It can be rough to navigate the maze of enforced holiday cheer. Especially if you have a complicated relationship with your family or are having a difficult time managing and can’t handle the thought of more responsibilities on top of that.

Because that’s what Christmas can feel like: more responsibilities.

Thinking of gifts for everyone, actually buying them, and wrapping them. Feeling like you’re wasting money on things people don’t really need and may not even want. Helping coordinate parties, remembering which event is what day, choosing outfits and preparing potluck items and desserts to bring. Remembering to stop to pick up a bottle of wine. Helping the host when you get there. Decorating the house, setting up a tree, untangling Christmas lights.

Yes, it can be beautiful and wonderful and fun. But sometimes it can be one chore after another.

And that’s before we even get started on family and friends. The endless small talk. The pretending things are okay or listening to someone else unload their troubles. The family members who always seem to arrive ready to pick a fight. Feeling like you need to play peacekeeper and like you’re responsible for someone else’s behavior.

Is that what you need right now? On top of everything else you’re responsible for?

I love my family and I love food, but I hate the holidays. All holidays, but Christmas especially.

By high school the anticipated stress of each holiday was enough to bring on a migraine (an excuse which would have been way better if migraines weren’t so awful!). Once I was older, I started lying and coming up with reasons I couldn’t come home.

And then I realized there’s no need to lie. I can just politely decline and arrange another time to see people, in a setting that doesn’t give me an anxiety attack. Is it really quality time when we’re all on edge? Some family members were upset the first few years, but no one makes a fuss anymore. I may skip the holidays, but I’m still around.

If Christmas feels like an obligation, it’s not. You can opt out.

If you want to celebrate, you can do it however you want or however you feel capable of.

Maybe you want to keep the part where you lounge around in your PJs and eat cinnamon rolls and skip the rest. Maybe you want to hang a wreath instead of a tree. Maybe you don’t want to forgo gifts entirely, but you’ll just do Christmas stockings for the people you’re celebrating with on Christmas morning. Maybe you want to make a new tradition that feels fresh and fun and not like a chore.