ADHD and Overwhelmed this Season? 11 Tips for Getting Through the Holidays with a Smile

People with ADHD can be easily overwhelmed – by too much to do, procrastination, and even by sensory overload.  If you are easily overwhelmed in the holidays, here are some ideas that could help:

Don’t host the big days, if you can help it.  It’s less overwhelming if you aren’t the one primarily responsible for putting a big holiday dinner on the table.  If you are asked to host, suggest that this year isn’t a great year for you to do it.  You don’t need to explain yourself, either.  If you find you must be the host, then consider…

Put on a pot luck holiday.  We did this a number of years and not only was it a lot more fun, but we got a wider variety of foods from everyone who came to dinner.  I distinctly remember how pleased I was to bring the turkey, cooked, to one friend’s home…and didn’t have to do ANYTHING else!

Go out to dinner.  Some families have favorite restaurants who can do most of the work for you.  They might even pack up leftovers for the football games later on.

Exercise, exercise, exercise!  One fun way to do this with a crowd is to start a multi-generational neighborhood touch football game.  However you do it, make sure to get some exercise around the holidays.  It is a great stress reliever.

Make sure you have a quiet retreat.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, it can really help to retreat for a while.  Don’t worry about this – you deserve a break if you need it, just to catch your breath.  Go sit quietly in a different part of your home, or go out with a favorite relative for a quiet walk.

Don’t worry the details.  Many fights happen in anticipation of getting things “just right.”  Yet some of the best holidays are when things AREN’T just right.  Your relationships with those you love, including your spouse, are far more important than the right centerpiece, or any other detail you are worried about.

Along those same lines, feel free to say no.  If Uncle Harry is drunkenly belligerent, for example, it’s still your home.  You have a right to ask him to leave early.  Gather the right support, and stand up for yourself.

Set early deadlines.  There are lots of things you (and your friends and family) can do early.  Ask your closest family member to come early to help you set up the house for dinner (if you must host!) or even the day before.  If you are worried about gift giving, set a date that is 2 weeks in advance of your actual gift exchange to finish up.  Make a list so you can remember what you’re getting – as well as stay in your budget.

Don’t be a dictator.  There is nothing that will start a fight with cherished family members faster than having one person be a dictator.  “Do this, do that!” gets old…and fast!  Talk with your partner about your specific plans and figure out who will do what ahead of time.  Write down your tasks, then simply check in with each other as appropriate.  If your partner isn’t done yet, don’t sweat it – it’s his or her job, not yours.  Remember, this is supposed to be FUN!

Delegate...nicely.  Many have children who can help (adult or not!)  DO NOT forget to ask for their involvement.

Have a release valve.  Make sure your spouse knows that the holidays can be hard for you.  And that you might simply need him or her to step up and take over for a bit.  Talking about this ahead of time will smooth the transition if you need to take a break.

We probably have too many Rockwell-like pictures in our heads of how perfect the holidays are supposed to be.  Don’t buy that!  We are all human…and that means we are rarely perfect! Don't ruin your holiday season with worrying about whether or not things are a bit chaotic.  Instead, focus on your relationships, on fun, and on taking care of yourself when you need it.  (Tip number 12?  Give yourself a gift when it's all over!)