations that make you uncomfortable. 

Keep Physical Distance

As simple as it sounds, one way to set boundaries during the holidays is to create physical distance. Perhaps that means when all of your aunts are cooking and arguing, you hang outside with the kids. Maybe it means sit at a separate table from someone whose company you don’t particularly enjoy. Creating physical distance between you and that person is one excellent way to protect your joy.

Have a Safe Word

Another great way to protect yourself is by having a safety word in case you need to exit conversations or scenarios. We all do this when we are out with friends. Bring the same strategy to the holiday season. If you attend a Friendsgiving or holiday work party with your partner, roommate, or colleague, plan to use a safe word that you both will use if you want to exit a conversation. 

Don’t Feel the Need to Apologize or Make Excuses

Remember: No is a complete sentence. During the holiday season, you might get a lot of invitations to gatherings or events, and you do not have to say yes to every single one. Don’t feel bad for setting boundaries. Also, don’t feel the need to make excuses as for why you cannot go. Simply stating gratitude with a polite decline is all you need to offer.