Reduce End-of-Year Stress
You just looked at the calendar and realized that Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away. Soon the tumult of the holiday season will be here. Are you ready?
If your answer is “not really,” then you are in good company. Most people will tell you they don’t feel ready for cooking, cleaning, shopping, and the ongoing festivities of the next two months. ADHD symptoms of forgetfulness and inattention, difficulty with getting started on a task, getting and staying organized, and low frustration can compound an already stressful time into the least merry months of the year.
What can you do to make things a bit brighter for you and your family? Here are some thoughts on preparing for the holiday season.
Consider your traditions and the events that are important to you and your family. What are your favorites? The same goes for decorating your home—which cherished traditions or decorations make things feel festive to you? Use your answers as your to-do list, rather than trying to do everything or decorate every room.
“Prioritizing your goals and setting aside time for them in advance can reduce your anxiety and restore a feeling of control that may have been missing in previous holidays,” says Michael R. Lewis, a retired corporate executive and entrepreneur. “Use your time wisely by doing only those things you enjoy and eliminating or substituting tasks you dislike or find boring.”
By picking your favorites and sticking to them you create more time to enjoy what is important to you and your family.
Adult ADHD symptoms often interfere with organizing and can leave one feeling overwhelmed. This year, delegate some of your “need to dos” to other family members or hire services, if you can, to help you out. This might mean having a cleaning service come the week before your guests arrive for the holiday to clean the house for you. Many grocery stores will prepare the full holiday meal ahead of time—some even deliver—and all you need to do is to reheat it. If you plan to prepare the holiday meal yourself, grocery shopping services can bring your ingredients to you so you don’t have to run to the store. Department stores and retailers will assemble your purchases, and many will even wrap those gifts.
You could also coordinate with friends and family members to arrange who will prepare which festive dish, or just go all in for a potluck meal. Together you could decide in advance who will watch the children or take them on a local adventure while preparations are underway.
The key is to be honest with yourself and your personal resources—time, emotions, or abilities—and decide if a task is difficult or overwhelming for you. If it is, pass it on to someone who is better prepared to tackle it. That way you can take on the tasks you are best at accomplishing with the resources you have at this time of year.
Minimize gift giving
Holidays frequently seem to be all about gifts. There is wonder in a child’s eyes when she sees the presents under the tree or opens that special gift. But giving too many gifts can take us past our budgets and all the shopping and wrapping puts a strain on us.
Make your gift-giving list early and set limits. Not everyone needs to receive a gift; sometimes a card or a sweet note could be more endearing. Eliminate the stress and overstimulation of wandering through crowded stores by shopping online; you may find it helps you stay within your budget.
“Keep in mind that the holidays are about spending time with loved ones, not gifts,” says therapist Jessica Maharaj MA, LGPC, NCC. “Your friends and family will be happy to create memories with you, so don’t worry about finding an expensive gift or if they will like it; they will appreciate your efforts and affection regardless of what you give them.”
Emphasize time with family and friends
The perfect holiday season is not about what is on the table, but about the time you spend with family and friends. Center your plans on activities you can enjoy together, especially ones that are local and community-based. Tour a light display, visit botanical gardens, or have a winter picnic at the local park.
You don’t need to accept every invitation that comes your way. Pick the events and parties you’d like to attend and send a note or an email politely declining the others. You might even want to plan days or evenings in with good books, favorite movies, and winter snacks that you can share together. Get-togethers based on a loved one’s need for either stimulation or quiet time can help to make the experience more enjoyable.
“Families thrive on traditions, but it’s less about the event itself, which your kids may have outgrown, and more about time together,” writes Alesandra Dubin of Women’s Day magazine. “If your kids are complaining, drop expensive, high-stress rituals in favor of something simple and universally appealing, like a Christmas Eve chocolate-chip pancake feast.”
Looking for more holiday planning tips?
- Finding Your Holiday Spirit Through Self-Care
- Making a Change: ADHD, Family Gatherings, and the Holidays
- Survive the Holidays—a chat with Terry Matlen, MSW, ACSW
- How Can We Refocus the Holidays This Year?
- Create Holidays That Work for You
- Podcast: How to Manage Family Holiday Stress
- Get Ahead of Holiday Stress and Enjoy the Season
- Holiday Meal Planning? You Can Do That