Man sitting in front of Christmas tree

Christmas Stress and Holiday Have-To’s

3 Things to Know About Christmas Stress and Holiday Have-To’s (and How to Avoid Them) The holidays can be full of Christmas stress and “have to’s.” No matter what our personality is— extrovert or introvert, party-person, or home-body. I have to go to the company party. It would be rude if I didn’t show up. We have to go to my mother’s house for Christmas Eve. She expects us. I have to make everyone’s favorite type of cookie. I’ve always done that. We have to invite cranky Uncle Ted to Christmas. He’s family. Does any of that sound familiar? If you’re like most of us, you could probably add a dozen more have-to’s of your own to the list. Here’s the thing with obligation guilt; however: We do it to ourselves. Don’t believe me yet? Here are the only three things you need to know about minimizing your holiday obligations this year. One: Obligations are never imposed on us without consent. This may not feel true yet, but the fact is that obligations are never thrust on us. Obligations are, in fact, choices we make ourselves based on information we believe to be true. Take Tom, for example. He believed that if he didn’t spend Christmas with his family, he’d let everyone down. He didn’t want to spend Christmas at his parent’s house, but he assumed that not showing up would, in some way, be worse. In effect, it was easier to “suck it up and go” and deal with the Christmas stress than it was to confront his parents with a change in plans. This lack of choice may feel very real to us, particularly when it comes to our closest relationships. We hate to disappoint, hate confrontation, hate to cause confusion, or pain. But here’s the truth: We always have a choice in how we respond to a person or situation. Even though our choices may disappoint others, they are still our choices to make. Two: Obligations are internally imposed. To understand this second fact, you first must understand the psychological process of obligation. It goes like this: 1. We receive an invitation. 2. Our inviting host expresses their hopes or expectations for the event. 3. We internalize their hopes and expectations as our own. Did you catch that? We have an uncanny ability to take on the expectations of other people. The reason we do that is …