‘Twas a night in December and all through the house, everything was stirring, even the mouse.
- Do the holidays feel stressful?
- Do you feel overwhelmed?
- Is it sometimes hard to find the joy of the season with all the demands vying for your attention?
The holidays are a wonderful time of the year, but they have the potential to lose their luster.
Stress, overwhelm, and the loss of perspective are common themes many of my clients are talking about this month. The ADHD brain gets excited by shiny and new activities, products, and ideas, which is both a strength and at times a challenge of the ADHD brain.
This time of the year brings a lot of “shiny and new.” Stores are all shiny, there are new products marketed everyday filled with promises of something better, and we are being bombarded by sights, sounds and smells throughout the day.
During the holiday season don’t lose sight of all the wonderful strengths you have: curiosity, creativity, kindness, empathy, enthusiasm, spontaneity, and a sense of adventure, to name just a few. And don’t forget to use them.
So, how do you enjoy the season?
How do you not only survive the hustle and bustle of the season, but also thrive?
These 10 tips will help ensure your holiday season is merry and bright.
Take 15-20 minutes to sit down and write out answers to the following questions. Your answers will provide you with a road map for how you want to navigate the holidays.
Writing your answers down will ensure that you don’t have to rely on your working memory to remember them. When doing this exercise remember, there is no right or wrong answer. The “right” answer is what feels good to you.
- Define what is most important to you about the holiday season: The ADHD brain can generate the most amazing ideas. It also has the ability to quickly get caught up in those ideas and get sidetracked from what is most important. Remember, the ADHD brain is wired for interest over importance. Is it most important that you have a clean house? Perfect decorations? Baking? Gifts? Connecting with family and friends? Getting sleep? Exercising? Keep what is most important to you somewhere where you will see if often so that you don’t lose sight of it.
- Set specific goals: Take what you have identified as most important and establish some goals for yourself. What is your goal(s) for the holiday season? Do you want to take time off from work? Do you want to create a new tradition, see family and friends, etc? A goal or endpoint helps keeps our actions on track.
- Make a list and check it twice (and every day): Create a list of things that need to be bought or done during the holiday season. With all the distractions of the holidays, it is very easy to forget things we want to do. Once you have made the list, the key is to remember to look at it. Where will you keep it so that you can check it throughout the day?
- Plan a time to accomplish tasks and attend social gatherings: If you want something done, you need to create room in your schedule to do it. Whether it be a chore, errand, appointment or party, put the task or event in your calendar. The very act of scheduling time to accomplish a task, or attend an event, will make it more likely to happen. If you struggle with time management, and many individuals with ADHD do, this is a very important step.
- Check to make sure that what you have planned for a day is realistic: This is a hard one. The ADHD brain likes all the new possibilities the season has to offer. It also has a tendency to struggle with time estimation and feeling time pass. Look at what you have scheduled for yourself to see if you are setting yourself up for success. Did you plan too much, too little or just right?
- Use your strengths: Incorporate your strengths, of which you have many, into your daily activities. Doing this will make the activities easier and more enjoyable. The ADHD brain finds it easier to activate around an activity or task when it comes from a place of strength. Are you creative? Create a holiday card that highlights your creative side. Are you energetic? Have a baking marathon with family or friends. Better yet, get outside for some winter fun. Are you a good planner? Plan a holiday meal or get together.
- Reflect of what is working: What is working well for you on a day to day basis? Put more of what is working well into your day. Is it helpful to set reminders for various things, great! If it is hard to remember certain things, ask yourself, “What do I need to change to make this more successful?” Don’t be afraid to ask for help in area that you find more challenging (making reservations, planning a holiday meal, figuring out a gift list). The holidays are about connection and togetherness.
- Practice gratitude: Take a few minutes to think/talk about the things that went well for you that day, week, month, year, and lifetime. Celebrating the good, is what the season is really about.
- Get a good night’s sleep: Put on your kerchief and make getting a good night sleep a priority. The brain works most effectively and efficiently when it is rested.
- Breathe: Above all, breathe. Remember to put your oxygen mask on first to keep you and your brain in tip top shape.
Bonus: Smile! Researchers have found that the act of smiling produces a positive feedback loop in the brain. Smiling activates the release of neurochemicals in the brain: dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. These chemicals can reduce stress, heart rate and blood pressure as well as elevate mood. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201206/there-smagic-in-your-smile)
Embrace your strengths and talents this holiday season and carry them over into the New Year. You will be glad you did!
“Twas a night in December and all through the house, everyone was sleeping, even the mouse. Happy holidays and a bright and happy New Year!