ADD/ADHD & the Holidays: How to Manage the Stress of the Season
Even under ideal circumstances, the holiday season can mean that stress comes for a visit along with your relatives. Combine attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and less-than-ideal circumstances, and the season can feel decidedly overwhelming. These two conditions can make the holiday-inspired stress feel less manageable if you aren’t prepared. Fortunately, with some advance planning, there are some workarounds.
You can navigate your way around the schedule changes and the sugary treats. If it’s your child with ADHD, you most certainly can prepare a strategy to help maximize fun while minimizing stress. Toward that end, let’s explore some game plans to keep the fun in the season!
As a Parent
If you are a parent with ADHD, you may worry that your ADHD/ADD will negatively affect your family’s fun. To minimize parental anxiety, consider the following:
1. Shop Online When Possible
Shopping at any time can be hectic. During the holidays, it’s overwhelming. Limit your frustration exposure to the chaos by shopping online as much as possible.
2. Advance Warning
During the month of December, routines get scrambled. Explain in advance. Prepare your child and adjust the rhythms of your daily routines to keep yourself calm, manage expectations, and increase your ability to go with the flow.
3. Say No to Some Invitations
To reduce the upheaval, get comfortable with saying no. Address each invitation individually with your children and assess the best way to allocate time and energy. Don’t run yourself ragged chauffeuring your kids and shopping for their classmates all season.
4. Set Your Family Up For Success
Once you’ve committed to some holiday plans, come up with a blueprint to minimize potential problems. For example:
- Create a signal or gesture you can give each other to check in or check out of festivities
- Find out in advance what is expected of you throughout the season
- Plan space and time where you can step away to take a break from the relatives and other activities
5. Focus on What You’re Doing Well
Acknowledge and accept the good and challenging parts of the season. Be kind to yourself and your loved ones. D your best to focus on the good to keep the season bright and interactions positive.
As an adult with ADHD, the onus is on you to manage the stress of the season personally as well. Good news: It is entirely doable. Here are some suggestions:
1. Put Your Hard-Earned Skills to Good Use
- Create a calendar. This way, you can recognize if certain time periods are too busy.
- Know your limits and honor them.
- Scale back and downsize without guilt or shame.
- Make a gift-giving list and enjoy the experience of crossing off each item purchased.
- When attending events, plan ahead for overstimulation. Bring earplugs or light-blocking glasses. Have a ready-made explanation in case you decide to leave early.
2. Practice Self-Care
- Say no to all the unhealthy treats: A taste here and there is fun. But all that sugar will only create problems.
- Guard your sleep schedule: You are under no obligation to stay out late when you don’t want to. Keep your sleep routine even when the rest of your schedule has gotten wacky.
- Maintain your exercise regiment: Do not sacrifice your health in the name of fulfilling other people’s expectations. Exercise keeps your brain happy!
Let others know about your needs. Ask for help when required. Call ahead of time if you know you will need space and/or will be leaving earlier than others. This will reduce any feelings of awkwardness.
4. Have Fun!
Embrace your innate ability to be fully present and go all-in! Allow your enthusiasm to shine — no matter how long you choose to engage.
Talk to a Therapist
The stress of the season can be far more manageable when you have a seasoned guide. That’s why so adults with ADD/ADHD regularly meet with a counselor. You can learn to identify your triggers and create solutions in advance. If you’d like to learn more about that process and Adult ADHD/ADD counseling, I invite you to reach out and set up a free consultation.