It is easy to blame Christmas for the stress, frustration, melt downs, depression and other negativity around the season. However, if you look at it from the perspective that December 25 is a day like any other day it starts to become clear that it is not the day itself; our own expectations of the day create the havoc. One year, I totally turned my back on the day. No tree, no cookies, no presents, no Christmas carols, no lights and the day came just like the Grinch realized that it came without any of the fancy doodads. Too many times when someone or myself complain about the stress of the holidays, suggesting that all the activities be ignored is met with a resounding, “No.” My counselor noticed after a couple of years that sure enough nightmares, anxiety and stress sky rocketed around Christmas every year. He focused on teaching me several techniques that made a difference. I already mentioned one, no one is making me do anything. If the ‘have to’ and ‘should’ creep into my activities I need to rephrase. I change my wording to ‘I choose to meet this expectation.’ I also remind myself, ‘I want to do this activity.’ Makes a big difference when I feel I have a choice.
Another major component was separating stresses. When I ball up all the stresses at once, the mess is over whelming. However, taking it a part to the small components make the whole situation doable. Christmas cards presents the issue of interacting with people that are not part of my daily routine. Shopping is difficult for me when the crowds are huge. Doesn’t matter what time of year, I stress in crowds. Stores encourage the buying frenzy to rack up their sales not to sooth the customers. Visiting Christmas lights is traveling around unfamiliar places or familiar places that changed beyond all recognition. I love the lights but I am on ultra full alert. The 12 days of Christmas is such a pain to me is not reserved for those with PTSD. Separating and sorting stresses helps to see them as manageable chunks. Cutting up any major project into smaller tasks helps conquer the day.