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by Paula L. Novash
TOO MANY DEMANDS AND UNREALISTIC
EXPECTATIONS can make the holidays ho-ho-hum. The
holiday season can be magical, filled with festive celebrations and
special times with family and friends. But for many, it’s also a
time of frantic activity. Fitting in extra tasks like shopping,
decorating and entertaining as well as attending many social gatherings
in just a few weeks can seem overwhelming. Here are five strategies to
help put the joy back in the season.
Adults who are dealing with the challenges of AD/HD can feel even
more pressure at holiday time.
“I often say that living with AD/HD is like being in the height of
the holiday season all year round,” says Sari Solden, MS, LMFT,
author of Women with Attention Deficit Disorder. People
feel embarrassed when they can’t cope well, she continues.
“We tend to have high expectations during the holidays, and if we
can’t meet them, we feel like failures.”
And coping strategies may not be as effective when familiar routines are
disrupted, says Arthur Robin, PhD, professor of psychiatry and
behavioral neurosciences at the Wayne State University School of
“The holidays tend to bring two major categories of stress for
people with AD/HD: executive functioning deficits, when we have
twenty-five things to do when we usually have ten, and interpersonal
challenges, when we have to deal with people we may have limited contact
with the rest of the year,” says Robin.
To cope with the stresses of the holidays, our experts suggest five
strategies to get organized, relieve stress, and enjoy the holidays
1. Decide what works for you.
“One mistake we make is comparing ourselves to other
people,” says psychotherapist Terry Matlen, MSW, author of
Survival Tips for Women with AD/HD. “It’s important
to focus on the things you do well and not feel you have to live up to
some unrealistic standard.”
Matlen shares one of her own holiday stories. She once ordered a catered
dinner for twelve and then left it in the trunk of her car on a balmy
day. By that evening it was inedible.
“In the past I would have panicked,” she says. “But I
called everyone and told them we were having a potluck smorgasbord of
what we all had on hand. It turned out to be a great evening.”
Child psychiatrist James Van Haren and Beth Ann Hill, co-authors of
The AD/HD Book, think you should consider relaxing your
standards a little—or a lot. Instead of striving for elaborate
decorations and gourmet meals, display one or two cherished ornaments.
If you bake Grandma’s famous pecan pie, don’t worry if
it’s a little lopsided.
“One of the most important things to remember is that you are
helping your family form their own memories of the holidays with
you,” Hill points out. “Do you really want them to remember
how stressed you are?”
3. Have a plan.
To minimize holiday stress, Arthur Robin, MD, suggests that you
“plan, plan and plan some more.” He says shopping early,
making copious lists, scheduling time for tasks on paper or in a
personal digital assistant (PDA), and deciding on a budget in advance
makes tasks more manageable.
And try breaking chores down into manageable bites: Buy three presents a
day online, visit a bookstore for multiple gifts, mail two packages.
4. Give yourself a
At holiday time it’s especially important to build in time for
de-stressing activities: sufficient sleep; exercise; and calming rituals
such as a yoga class, meditation, or taking a walk.
Our experts also recommend trying to anticipate situations that may be
difficult and seeking support. Tell a coworker that you’d
appreciate being able to circulate along with her at the company party,
for instance, or volunteer to supervise the little cousins if joining in
the group dinner preparation makes you feel overloaded.
5. Delegate tasks.
Delegate tasks when you can. Besides enlisting the help of family
members, those in service industries consider it a gift to have your
holiday business. You can have groceries delivered, presents wrapped,
food prepared, and your home cleaned.
“I think of the holidays as an opportunity to reframe our
expectations of ourselves,” says Matlen. “We may even help
our neighbor with the perfectly decorated house to relax a
Paula L. Novash is a freelance writer.
An earlier version of this article appeared in the
December 2006 issue of Attention magazine.
Copyright © 2006 by Children and Adults with
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission from CHADD
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