The Gift of a Holiday Gift List

 ADHD Weekly, December 5, 2019

The season of sales and gift shopping has begun. For many people who have ADHD, searching for gifts and managing a shopping budget can be overwhelming. The key to success may be creating an affordable and achievable gift-giving list before heading out.

Sharon Saline, PsyD, encourages you to take time to write out who you would like to share gifts with—family members, friends, coworkers—and the amount of money you have to spend. Where possible, jot down what types of gifts for each person and include the costs of wrapping supplies. Having this information as a guide can help to lessen that overwhelmed feeling.

“You can’t just go out and shop,” Dr. Saline says. “That’s where people with ADHD dig themselves into the snake pit of stress, regret, and the feeling of being a chicken with its head cut off in Toys“R”Us.”

Making your shopping plan

Not all gifts need to be purchased. Some of the most thoughtful and appreciated holiday gifts are homemade. For the gifts that are purchased, selecting items that are unique and reflect the receiver is often more important than how much is spent—so look for sales where you can.

“What you’re going to do with this list of family and friends is you’re going to look at their names and decide if these are people you’re going to spend money on or are you going to make something for them,” Dr. Saline says. “For the ones you’re making a gift for, generate a list of things they’d enjoy.”

Taking your list, make a grid, she suggests, with their names and columns for “make,” “buy,” or “bake.” This grid is now your plan or map of action.

The next step is to create your shopping route. Write down the order of the store you plan to visit in one day, putting them in order of travel. You can use a map, such as one online or a navigating app, to plan your driving and avoid backtracking.

“Look at the things you want to buy, how much you can spend, and what stores have these things,” Dr. Saline says. “Or, you can decide to go to a craft fair or a mall that has all the stores you’re looking for. You don’t have to know exactly where you want to go, but you should have some ideas.”

Enlisting a friend or family member to go with you can also help you stick with your plan and offer some much-needed reflection to help prevent impulse purchases. “If you have a buddy to shop with, they can help because they’ll give you some feedback,” says Dr. Saline.

“Part of the challenge with gift-giving is that when you’re thinking about it, it feels like climbing Mount Everest,” she says. “People with ADHD get stuck in the decision-making process. With writing out your plan, it works better if you can work backwards. To discover when you need to begin, mark down when you want a task completed and how much time is needed. Look at your end goal and then track backwards to assign shopping days, baking days, and crafting days.”

Create the holiday that works for you

Too often adults who have ADHD imagine a Hollywood image of what their holiday celebrations should be like, says Dr. Saline, and they end up frustrated and disappointed when they can’t achieve that fantasy.

“Let’s try to do some actual deconstructing of the holidays and set realistic goals,” she says. “What would actually work for you? If it doesn’t serve you to come up with a gift for every night of Hanukkah, then come up with something new.”

Dr. Saline says she see that part of the problem is the emphasis is on gift-giving, rather than what is important to families during their holidays. Instead, rethink gift-giving to include gifts of service to one another or the community, gifts of time spent together, and gifts that strengthen family traditions.

“Do you need all the stuff over Christmas?” she asks. “I think it’s important to think about what the spirit of this holiday is. What’s the spirit, what’s the purpose? Decide what is really important for your family. It’s all about the traditions you want to create if you’re a parent, and the ones you want to participate in if you’re not a parent.”

Holidays focused on families, rather than gifts

The beginning of the holiday season is a good time sit down as a family, or with just your spouse or partner, and talk about what you each look forward to. Rather than focusing on gift-giving, think of it as just one part of the season. Planning times to bring happiness to others, as individuals or as part of the family, can make the season much brighter.

Turning the focus from gifts that are purchased can have two important results: lessening the buying and wrapping load of the season and increasing the connectedness experienced by family and friends. Unwrap the bonus of decreasing the seasonal to-do list, something often appreciated by adults with ADHD.

“You can say to your loved ones, ‘This holiday is about giving and receiving. I know what you want to receive. Have your thought about what you want to give?’” Dr. Saline says. “We want to help adults and kids to figure that out.”

Looking for more holiday tips and gift-giving ideas?

Join the discussion: What gift-giving tips would you suggest?