Make Your Plan for Managing the Holidays

 ADHD Weekly 2017-11-30

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Do you have the feeling of “one holiday down—two (or three) more to go?”

This is a busy time of year, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Having ADHD can complicate your seasonal planning. So how can you manage the holiday season, with its traditions and obligations, while still managing ADHD symptoms?

We looked to some ADHD experts and writers for suggestions on managing the holidays. Most of them offer a similar piece of advice: Let go of expectations (especially ones that come from family, friends, social media or advertising) and focus on the few things you need to create a happy experience for your family.

“There’s a lot of cultural pressure during the holidays,” says Ken Duckworth, MD, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “We tend to compare ourselves with these idealized notions of perfect families and perfect holidays.”

Instead, Dr. Duckworth says to ask yourself if these are things that make you and your family happy. If they’re not—let them go and create new traditions.

Managing the December holidays

December brings with it multiple holidays and the too-familiar stresses of trying to manage celebration, family life, work life, and the keeping of traditions. When you have ADHD, the executive function skills of organization, time management, memory, and impulsivity are already stretched. Adding the responsibilities and traditions of the holiday season can result in frustration and disappointment rather than a merry season.

What can you do to manage the holidays in a way that works for you?

HealthCentral recommends starting with a master list. Include everything that needs to be done, all of the holidays you celebrate, and all of the events you plan to take part in. Then begin to sort the to-do items by priority and date. Then be critical. Ask yourself, for each event and action item, whether the world will come to an end if it isn’t done, or isn’t done “just so.”

“Make sure to include self-care on your list of priorities,” says HealthCentral writer Eileen Bailey. “Eat right, get enough sleep and exercise each day. Take a few minutes each day as down time—sit quietly, listen to music or take a walk. Caring for yourself will help you stay focused and give you the energy to accomplish more.”

Use your master list along with your calendar to stay on track. Looking for ideas on how to create your master list and calendar? Marla Cilley, known as the FlyLady, has created a Holiday Control Journal that can help you get started.

Strategies to manage the holidays

Now that you have your master list and a calendar, how can you approach holiday management? The experts we looked to share several tips:

Accept that not everything will go as planned or as hoped, but that will be okay. We are not perfect people and our families are affected by ADHD. There will be a few bumps in the road, plans that have to changed, and events that we need to accept as “good enough.” By accepting things as they are, and practicing mindfulness in the process, we can enjoy things as they are.

Be practical in your plans. Celebrations don’t need to be Pinterest-worthy events, with elaborate decorations or recipes. Holiday destinations don’t need to be far away beaches or snow-covered mountains. Simple, practical events that bring together your family and friends are more memorable than ones that cause stress and frustration. 

Keep family rules simple and maintain routines as much as possible. Review with your children when necessary; you might consider posting a colorful sign that lists your family’s rules and routines to help keep them in mind. It can also help you to keep your daily routine handy, either posted at home or in your daily notebook, to help you stay on track.

Don’t compare yourself to others. This is a trap that many adults affected by ADHD fall intocomparing themselves to friends, family members, or even the neighbors, and judging themselves as being lesser than. During the holiday season, with brightly decorated houses and social media posts highlighting other people’s plans, it’s easy to be drawn into this trap. 

“It is easy to think, ‘they have it all together, why can’t I? What is wrong with me?’” Ms. Bailey says. “No two families celebrate the holidays exactly alike. Each family has different traditions. How your friends or neighbors celebrate should not dictate how you celebrate yours. Instead of trying to live up to what you think others expect, work on creating your own traditions, ones that fit in with your lifestyle and values.”

Looking forward to a merry and bright season

What will your holiday season look like? The answer is up to you. By taking a few steps nowprioritizing your list, filling out your calendar, and keeping plans practical—you can craft a holiday season that brings joy to you and your family. 

Resources to help create a happy holiday:

How do you make holidays enjoyable and low-stress for your family?

The holiday season can overwhelm you if you don’t create a plan for managing your holiday. What can you do to manage both your ADHD symptoms and the responsibilities that come with the December holidays? We looked to a few experts for some suggestions.