It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! (Or is it?)


We are in the midst of the holiday season! 

www.ableadhdcoaching.comIt is a time associated with joy, reflection and connection.  However, with all the cheer and joy, music and lights, sights and smells can come the unpleasant feeling of overwhelm.

Overwhelm, or “clutter of the mind,” occurs when we are faced with “too many….,” “too much….,” “not enough,” “should,” or any other words and feelings that fill your mind.

Do any of these sound familiar?

“Too many”:

  • Decisions to make,
  • Pieces of paper with reminders and notes,
  • Errands to run,
  • Gifts to buy,
  • Tasks to be done,
  • You fill in the blank: ___________________________.

“Too much”:

  • Planning for a holiday meal or holiday party/celebration,
  • Cleaning to get done,
  • “On your plate”,
  • You fill in the blank: ___________________________.


  • I should have a prefect meal planned,
  • My house should be spotless for company,
  • I should make a fancy meal, even though I don’t enjoy cooking,
  • I should invite people in,
  • I should get my holiday cards done, and ….. and……,
  • You fill in the blank: ___________________________.


  • There is not enough time to get it all done!
  • I didn’t do enough to make this a perfect meal/day/celebration/etc.



The ADHD Brain

For ADHDers the unique wiring of the ADHD brain complicates the feelings of  “too many,” “too much,” “should,” or “not enough.” 

These feelings often create an almost tornado-like feel in the brain.  The result of this clutter and whirlwind is what we call overwhelm.

This state of overwhelm can actually shut down the brain so that making decisions, planning, prioritizing, organizing, initiating tasks, and regulating emotions and attention all become more difficult.

When overwhelm occurs, many ADHDers find themselves feeling paralyzed and unable to gain forward momentum.


What can you do to mitigate the feeling of overwhelm?

  1. Take time for yourself.
    1. Sleep: making sure you get enough sleep is at the top of the priority list. No amount of strategies or systems will help if you are overtired. Give yourself permission to get to bed at a reasonable time, even if that means there are tasks left undone. You will be more productive and effective with the proper sleep.
    2. Exercise
    3. Proper nutrition
    4. Other self-care – time to relax, watch a movie, connect with friends, get outside…
  2. Take your emotional temperature. – Visualize a scale, or thermometer, 0-10, with 0 being everything is ok and you feel calm and in control and 10 being that you feel like you are losing all control. Take time to notice where you are on this scale and whether the size of your reaction is warranted. If you are getting close to 10, stop, take a deep breath and apply one of the strategies listed here.
  3. Do a brain dump – Capture all the thoughts swirling in your head onto a piece of paper. Just by writing your thoughts down, you will begin to create some open space in your brain. Once the thoughts are in a physical form, you can look at each one and ask yourself, “Do I have control over this, or is this something that is not within my control?” If it is not within your control, cross it off the list. If it is within your control, identify an action that can move you closer to a solution.
  4. Shift your mindset from what you haven’t accomplished to what you have accomplished. What we pay attention to, grows.
  5. Remember, you are not an island. Asking for help is a way of including other people in your plans.
  6. Take the time to think about what is really important to you this holiday season. Answer these two questions: What do you value the most about the holidays? What do you want to remember, or want others to remember, about the holiday? family-having-fun-nc
  7. Operate from an area of strength. Do what you are good at and delegate or share the rest. Not good at cleaning and need to host a holiday dinner? Hire someone to come into your home to clean for you, even if it is only one time.

Hate wrapping gifts? Have a wrapping party so you can accomplish the task and enjoy the company of others.  If a wrapping party seems too complicated, turn on some music or your favorite TV show/movie.

The holidays can truly be a time of happiness and joy.  What will you do today, to make your holidays more enjoyable?


What is important to me this holiday season:






Photo Credits: Girl in snow: Image by radnatt at; New Year’s Eve party: Image by photostock at; Family fun:Image by photostock at

Kristine (Shiverick) Kaufmann
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