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ADHD During the Holidays: Five Strategies to Manage Overwhelm

As we head into the holidays, you might feel a whole variety of emotions. For some, this time is an excellent chance for a dopamine boost and a break! And for others, it can be stressful and overwhelming. Not to mention that the holidays don't mean our executive functioning struggles disappear [1], [2].

To help support you during this time, I've listed five strategies that can help support executive functioning during the holidays. As always, if you need additional support, our ADHD Coaches are available to help build and test personalised systems with you.

1. Schedule Dopamine

It might seem strange to plan for dopamine breaks during a time of having fun. But in fact, not everything will be stimulating; you might find yourself bored and stressed out even amid holiday festivities. So, consider bringing along something you enjoy or setting aside time to indulge in a favourite hobby. For dopamine inspiration and instructions on building your dopamine menu, you can check out this article.

2. Include Transition Times Between Events

We know that those with ADHD, unlike our neurotypical peers, can struggle with transitioning from one task to another. This can include transitioning between different holiday events. To reduce overwhelm, try to avoid scheduling too many events back-to-back. Instead, build in some time to take a break, have a beverage/snack, and prepare for the next event.

3. Externalise Working Memory

Trying to remember your grandparents' recipe, how you hang decorations, or what to pack for a trip are all examples of common memory struggles we can have with ADHD. Something you remembered last year might seem impossible to access this year. So to support your working memory, make a plan to externalise everything by writing it down. Bonus points if you keep a digital copy of that list in an online holiday folder and a paper copy where you store the items you'll need for that task, e.g., in your travel case.

4. Build a Stretchy Holiday Routine

Sometimes when we go on holiday, it can feel great to throw our routines out the window and do whatever we want. Other times that freedom can feel too flexible; we start to miss the morning or evening routines we developed throughout the year. If you want a holiday routine, I recommend stretching out the rituals you've built during the year into something that feels relaxing enough for the holidays.

For example, if you have lunch for 30 minutes, why not make it an hour in the sun, chatting or reading a book? If you previously went on a quick walk around the block, why not body double with someone else and go for a longer walk. Keeping the essential elements but stretching out the time is a great way to build a holiday routine you can use and enjoy.

5. It's Okay to Feel However You Feel

Sometimes holidays can come with a lot of pressure. Pressure to have everything sorted, to enjoy every moment and never feel bored, and to want to attend every event and never need downtime. Remember you are still yourself during the holidays, and it's okay to experience this season however you want. Whether that looks like taking a break during events, saying no to some traditions, or keeping your morning routine throughout, there's no right way to do the holidays; there's only the best way for you.

Hopefully, this article provided you with some strategies to manage the holiday season with ADHD. Remember, it can be a fun experience; it's just about setting it up in a way that works for you and your neurodiversity, the same way that we have with everything else all year.

Talk again soon.