The holidays can be… a lot.
Before I received my attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis, I thought I was just someone who didn't like holidays. I'd become overwhelmed by being around too many people, and the expectations about socializing made me want to go Full-Grinch.
Even when I ventured outside for a break, I'd still hear the bassline from the music and find it annoying. Not to mention, the lights always seemed too bright, and being able to "feel" everything was just too much.
Contextualizing these feelings with my ADHD symptoms is validating. This complicated experience is shared by many ADHDers — particularly when it comes to feeling overwhelmed during a period meant to be fun.
Read on to discover why ADHDers can feel more stressed during the holidays and some ways to cope!
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- Holidays can be difficult for ADHDers, from difficulties with organization, forgetfulness, and over- or under-stimulation.
- Learn to recognize certain warning symptoms and moods, like anxiety, stress, and irritability.
- To avoid burnout, learn your limits, delegate, take time outs, and communicate your needs and boundaries.
- It's ok to prioritize yourself. It will be a more enjoyable period for you and help alleviate stress, giving you more energy where you want to.
Connecting ADHD and overwhelming holidays
While the holidays can have moments of joy, connection, and great food... they can also be incredibly stressful, agitating even the most patient people.
For ADHDers, the holidays can feel compounded with stress and pressure for various reasons — including difficulties with organization, lower frustration levels, and forgetfulness.1
Symptoms of overstimulation
Symptoms of sensory overload vary, but there are a few common ones to look out for:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Increased issues with focus and concentration
- Panic attacks
- Burnout (emotional and physical)
- Angry outbursts
How to manage ADHD overwhelm during the holidays
You may not be able to opt out of holiday festivities, but there are some techniques you can use to help you manage.
1. Prioritize your needs
Developing stronger self-esteem is an ongoing process that takes time.
- Step 1 — Know or learn your limits.
- Step 2 — Communicate your boundaries and remain firm.
Regularly check in with yourself to notice any signs of overstimulation to condition yourself to be more in tune with your limits.
And the guilt you may feel about setting boundaries? That will decrease over time.
💡 Pro tip! Be honest with people about your boundary-setting struggles. They may offer support and can be the ones reminding you to say no!
2. Be consistent with sleep, exercise, and self-care
Routines take a lot of work to enforce. When things get hectic, there is an increased chance of quitting self-care tasks, so being consistent with your sleep, exercise, and self-care routines is crucial. Try reminding yourself that a little goes a long way!
3. Combat background noise with music, noise-canceling headphones, or ear protectors
Background noise can be a significant stressor to ADHDers who struggle to filter out irrelevant information. Listening to low noise helps you focus on what's at hand.
Noise-canceling headphones or ear protectors may help those struggling with auditory sensory overload. My favorite is the PELTOR 3M Earmuffs. I put them on whenever I feel anxious with no readily identifiable cause.
If you run out of time to buy headphones or ear muffs, don't be afraid to ask the host to put on music without lyrics. Type "instrumental" in the search bar before the genre you're looking for to find the perfect premade playlists.
Other quick fixes for happier holidays
4. Go shopping during slower parts of the week
Weekend crowds may make it even more challenging to finish your tasks. Try going during off-peak hours or mid-week. If this isn't possible, try taking short breaks away from the crowds by stepping outside and getting a few breaths of fresh air.
5. Keep your lists on a whiteboard
Making gift lists is easy, but remembering to check and edit them is challenging.
Try keeping a whiteboard in an easily accessible place to make quick edits. Plus, you'll be more likely to check it this way!
6. Simplify each day with creative shortcuts
👉 You try it! Check out the time management module on the Inflow app to learn more about how to cope and improve your time management, combat time blindness, and master your calendar!