For many people, the Christmas season means family time, preparation, and stress in abundance. For people with ADHD, these stresses can be amplified. We’ve teamed up with Faigy Liebermann to bring you her 7 tips to staying calm during the festive season.

Take time for yourself

Those with ADHD tend to focus on others more than they focus on themselves. This leads to overworking, stress, overwhelm and illness.

You spend the whole year giving your time to people around you, and this can be a very draining time of year. It is vital that you take an hour or so every day to relax and engage in an activity that refreshes you.

It’s so easy at this time of year to drop a healthy routine you’ve been building up, such as exercise or meditation, but keeping it up will guarantee you an easy and successful transition into the new year.

Prioritise!

The problem with ADHD is that those who have ADHD find it very hard to focus on one thing. They tend to focus on the many things going on around them. This leads to overachieving, overwhelm and burnout.

Decide ahead of time what do you define as a successful family gathering? Is it the stress in creating an elaborate menu, or is it the wonderful memories that we will make with our loved ones? Decide what is important to you and stick to it no matter what. How can you create lifelong family memories? Your family members are gathering together because they want to spend time with you. The food is a plus, however they want you.

Take deep breaths

When you get stressed and tense, your “fight/flight/freeze” mechanism goes into high alert. You may unknowingly hold in your breath, and restrict your breathing. This stops oxygen from flowing to our brain, our stress levels become higher and thinking processes become muddled.

Next time you get stressed, try to take some deep breaths. You’ll notice yourself becoming calmer and more focused.

Lower your expectations

Are you a perfectionist? It’s a common ADHD trait! We often run ourselves ragged, trying to achieve the impossible and satisfy everyone.

If you’re cooking this festive season, try to simplify your menus. I know you might feel like you are cheating. But ask yourself, who are you trying to impress with your elaborate preparations? Running yourself ragged won’t help, and will just stress you out further!

Psychologists point out that we need to replace striving for perfection with striving for excellence or good enough. So lower your standards and make your life easier.

Expect mishaps to happen

Let’s face it, you can spend so much time and effort planning for your Christmas event, and just when you have everything perfect, things start to go wrong. Flexibility is one of the most important executive function skills you can acquire. According to Dr. Barkley, one strength that many people with ADHD have is flexible thinking – the ability to think differently about other, often creative outcomes to your current problems.

Remember, you don’t have to get it right all the time. Expect to make mistakes, expect problems to arise. When they do, find a way to be more flexible and come up with alternative solutions. Or adapt yourself to your current situation!

Don’t expect to achieve perfection. Rather, focus on getting things to a good enough level. When you are mentally prepared for mishaps you will be able to handle them better and overcome them, moving on swiftly.

Can you find the humour in the mishaps that are bound to happen? By laughing over them, you create learning moments for your loved ones. Remember the following quote:

Humour is tragedy plus time.

Carol Burnett

Prepare for the next phase in advance

Foresight, or prospective thinking, is another crucial executive function skill. This is one that many people with ADHD find really difficult, but it’s a skill you can learn!

This crucial aspect of our planning is often overlooked. Life will move on. This season will soon be over with. Prepare ahead and you will manage the transition phase with grace and ease. On your last day of work before Christmas, simply write a plan of to-do tasks to get to once you get back into the office in the new year. This tool will help to ground you, and keep you focused. You’ll be able to enjoy the festive season more when you do this.

Switch off your devices

During meals, encourage your family to turn off their phones, tablets, iPods, etc. See what a difference it will make to the quality of your time together!

This season will pass, and with a bit of foresight and planning, you’ll be left with long-lasting happy family memories.


Faigy Liebermann is an ADHD life coach who created the Focus Success Program, empowering her ADHD clients to access their potential. You can find out more about Faigy on her website: www.focuswithfaigy.com

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