The holiday season is upon us. Though the holidays can bring joy and happy celebration, this time of year can also cause increased stress and mixed emotions. For an adult with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the changes in routine and the demands of the season can be an added burden.
Juggling complicated family dynamics at holiday gatherings, pressures of planning, organizing and entertaining at home, financial strain of gift buying, last minute shopping, dealing with crowds and longer lines at checkout, sensory overload from the holiday music, flashing lights, and chaos — it's easy to become overwhelmed!
When stress levels are high, managing symptoms of ADHD becomes even more challenging. Reducing your stress, increasing feelings of control, and getting supports in place is essential. Below are some tips for minimizing the stress that accompanies the holidays, and for putting joy back into the season.
Reducing Stress...and Enjoying the Holiday Season
Self-Care is number one! Unfortunately, it's also often the first to be neglected during the frenzy of the season. The holidays can be very disruptive to your regular routines and healthy habits, and unless you consciously make an effort to keep up with good habits, it's easy to find yourself overeating, cutting out exercise, drinking too much at parties, getting to bed too late, over-committing to too many tasks and activities, and generally wearing yourself out. Making self-care a priority means taking care of your personal health, both physically and mentally. Self-care is a proactive approach to strengthening health, reducing stress, and preventing illness. Actively focus on taking care of yourself during the holidays.
Keep Up Regular Routines as much as is possible. One of the most difficult day-to-day aspects of the holiday season is the disruption it brings to a person's normal routines and schedule, and this is especially true if you're traveling and spending time away from home. For families living with ADHD, the inconsistency and lack of predictability can make coping even more difficult. It's important to be flexible, but maintaining some semblance of a schedule that includes your familiar routines can help reduce stress levels and make it easier to utilize effective coping strategies to manage symptoms of ADHD.
Anticipate Situations that May Be Difficult, and get a plan in place for dealing with those situations in a healthy way. One great way to reduce stress is to prepare for it. You may know ahead of time that certain triggers will set you off: it may be interactions with a difficult family member who you only see once a year, the pressure of getting your house cleaned and in order before guests arrive, or the last minute shopping rush you find yourself involved in each year. By anticipating stressful situations, you can prepare for them and get effective coping strategies in place to minimize that stress.
Adjust Your Expectations about the holidays and be kind to yourself. There's often so much self-imposed pressure, and and so many unrealistic expectations about what the holidays should be like. So it's easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others, and then feeling like a failure if you can't do it all! Those feelings of shame and depression can easily take over and block out any joy of the season. Let go of those pressures and simplify your life during the holidays. Ask for help when you need it. Learn to say "no" more often instead of finding yourself overextended and over-committed to too many responsibilities. Keep things in perspective, and remind yourself what this time of year really means to you and your family.