Coping With The Holidays is another trial we have to bear.
Coping with the holidays is another story when you have ADHD. They say the key to a successful holiday function is preparation; that must be on my other key ring. You know, the lost one.
Every year they fool me! Holidays always begin with so much promise. One minute you’re watching the commercials with the happy kids and bobbing your head to your favorite carols, the next you have torn the last of your edges out while you cry yourself to sleep. My holiday is considered a roaring success if I narrowly escape hanging myself in the lights, and don’t locate more than one “lost gift” from last year floating in the flotsam and jetsam. Coping with the holidays is a challenge for lots of people. This time of year can sometimes feel more like warding off impending doom than a celebration. Why?
Shiny things are calling me!
For starters, I’m too busy being excited and overstimulated. There’s shiny stuff! Shiny stuff EVERYWHERE!! All five senses are engaged: when you are busy tasting touching smelling looking and listening to everything at once, it’s easy to forget you were supposed to be home wrapping your own gifts three hours ago.
I can’t remember, therefore it doesn’t happen.
Additionally, there’s having to remember stuff. Organization and shit. I have procrastinated on my Christmas shopping so long that just the thought of a store makes me shudder. There are people to disappoint by the forgetting of the stuff. Just the thought of it all sends my anxiety through the roof! Pass the eggnog; no, just pass the rum. The whole bottle. That’s how I’ve been coping with the holidays for years, you caught me.
Talk to people???
Let’s not forget: socializing! My old friend (insert eye roll here). Some things improve with time, like wine, and comfy tees and cast iron pots. Socializing? Not so much. Rooms full of people, struggling to find something to say, not being awkward? Monitoring how much time I’ve spent escaping into the world of my phone? Shoot me, please.
We do it for love
Of course, by now you’re asking yourself “why”. Why do we insist on this holiday madness? We do it for the people we love, of course. When you see the first child smile or listen to your grandmother launch into one of her famous stories, it’ll be worth it. Traditions, even nerve-wracking ones, are (sometimes) the comfy jeans of life. That’s how we’re coping with the holidays. Traditions keep us going, like touchstones we can look back on during the year when we wonder why we tolerate these people. They’re well worn, well loved, and they always fit. Hang on, it’s almost over.
You CAN succeed at coping with the holidays
- Find a place to escape – Remember, there is ALWAYS an escape route. Every time I get to a holiday gathering, the first thing I plot is my exit strategy. Aunt asking too many questions? Overstimulated from the loud people saying loud things. There is a room in the house where no one is. A room where you can take a few minutes to process, breathe and come out again. You know that room where everyone lays their coats? Oh, you know. Go find it, and hide.
- Don’t entertain your toxic relatives – We could talk about not seeing toxic relatives at all, but that’s a whole different post. For now, if you know you’re going to be stuck in a room with your cousin who used to give you atomic wedgies, or your grandmother who asks intrusive questions, your nerves may be shot. Take some time in advance to mentally prepare for the onslaught: you already know what they’re going to ask, so prepare a response, and a follow-up response to shut them down.
- Remember, it’s only once per year – If you don’t have to do something that often, you’ll find that it becomes just a little easier to tolerate. This holiday season is a speed bump you have to get over to get into the new year when everyone will go back to forgetting you exist unless they need something (see the previous statement on toxic relatives).
- If you forget something, it is ok – Too often we forget that just like there are no perfect people, there are no perfect holidays. I know, I know. You want perfection. Instead, there will be cats knocking down ornaments. You want the children’s hair to stay perfect for your awesome Instagram shot. Take that pressure off of yourself. Expect something to go wrong, so it won’t be so painful when it happens.
- Find the stuff you need to take along the day before you go – I cannot emphasize this enough: If you are traveling, the pressure of having to be on time will make you more forgetful than usual. Set a timer the night before, and use an hour to gather the things you need and put them in the car. . . if you have a family, do not let them near the car. . . they will take things out, and you will not have them. ADHD folks struggle with planning, but you have to get ahead of it. Read this post about learning to plan with ADHD, it might help.
- Get a general gift for the person you forgot – Oh, you forgot them. Unfortunately, they won’t forget you, and you’ll be embarrassed unless you try this trick in advance. Sure, we want to live in a world where you remembered everything and you are perfect and you never ever make a mistake. Let’s get real! You have a neurological disorder that makes you forget/lose things. Buy a bottle of wine for an adult, and a great board game for a kid. Wrap them, put a name tag on them and leave the “to” blank until you need to fill it in. You’ll thank me later.
- Have fun – The whole purpose of the holiday can be lost in a flurry of anxiety and stress. Take a deep breath, and remember that you’re here to have fun. Holidays aren’t about the gifts or the people who will annoy you, or your arrival time. Coping with the holidays becomes so much easier when you commit to having a good time, despite the crap that is bound to happen.
Still struggling at coping with the holidays? I get it. Here are some more resources to help you get there:
- Psych Central’s Coping With The Holidays Survival Guide
- Mayo Clinic’s Tips for dealing with holiday stress and depression
- How To Cope With The Holidays When You Have ADHD
- Additude Magazine’s Minimize Holiday Havoc with These ADHD-Friendly Strategies
I wish you a very Merry whatever it is that you celebrate. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the people who you care for this season if you need extra support. Coping with the holidays IS stressful, but you can make it. Let me know your favorite tip for holiday stress-busting in the comments! May your days be less anxious, may you not lose your lists, tape, or scissors.
Until next time,
P. S. If you find yourself in need of a laugh, watch this video of Patti Labelle singing my favorite Christmas Carol at the White House. Spoiler alert: somebody messed up, BAD!