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The Challenges of ADHD/ADD Over the Holidays


The Challenges of ADHD/ADD Over the Holidays

Happy holidays to everyone out there!

So many people just can’t wait for this time of year. Many call it a winter vacation, even though there is usually very little relaxation associated with it. Indeed, for some, the holidays can be one of the most stressful times of the year. There is just so much to do, especially if your focus is being pulled in a hundred different directions by your ADD/ADHD. You need to find and buy presents for friends, decorate your home, send out cards, prepare meals, attend parties, get ready to see your family, and finish all of your work before the big day hits. That can be a heck of a lot of stress for anyone, let alone someone with ADD/ADHD. The really sad part about this is that the holidays are supposed to be fun! It’s a time of celebration of family and friends! So the question becomes, how can you manage your ADD/ADHD to effectively navigate the stressful challenges of the holidays?

Create a Holiday Schedule

Creating schedules and to-do lists are powerful strategies that many with ADD/ADHD use on a daily basis to help manage their lives. Schedules can give your day structure, it’s basically a road map to get you through everything that needs to be done.

At the beginning of December (or even earlier), create a schedule that you can follow over the next month, right up until New Year’s. Your schedule should be flexible to allow for bad days and unexpected events, while still laying out your path for the holidays. Try as best you can to keep your usual daily schedule in place for the majority of the month, with the understanding that you probably won’t be able to follow that routine on the actual holidays themselves.


One of the biggest pressures of the holidays is the feeling like you need to find the perfect gift for everyone in your life. You might have that feeling that, if only you put a little bit more thought in or searched a little more that you will figure it out. I have a suggestion for you: release yourself from the tyranny of the perfect gift! The people in your life will appreciate your presents, no matter what they are. It’s truly the thought that counts. If you want something that says, “I know what you like” without putting too much energy into individual presents, believe me, gift cards can be a blessing.

But if you do want to go on a present hunt, I recommend avoiding the mall, especially around Black Friday or closer to the holidays. It can be absolutely crazy and overwhelming for some people with ADD/ADHD. Using a variety of online retailers, such as Amazon, can be a huge relief. You don’t have to worry about braving the crowds, online retailers cut out all of the stress by just send the presents to you!

Holiday Cards

This one’s a bit of a double-edged sword. If you have the ability to become hyper-focused on activities, then doing your holiday cards might be a snap. You just sit down, sign your name on them, put them in envelopes, slap on a stamp, and head down to the mailbox. If, on the other hand, your ADD/ADHD presents itself with a lack of focus and an inability to keep your mind on track, then writing out holiday cards can seem like an almost impossible task.

So try this instead: eCards. There is absolutely nothing wrong with sending all of your friends and loved ones your holiday wishes in email form. This method doesn’t require you to sit down and focus for hours on end. All you need to do is write out a lovely holiday greeting, maybe add some digital graphics, and send them to everyone on your email list. There are also a ton of online holiday card services that can send a more polished “card” to your friends and family, often for a cost less than that of physical postage stamps.


I actually talked a lot about a similar situation to the holiday dinner just a few weeks ago in ADD/ADHD Thanksgiving Management. I’ve always found it so odd that we pack the two big “family” cooking events so close together. You finally recover from the stress of one and BOOM, there is another one right behind.

One great way to cut down on the stress is to just not cook. If you have a big family, alternate Holiday and Thanksgiving dinners. That way, if you took care of Thanksgiving for your family, you can just head over to your relative or friend’s and gnaw on some turkey without any stress whatsoever!

Holiday Parties

Just say no.

Seriously, if you are feeling overwhelmed with the season, if you are having a bad day, if you are feeling scattered and the idea of heading out to a holiday party gives you chills, just say, “I’m sorry, I can’t make it. But I hope everyone has an amazing night!” It will instantly take the pressure off and you will feel much better.

Of course, this isn’t saying that you should use your ADD/ADHD as an excuse. If you genuinely want to go to a holiday party, even if you are feeling stressed out, then go! But don’t feel that you have to accept every holiday invitation that comes your way.

A lot of my holiday advice boils down to this, “Streamline the season”. When you have ADD/ADHD, you might feel like you want to do everything holiday related, but you just don’t have the time. By sitting down and taking stock of everything you NEED to do for the holidays, you can then figure out how much time you can invest in the things you WANT to do. Time-management: it’s the ADD/ADHD gift that keeps on giving!

If you’d like some more advice about how to manage the holidays when you have ADD/ADHD, please feel free to contact me. As an experienced ADD/ADHD coach, I’ve helped many people rediscover their love of the season, helping them figure out ways to get everything done. Remember, the holidays should be fun, so get rid of all of the unnecessary headaches and stresses and have a wonderful time!

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