Tips to help you Have Happier Holidays this year!
No matter what you celebrate, or when, I’m willing to bet that you really could use a hand . . . Now!
While a holiday can be filled with fun and excitement, many of us also find it to be a great source of stress. The added responsibilities, social obligations, details to manage, expectations of others, and changes in structure that can cause a disruption in our sleep, diet and daily rhythms can make Holidays a not-so-joyful time for many of us, but especially those of us with busy brains and ADHD!
If you’re feeling a bit Humbug, or frazzled at the least, there are really simple things that you can do right now to help you feel more peace and joy this Holiday season (or any time of year).
Here are My Top 5 Tip for Happier Holidays (and a bonus for good measure):
5. Protect your sleep:
Healthy sleep is so very important for everyone, but especially to those of us with ADHD tendencies! Insufficient rest can be a recipe for disaster, causing increased problems with attention, self-regulation, emotional volatility, and hyperactivity. Do yourself a favor and protect your sleep habits during the Holiday season!
4. Manage your Diet:
It’s easy to throw caution to the wind with respect to food when “Holiday Rules are in Effect.” Obviously, food and drink of all wonderful and delicious variety abounds during the holiday season. While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying these special treats, poor eating habits can also wreak havoc on our brains. The temptation to skip meals or stretch out too much time between them in anticipation of a special meal or event is never a good idea as it can cause dips in blood sugar which effects attention, self-regulation, mood modulation, etc. Regardless of the occasion, it’s always best to make sure we eat regularly, and include some quality protein and healthy fat as part of each meal or snack.
3. Plan your “Escape:
Think about the rough patches of holidays past. Did you or your child say something inappropriate to a relative? Did you or your child have a melt-down at a family gathering or in public? Think about what you’d like to avoid this year and what the triggers may be. There are usually warning signs, even subtle signs, when things are about to go awry, and you know who those relatives are and what those situations are that are most likely to be problematic. Having a pre-made escape plan in place when you know you’re going to see that judgy relative can make all the difference in avoiding the kind of holiday drama nobody wants!
A few suggestions: “Could you excuse me while we get some fresh air?” “I could really use some fresh air/to stretch my legs/to get the blood pumping after all this food/drink/sitting around.” Take a trip to the restroom to splash some water on your face, take a few deep breaths in the quiet, or simply remove yourself (or your child) to another quiet place. Even excusing yourself under the pretext of getting something from your car can give you or your child the respite you need!
When all else fails, you may need to take the, “I’m not feeling quite like myself” route and make a permanent escape from the event! (It’s not a lie when you’re feeling like the “not best” part of you is about to make an appearance…)
2. Plan some down time:
It’s easy for anybody to feel over-stimulated and overwhelmed during the Holiday season. For adults, there are family demands, so much to do in limited time and so many, many details to be dealt with! For children, the routines and structure that are so comforting and help with self-modulation are disrupted. There are guests and social demands and lots and lots of excitement. It’s easy to become over stimulated and overwhelmed, and for those of us who are not as “tuned in” to ourselves, we can feel like we’ve hit the proverbial wall in an instant.
Building some time to refresh and recharge your internal batteries in key this time of year. Self-care and time to do whatever it is that makes you feel refreshed should definitely be part of the schedule. Whether it’s exercise (which we know is essential to our buzzing brains), a nap, a video game, or just some unstructured play, you need to put time for yourself (or your child) on your Holiday calendar!
1. Plan, Plan, and Plan some more:
Although most of us resist it because it sounds boring or like something you just don’t have time to do, a good plan can be like a lifesaver! But the first thing most of my clients need to do is to change how they’re thinking about planning.
Try to treat holiday planning (or any other kind of planning) as Something you do FOR You, rather than something you have to or should do. You’re really just taking a load off your already-taxed brain and making it easier to manage all the balls you need to have in the air. It’s a nice thing to do for yourself, but you can make it even nicer when you grab your favorite beverage, your calendar and something to write on/with, light a candle or put on your favorite music, and choose a comfy spot to sit. Then, set a timer for just 10-20 minutes to start to make a plan. Let it be a start to something that you build upon as you need it and use it.
First, Make sure your calendar is accurate and up-to-date, and that you have built in plenty of time for transitions so everyone knows what comes next and has plenty of time to get themselves ready. Then, take a little time to think about what needs to be done and break it down for yourself.
I keep a separate, small notebook with me in preparation for the Holiday season (and I refer to it year after year so that I’m never starting from scratch). It doesn’t need to be complete or perfect right off the bat: you can add to it gradually, and it will evolve with you over time. I keep it on a bookshelf, and I have a recurring reminder in my calendar to help me remember where it is and to grab it long before the holidays start.
And I carry my holiday notebook with me most everywhere this time of year because I know the way my brain works. If I’m driving and “Oh yeah! I need a hostess gift for So-and-So’s party next week” pops into my head, jotting it down at a red light is a must because the odds are good that I will NEVER remember by the time I get home or back to my office. And if I see a “just-right” gift for someone while I’m out and about, I make sure to put it in my notebook so that I remember I bought it. (I know I’m not the only one who has stashed a special gift somewhere for “safe keeping”, only to stumble across it months too late!)
It sounds like extra work up front, but it can also be very helpful to put as much of the stuff that recurs each year on the computer as you can. If a particular holiday event or item occurs each year for you, like greeting card lists or traditional menu items or if you buy presents for the same people each year, it’s a great gift to yourself to have it in a “Holiday” folder on your computer and not have to re-invent the wheel each year. I even save a picture of my holiday decorations each year (before and after), so that I don’t have to re-think it each time, and I can put things back together when the holidays are over.
Instead of feeling like it squashes my creativity, I’ve realized that it helps to take the pressure off and allow me the time and energy to be creative when and where I want to!
It may seem like extra up front work to you, but putting as much of the Holiday minutia and planning on autopilot as possible may reduce your stress-level significantly.
And, Finally, In the Midst of it All . . .
Don’t forget to Focus on Gratitude!
It’s so easy to let our focus be drawn to the negative this time of year–to focus on what we lack and what’s hard, rather than what we have to be grateful for. Sometimes, it’s grief over the loss of a loved one, a relationship we wish were different, financial circumstances we wish we could improve, or difficult memories that seem to come to the forefront.
Sometimes, we’re just too focused on keeping on top of all the details we have to manage (the gifts, the decorations, the meals, the shopping, the social commitments, etc.) and striving for that picture-perfect, Pinterest-worthy holiday we think we need to have.
It’s easy to let stress take over when our focus is not in the right place.
When all else fails, and stress and struggle seem to be taking over and stealing your joy, force yourself to take just a few minutes to pause and think about what you have to be grateful for. Even if you can only think of 3 things, that momentary shift in focus (along with just a few deep breaths) can create a very significant shift in your mood and in your stress level. Ask yourself: What can I find that’s good in all this commotion (or at least not awful)? What can I find that’s going well (or at least not a total disaster)? What bright spot can you find in your life to hold onto?
In the most stressful times, focusing on just one to three things you can be grateful for can go a long way toward shifting your perspective and lowering stress. Life doesn’t have to be sunshine & roses to find something to be grateful for. Sometimes, we just have to look harder.
With a little planning, some self-care, and a focus on gratitude, you really can find more Peace and Joy this Holiday season (and any time of year).
And Couldn’t we all use a little more Peace and Joy?!
That’s what I’m wishing for you and yours this Holiday season.
I hope you find something in here that helps you!
Lynne Edris, ACG
Productivity & ADHD Coach
P.S. I don’t mean to minimize anyone’s pain this time of year–I’ve had enough pain and loss in my own life to know how hard Holidays can be. Please remember that even when we feel like life is at its darkest, there are people all around us who can and want to help us find just a glimmer of light to hold onto. Don’t be afraid to ask! When we let others help us, we’re giving them a gift as well. And, if you or someone you love is in crisis, help is available by dialing 988. You’re not alone!
P.P.S. A Note Especially for Parents: At times, we all let the stress and frustrations of life get the better of us. This is never truer than during the hustle and bustle of the Holiday season! It may be hard to hear, but one of the most effective, most important things parents can do to improve their children’s behavior is to look at their own behavior. Are you short-tempered? Are you losing your cool easier than normal? This is obviously not good for you, but it can be a recipe for disaster in parenting, especially if you’re parenting kids with special challenges like ADHD.
Remember: your child’s ADHD brain is constantly seeking stimulation. We know that giving attention to any behavior is a sure fire way to increase the frequency of that behavior. So, when we give negative attention (which often has much more energy & stimulation than positive attention) to an unwanted behavior, we are likely to increase the frequency of that unwanted behavior. Even though our kids generally do not want to displease us, it can be extremely difficult for them to resist the attraction to the stimulation of our negative attention. Unless safety is a concern, the most important thing you can do in response to unwanted behavior in a child with ADHD is literally NOTHING!
I know it’s hard (believe me, I know first-hand just how hard it is!), but the best thing you can do for a much of our kids’ unwanted behavior is to ignore it, and amp up the energy in your positive response to the behavior you want to see more of. Spend your precious attention on the positive behaviors you want to increase, and do your best to give no reaction, or a very neutral reaction to the negative behaviors. Sincere, concise praise of the positive behaviors and a calm, neutral “non-reaction” to negative behaviors is a great way to get more of what you want at home—peace!