It’s December and the holidays are upon us – Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa and the New Year. Many of us take to Pinterest and scour the internet for glorious ideas of how we’ll wrap a gift, bake cookies, throw parties, shop, send holiday cards, visit with family and friends, etc. It’s a joyful, yet stressful time of year. For those of us with neurodiverse brains, this time of year can be hellish. Don’t get me wrong, I celebrate Christmas, I love Christmas, it’s my favorite holiday.
Somehow every year I manage to try to cram every single thing I can into my holiday planning and wind up disappointed when planning goes sideways or I don’t manage to do everything on my to do list. And my lists are LONG.
While neurotypical folks plan to complete one or two tasks in a day, we neurodiverse people manage to do three, day-long activities in a day. I’ve been known to clean my house, pull out all the christmas decorations, go out and buy a tree, bring it in and light and decorate it and the house, make dinner, followed by making a double batch of holiday bread, and clean it all up… with no help from another person on the planet. I know some of you can relate. Normal for an ADHDer, unheard of for my “normal” friends. Just bringing in the tree and decorating it is usually a day-long event for them.
“One minute we can feel intense joy and connectedness, the next our feelings are hurt by an errant comment about a dish we made not being the ‘traditional fare.”
Emotions and feelings are also heightened this time of year. Companies launch into hyperdrive advertising love on steroids and the ideally perfect family where everyone is happy to be home for the holidays. While a wonderful fantasy, it’s not usually true for everyone. For ADHDers, holidays are tricky. One minute we can feel intense joy and connectedness, the next our feelings are hurt by an errant comment about a dish we made not being the “traditional fare.” Or the gift we thoughtfully purchased for our loved one isn’t received with the same enthusiasm we felt when purchasing it.
“We can tend to forget that we are wired so very differently.”
Over the years, I’ve developed a trick to avoid getting overwhelmed with all the Holiday “things.” I plan out my days leading up to the holiday. I take out a calendar (paper) and schedule when I shop for groceries, when I buy the tree and decorate it, when I bake, etc. Once a scheduled task day arrives, I create a list for the tasks that day. I won’t take on more than two or three tasks in a day simply because to do more would exhaust me to the point of tears – even though I know i can do it all.
As for those stupid emotional swings, this year I’m learning to simply identify when I’m overwhelmed by the amount of time spent with family and friends. I determine how much time I’ll spend, and leave while my mood is still up and in tact. If I push past my allotted time, I inevitably wind up angry and resentful, something I don’t enjoy if I can help it. I also let folks know when I’ve had enough. Setting reasonable boundaries and communicating when I have neural misfires is vitally important. Needless to say, I wind up spending a lot of time cooking and cleaning while listening to conversations from a safe distance.
“I encourage each and every one of my neurodiverse family to let your freak flags fly.”
I know the holidays can be hard, and I encourage each and every one of my neurodiverse family to let your freak flags fly. Be honest, forthright and loving, for yourself and others. Take care of yourself so that taking care of others is easy. Allow yourself some grace, patience and a hug from someone you adore. Take a nap! Most of all, give your time to yourself and others. It is the greatest gift we can give or receive. Happy Holidays, my loves!
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