Post Traumatic Christmas Disorder

by Claudia Keech

Almost no-one in the family is immune to PTCD. Symptoms begin to surface prior to Christmas and can result in:

  • Postal Rage - A growing anxiety and desire to release a primal scream, while waiting in ever increasing queues at the Post Office.
  • Work Place Anxiety - Created by a marked increase in phone-calls, e-mails and deadlines as November merges into December.
  • Tantrums - These can be of the toddler or adult kind, as each member of the family becomes short tempered and irritable due to family social activities, spiralling out of control.
  • Creche and School Play Phobia - As performance anxiety hits the kids preparing for their concert or play, you alternate between excitement and dread. It's great to see your offspring onstage, but it can also be quite challenging when the concert goes on for 2-3 hours.
  • A growing aversion to shopping. What has always/often been a pleasurable opportunity for time-out becomes another chore, which requires perfection. Forgetting a gift or perhaps worse still buying chocolates for your dieting mother-in-law - may not be viewed as a mistake!
  • A desire to be alone. At the very time when families come together to celebrate the year, Christmas and holidays - you're considering running away from home! The gathering of the clan, is not a joy filled occasion for all families. Brothers and sisters, all levels of in-laws and extended family don't always get on or know how to behave.
According to Dr Cathie Anderson a Sydney GP with a busy family practise "People become stressed around Christmas and often a little blue immediately after the hype has gone. Even those people who stay away from the materialistic surge of Christmas preparation and celebrations are affected as their daily activities are disrupted."

So how do we stay sane as our lives begin to move at breakneck speed, with Christmas hurtling toward us, accompanied by long days and nights of cooking, shopping, dinners, kids plays and parties, visiting relatives and the holidazzzze?
  • Begin buying Christmas presents now (at any time of the year). If you see something which suits someone and their birthday has passed - buy it and put it in a Christmas Box.
  • Use e-mail to send a fab photo and message to all your on-line friends instead of 50-100 Christmas cards. Leave the cards for the more mature members of the family or friends who are not e-savvy.
  • Consider a small token as a gift with a $note for all the many god-daughters, nephews, nieces and best friends kids to open on Christmas Day. Diminish the wrapping, cost and postage and hear about the excitement of going out to buy something they really want, minus the shock-therapy on your bank account.
  • Working too hard to have a break sounds like a set-up for a fall! Begin to pace yourself for the year-end rush of deadlines. They are inevitable and usually out of your control.

Tips from others...

"I take it in turns with other girlfriends to mind the kids so each of us mums can hit the shops without the ankle biters in toe to do the Christmas shopping – which should really be called 'festive fury'." Symantha Perkins.

"I tell everyone I am not available and I go and have a massage. A long one. At least one and a half hours. It is such bliss and I instantly forget all my worries.I try to do this every week of December. It is my Christmas gift to myself and it is the best stress reliever I know!" Ita Buttrose

"Surrender to chaos, angst with relatives, children or your spouse, let things go and move on. Have wonderful music playing and trigger good memories and feelings." Molly Campbell, Clinical Psychologist.

Finally - Add a 'life-gift' to the Christmas-wrapped trinkets you give your children this year, by really teaching them the joy of giving...

"Instead of spending $$'s on presents for the extended family, we are donating that money to a children's charity." says Dr Penny Adams "No racing around trying to buy things people don't need or want - and I'll feel that I have given someone a present that really counts - that's not only 'deserting' - it's "feel good" too."

Ditto from this family - we're heading across town to help The Salvation Army serve Christmas lunch.