WHILE most of us love ripping giftwrap from our presents on Christmas morning, it can be a time of terror for some.
Panic sets in as present-opening anxiety makes their heart rate soar, causing nausea, hot flushes and even bouts of tears.
Stewart Williams 8 Sam Das loves Christmas but she has a fear of opening presents
The condition, recognised by psychologists as an extreme anxiety, sees sufferers struggle to cope with the emphasis of gifts at Christmas.
One woman who knows full well the crippling effect this has is full-time mum Sam Das.
Sam, 26, loves Christmas — but her fear can ruin it for those around her, including her builder husband Albert Smith, 36, and ten-month-old son Jayden.
The condition often leaves her so scared that she can’t be in the same room as wrapped gifts.
Stewart Williams 8 Sam’s condition leaves her so scared she cannot be in the same room as wrapped presents
Sam, from Barnet, Herts, says: “I’m a big fan of Christmas. I’ve always loved seeing the fairy lights twinkling on trees and the big family roast dinner.
“But the moment that someone gives me a beautifully-wrapped present, I freeze.
“I go hot and cold then fear washes over me. Sometimes I can’t even talk, other times I start shaking.
“It’s not because I’m scared of what’s inside, it’s because I can’t deal with the pressure of being watched while I’m ripping off the paper.
Collect 8 Sam says her fear can ruin Christmas with her husband Albert and son Jayden
“I’ve always been a bad liar and I’m terrified that if I don’t like what’s inside, I won’t be able to pretend I like it or give a good enough reaction.
“Just the thought of someone watching me – eagerly awaiting my reaction – is enough to bring on a bout of anxiety.”
Sam has suffered this extreme anxiety for five years and believes it all began at her 21st birthday party.
She recalls: “There were more than 50 guests and while I had a great time, I hated being the centre of attention. All eyes were on me.
Stewart Williams 8 Sam says her fear started on her 21st birthday when she was forced to open gifts in front of everyone
“I received around 40 presents from family and friends and when everyone gathered round to watch me open them, I panicked.
“The music had stopped and everyone was looking at me.
“I was terrified and all that kept going round in my head was, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do this’.
“I felt like I had no choice but to start opening the presents, but things went from bad to worse.
Stewart Williams 8 The 26-year-old refuses to open gifts in front of family members or friends
“I didn’t give out a gift list so genuinely didn’t know what to expect or how I’d react to each present I received.
“Although there were some lovely surprises, such as perfume, make-up and toiletries, it was really hard to keep smiling and look thankful. My heart was racing.”
Sam admits she isn’t usually able to hide her true feelings.
She added: “When I opened up a pair of big garish socks, my expression was one of confusion. I managed to say, ‘Oh, right! They’re really nice’ but it was obvious I didn’t think that at all.
Collect 8 Sam says she struggles to sleep the night before Christmas because of her anxiety
“The family friend who got them for me looked so uncomfortable — I was mortified.
“It was a total accident but it was the final straw. I got really hot and sweaty, my heart started pounding and I got short of breath.
“I still go red thinking about it, especially because he left the party straight afterwards.”
Since her party, Sam has refused to open presents in public or even in front of family members because she is too scared of not being able to control her reactions.
Toddler goes crazy after unwrapping her ultimate Christmas present
She says: “For the last five years, Christmas has been a nightmare.
“It’s ruined that special part of the festive season for me — and all my loved ones. They all know presents are a no-no.
“The night before Christmas I usually don’t get much sleep thinking about it.
“I get so self-conscious that I might not like the present and I’m convinced the person will know and I’ll cause offence. I hate to let people down.
Stewart Williams 8 Sam’s close friends understand that they will never see her open a gift
“As a kid, I used to love ripping off the wrapping paper on Christmas mornings. Those days are over now.
“At first, my mum didn’t understand how I could have changed so drastically but now she knows it’s a genuine phobia.”
Sam says those close to her have to accept that they will never see her open gifts they buy her.
She says: “Albert accepts that I’ll only open my presents on my own in our bedroom.
Collect 8 Sam admits she gets so stressed out about it that she bursts into tears
“We usually spend Christmas with my in-laws. There are at least ten of us but even though I know them all, I can’t bring myself to unwrap anything in front of them.
“My mum-in-law is very relaxed about it and has stopped buying presents for me because she knows how I’ll react.
“I’ve been so stressed out about it all in the past, I’ve burst into tears.
“Whenever I explain to someone about my phobia, they’re usually surprised but are more sympathetic when I explain why.”
PSYCHOLOGIST Emma Kenny says: “If you struggle with acute anxiety, even the idea of opening presents in front of your nearest and dearest can cause panic.
“The knowledge that all eyes are on you increases stress, and while gifts are meant to impart a sense of joy in the receiver, they are also emotionally loaded.”
Here are some simple strategies you can employ to make receiving gifts a positive experience.
- Make a list of things you’d like within a reasonable budget, or tell people exactly what you want for Christmas. This means you know what to expect – and that automatically reduces anxiety.
- Encourage everyone to open their presents at the same time as this deflects attention from you and means you won’t feel on display.
- If you really can’t stand the idea of opening gifts in public, be honest and tell your nearest and dearest why. Open your gifts alone but always remember to send thank you cards expressing your gratitude.
- It’s OK to simply tell people not to bother getting you a present – in the end that might be the best gift they could give you.
Sam has a list of excuses ready to help her deal with her phobia during the festive season.
She says: “Secret Santa is hell because my friends will say, ‘Go on, open it!’ but I just can’t.
“I’ll usually try to change the subject and start asking them about their life.
“If I can distract their attention, I’ll hide the present and then ‘forget’ where it is when they remind me.
What The Apprentice winners are doing now (including one candidate who tried to SUE Lord Alan Sugar)
TEARS, tantrum and tons of Teflon suits… The Apprentice is back! Eighteen shiny new candidates have strutted into Lord Sugar’s boardroom to endure weeks of painful put-downs and embarrassing jibes …
TEARS, tantrum and tons of Teflon suits… The Apprentice is back!
Eighteen shiny new candidates have strutted into Lord Sugar’s boardroom to endure weeks of painful put-downs and embarrassing jibes from the business mogul and his trusted associates, Karren Brady and Claude Littner.
BBC Handout Lord Sugar and his trusted associates, Karen Brady and Claude Littner, are back
While most hopefuls will be reduced to quivering wrecks after hearing the dreaded phrase, “You’re fired!”, one lucky victor will waltz into the sunset with a bumper cheque.
Speaking about the series return, Sir Alan, 70, said: “I need to see who’s got a good business brain, that’s all I’m interested in. The winner gets a £250,000 investment and it will change someone’s life forever.”
But what happened to the previous champions? From becoming Botox queens to building multi-million pound empires and battling cancer, we catch up with the winners.
Lord Sugar will see you now!
SERIES ONE: TIM CAMPBELL
PA:Press Association Tim Campbell won the first series of The Apprentice in 2005
Former London Underground transport manager Tim Campbell won the first series of the reality show in 2005.
The 40-year-old, from Stratford, London, bagged a £100,000 a year job at Lord Sugar’s Amstrad company, and was tasked with launching the Integra electronic anti-wrinkle device.
In March 2007, Tim – the son of a Jamaican-born single mum – set up a social enterprise called Bright Ideas Trust, which supports young entrepreneurs from disadvantaged backgrounds.
News Group Newspapers Ltd Tim, who has battled testicular cancer, has now set up his own digital marketing agency PA Archive Tim was with former London Mayor Boris Johnson
“I never saw the Apprentice, Sir Alan’s position, as a job for life,” he told The Guardian. “It was on a plate for me but that wasn’t what it was about. I never saw him as a blank cheque.”
In December 2013, dad-of-two Tim revealed he had been battling testicular cancer.
After being given the all-clear, Tim, who has been awarded an MBE for Services to Enterprise Culture, co-founded Marketing Runner Ltd with Derin Cag, a bespoke digital marketing agency.
SERIES TWO: MICHELLE DEWBERRY
PA:Press Association Michelle Dewberry beat Ruth Badger to the winner’s title
Michelle Dewberry – dubbed the ‘Silent assassin’ by viewers thanks to her quiet determination – pipped favourite Ruth Badger to the winner’s title in 2006.
The 37-year-old blonde bombshell was paid £100k a year to launch Xenon Green, Lord Sugar’s computer equipment disposal project, but left the role after a year.
Michelle, who grew up on a council estate in Hull, went on to set up her own consultancy firm.
Michelle Dewberry Michelle worked for Sir Alan for a year before setting up her own consulting firm News Group Newspapers Ltd Michelle had a spot on her face removed in 2014 after a biopsy revealed it was cancerous
In July 2006, The Sun revealed that she was pregnant by Syed Ahmed, a fellow Apprentice contestant.
Sadly, Michelle miscarried the baby after being admitted to hospital with stomach pains, and the pair spilt soon afterwards.
Michelle went on to become a Sky News TV pundit, run a shopping website called Daily Chic and penned an autobiography called Anything Is Possible.
In 2014 she had a spot on her face removed after a biopsy revealed it was cancerous.
SERIES THREE: SIMON AMBROSE
PA:Press Association Simon Ambrose won The Apprentice in 2007
Lord Sugar expected big things from Simon Ambrose.
The 37-year-old Londoner became a member of Mensa at 13, attended the same school as Nick Clegg and is the son of a successful businessman – his dad owns laser eye surgery clinic, Optimax.
PA:Press Association Simon is now the chairman of the London Contemporary Orchestra
After his win in 2007, the Cambridge graduate told Digital Spy: “Well, I’d like to think I’ve shown that a nice guy from a nice background sometimes can win.”
Simon was assigned a role at Lord Sugar’s property company Amsprop and trained as a surveyor before becoming the chairman of the London Contemporary Orchestra.
SERIES FOUR: LEE MCQUEEN
PA:Press Association Lee McQueen became Sir Alan’s fourth apprentice
Lee McQueen went from being a milkman’s son to the owner of a million-pound firm.
The 39-year-old dad-of-three from Middlesex won the 2008 series despite lying about his university achievements.
Lee didn’t get off to the best of starts with Sir Alan after calling in sick to his first day as a development director at Lord Sugar’s Amscreen.
News Group Newspapers Ltd Lee’s firm makes £1.5 million a year
Despite the setback, the former IT recruitment manager worked for the company for two-and-a-half years and went on to set up a digital media business with Lord Sugar’s son Simon.
In September 2010 Lee, who is now based in Oxfordshire, set up his own sales recruitment and training agency, Raw Talent Academy. The firm is expected to make £1.5million per year.
He is best remembered for his catchphrase: “That’s what I’m talking about!”
SERIES FIVE: YASMINA SIADATAN
PA:Press Association Yasmina Siadatan poses with Sir Alan after her win in 2009
Hull-born Yasmina Siadatan landed a high-flying job at Lord Sugar’s Amscreen Healthcare Company following her win in 2009.
However, the 36-year-old former restaurant owner fell pregnant four months into her £100k-a-year role after enjoying a whirlwind romance with a colleague.
BBC Yasmina decided not to return to her job with Sir Alan after her maternity leave
Yasmina worked for Sir Alan for 12 months but chose not to return after her maternity leave.
After taking time off to have her two sons Rupert and Roman, Yasmina was headhunted by former Dragon’s Den star James Caan and now works as creative director of Start Up Loans.
SERIES SIX: STELLA ENGLISH
PA:Press Association Stella English celebrates her win with Lord Sugar in 2010
Stella English was brought up by her great-aunt on a council estate in London and left school with zero qualifications.
However, the ambitious 37-year-old managed to work her way up to the head of business management at a Japanese investment bank – earning £80,000-a-year – before winning The Apprentice in 2010.
PA:Press Association Stella grew up on a council estate and left school with no qualifications
Stella, who lives in Kent with her husband Ray, went on to work for Lord Sugar’s Viglen, which sells IT solutions to the education sector, before moving to the digital TV service YouView.
She walked out after 13 months of employment when told her contract would not be renewed and claimed she was just an ‘overpaid lackey’.
News Group Newspapers Ltd She unsuccessfully tried to sue Lord Sugar claiming she was an “overpaid lackey”
After unsuccessfully trying to sue Lord Sugar for constructive dismissal, she was later pictured at the Jobcentre and revealed she only had £90 in the bank.
Stella is now a host for Crowd Box – a TV channel that helps entrepreneurs raise money through crowd-funding – and works as a management consultant.
Trailer for new series of The Apprentice puts viewers in firing line of Lord Alan Sugar
SERIES SEVEN: TOM PELLEREAU
PA:Press Association Tom Pellereau was given £250k business investment by Lord Sugar
Geeky Tom Pellereau became the first contestant to win a £250,000 investment as part of the format shake-up.
The 36-year-old inventor from Twyford, Hampshire, went into business with the tycoon developing an S-shaped nail range called Stylfile, which was sold at Tesco and Asda supermarkets.
News Group Newspapers Ltd Tom developed an S-shaped nail range called Stylfile
Their company has made a turnover of £1.5million.
Tom, a former mechanical engineering student, went on to develop a collapsible baby bottle, a bowel cancer screening device and other inventions.
He admitted that he “gets shouted at all the time” by Lord Sugar.
SERIES EIGHT: RICKY MARTIN
PA:Press Association Ricky Martin celebrates his win with Lord Sugar over a glass of champagne in 2012
Ricky Martin – who changed his named from Richard in order to emulate the pop star – won the reality series in 2012.
The 33-year-old former pro-wrestler used Sir Alan’s £250,000 investment to set up Hyper Recruitment Solutions, which specialises in scientific recruitment.
The qualified biochemist from Portsmouth was praised as a “glowing example” to young people by his business mogul mentor.
SERIES NINE: LEAH TOTTON
PA:Press Association Leah Totton injected £250k into a Botox business
Leah Totton beat off baker Luisa Zissman to bag Lord Sugar’s £250,000 investment.
The 29-year-old Irish GP injected the bumper sum in setting up a Botox clinic in central London.
Leah’s clients include a host of famous faces such as TOWIE star Frankie Essex, and Karren Brady attended the launch.
News Group Newspapers Ltd The 29-year-old is yet to give Sir Alan a jab
Blonde bombshell Leah, who has been linked to Apprentice candidate Mark Wright, said she’s yet to encourage Sir Alan to go under the knife.
She joked: “Whenever he pops into our clinic, I offer him Botox treatments but he politely declines.”
SERIES TEN: MARK WRIGHT
PA:Press Association Mark Wright won the show in 2014
The bitter rivalry between Mark Wright and Daniel Lassman became an almost Game of Thrones-esque drama in 2014.
The 27-year-old sales manager came out victorious and went on to launch digital marketing website Climb Online with Lord Sugar’s investment.
Mark admits he often gets confused with his TOWIE namesake.
He joked: “I’m the better looking of the two Mark Wrights! That’s the one thing I’ve got in my favour.
“But I can’t get my b***** Twitter verified because they think I’m a bloody account off the other geezer off TOWIE!”
SERIES ELEVEN: JOSEPH VALENTE
PA:Press Association Joseph toasts his victory with Sir Alan
Who could forget Joseph Valente’s dodgy moustache?
Despite his questionable facial hair, the 27-year-old plumber stormed to victory.
He declared: “I am the definition of success. I’m the godfather of business.”
PA:Press Association Plumber Joseph is the reigning champion
Joseph used the £250k investment to expand his business, which maintains and installs plumbing, heating and electrical products.
He plans to bring the Peterborough-based business to London in the next five years and take on the likes of British Gas.
Best Christmas jumpers 2017 – from ASOS and Sainsbury’s to Primark and ASDA
NOTHING says Christmas like finding the brightest and most colourful festive jumper you can and wearing it with pride. But if you’re not sure where to look to find the perfect Christmas knit,…
NOTHING says Christmas like finding the brightest and most colourful festive jumper you can and wearing it with pride.
But if you’re not sure where to look to find the perfect Christmas knit, here’s our guide to the best Christmas jumpers on the high street and online.
Primark Shops all over the high street and online are starting to stock their Christmas jumper ranges
The high street chain revealed its entire festive jumper range that will be available for shoppers stocking up for parties or the big day itself.
Their Christmas offerings start at £12 and include jumpers with snowmen, gingerbread men, robins, reindeer, baubles and decorated trees.
One of our favourites is this sassy black number with the slogan “Everyday I’m sleighing it.”
While for men, what about this candy cane and Christmas tree design?
Primark One of Primark’s festive jumpers that has been a hit with shoppers Primark For men, Primark has released this candy cane and Christmas tree print design
It’s not just the adults that want a piece of the Christmas jumper action.
And Sainsburys is selling this sweater for fans of the Star Wars movies.
TU Star Wars fans will love this festive knitwear from Sainsburys
Featuring a stormtrooper wearing a Santa hat, it reminds us the force is always with us, even at Christmas.
GEORGE AT ASDA
After eating their Christmas dinner, some families like nothing better than to sit down to an afternoon of board games.
George This Christmas jumper is clothing that doubles as a game
But this festive jumper from George at Asda, means you can combine looking good with having a good time with your relatives.
All you have to do is throw the sprout and try and hit the bullseye1
Amazon Game of Thrones fans will love this jumper inspired by the show
Know a Game of Thrones fan? Well this could be the perfect Christmas jumper for them.
Available in a variety of colours, the slogan is apt for the cold festive season.
ASOS are known for their wacky and often cheeky clothing.
And this Christmas jumper is perfect for people hoping to get lucky under the mistletoe.
Asos Hoping to get lucky under the mistletoe? You could try wearing this T-shirt Asos ASOS are also selling this flamingo jumper with matching shorts
Or if you fancy something totally wild, how about this festive flamingo sweater that also comes with matching shorts.
How to track Santa with Google and Norad and how long until Father Christmas will be starting his journey
KIDS across the globe are already excitedly awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus later this month, but did you know you can track his journey? Here’s how you can follow the man in red’s …
KIDS across the globe are already excitedly awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus later this month, but did you know you can track his journey?
Here’s how you can follow the man in red’s path to Britain on Christmas Eve, and when the countdown begins…
Getty – Contributor You can track Santa’s progress on Christmas Eve, on the Norad and Google websites
How can I track Santa with Norad?
The Norad programme (North American Aerospace Defense Command) has been offering a way for kids to track Father Christmas in his sleigh since 1955.
Today, it provides users with an exact GPS location of Santa’s position – through a fun, interactive tool on its website.
But the tradition was started by accident, when a local advertisement inviting kids to call Santa accidentally misprinted the number.
The number they called put them through to Norad’s Commander-in-Chief’s operations hotline.
Norad Norad has been helping kids track Father Christmas’ sleigh since 1955
Colonel Harry Shoup, who later became affectionately known as Santa Colonel, answered the first of these calls.
He gamely asked his staff to check if there was any indication of Father Christmas’ movements on the radar.
A spokesman explained: “Indeed there were signs of Santa, and children who called in were given an update on Santa’s position. Thus, the tradition was born.”
Colonel Shoup’s staff were instructed to continue to give out information of Santa’s movements in future calls.
The Norad tracker is also available through the Apple, Android and Windows phone app stores.
Google Google also has its own Santa tracker – which is currently counting down to Christmas Eve
How can I track Santa with Google?
Google also runs its own Santa tracker, which was set up in 2005.
The search engine’s Santa’s village opened on December 1 – offering festive games and fun.
It’s set up in the form of an advent calendar, with a new game or experience being unveiled every day until Christmas.
You can check Google’s tracker on this website, or download it on the Android app and for Android TV – but it’s not available in the iOS app store.
Getty – Contributor Your kids can track Santa’s progress throughout December 24 – just make sure they’re in bed before he comes down the chimney
How long is it until Father Christmas starts his journey?
Santa’s sleigh sets off in the morning of December 24 – when it will already be later on Christmas Eve in some countries.
Until then, both websites are providing a Santa tracker countdown.
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