By Sandy Maynard
Surveys show that, of all the members of a household, women with adult attention deficit disorder (ADHD) are the most likely to feel stress during the holiday season. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise – we are the ones baking the cookies, buying the presents, organizing and preparing for family get-togethers, and trying to get the holiday cards in the mail sometime before Valentine’s Day – all in addition to the usual household responsibilities of laundry, carpooling, homework help, and so forth.
It’s enough to dampen anyone’s holiday spirit. The holiday season is a time of giving, but some of us just give too much. The results aren’t pretty – bags under the eyes and that nervous, guilty twitch we get when someone asks, “Are you enjoying the holidays?”
While there is no way to add a couple of extra hours to each day during November or December, there are ways to cope with the stress of the holiday season.
1. Keep taking care of yourself. This is not the time to neglect your yoga class or skimp on your exercise routines. Continue to do what keeps you centered and energized. You’ll need every bit of serenity to stay cool while looking for a parking space at the mall.
2. Decide ahead of time what you’ll buy. Finances are the number-one stressor during the holidays. Make a list of people to buy a gift for, each with a dollar amount and gift idea. Shop specifically for the items on the list. Consider doing all your shopping online – it not only cuts down on impulsive overspending, it saves time you’d spend driving, wrapping, and mailing.
If finances are tight, offer homemade gifts or provide a service, such as mowing the lawn or babysitting. Or suggest a family gift exchange. There are probably other family members who will be relieved by your suggestion.
3. Delegate. This is always a tricky one for those of us with ADHD. We have a hard enough time keeping track of what we need to do, let alone deciding what others can do to help out. Be sure to post each family member’s duties on a chart on the fridge, with a check-off box next to the name and the task. You’ll know at a glance whether the job has been done. Remind those who drag their feet that sharing in the work makes sharing in the fun more rewarding.
4. Let go of the idea of the perfect holiday. Most of us think we can do more than we actually have time for. Better to plan too little than too much. Family traditions are wonderful, but as families change and grow, you may need to do things differently. The Nutcracker will be around next year if your family is too busy to attend this year. Adjust the holiday plans to your current situation. Say no, instead of yes.
5. Help yourself focus. Take a day off from work or hire a babysitter so you can plan, write cards, or shop without the kids. You’ll increase your efficiency and reduce the time you spend in the store. And, at the same time, you’ll give yourself time alone to recharge your batteries.
6. Skip shopping altogether. Save even more time-and avoid mall madness – by making a donation in family members’ names to a favorite cause or nonprofit.
7. Set aside family resentments. Try to accept family members for who they are. Avoid topics or sore spots that you know are likely to spur an argument or hurt feelings. Address those at a more appropriate time. Focus on what you are grateful for at this time of the year.
8. Leave it all behind. Take a vacation from the holiday season – and the frenzy that goes with it. Take your family on a trip the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Inform relatives that you’re celebrating the season differently this year – by yourselves.