ADHD and Holiday Preparation: Tips for a Joyous Holiday Season

adhd and holiday preparation


The holiday season is a time of joy and celebration, bringing together spirituality and family. It can also be a time of stress and overwhelm for those with ADHD. There are so many more events to track and attend, lots of socializing, purchasing and organizing gift giving, food preparation, and decorating which all need to be started and completed in a short time frame. There may also be a bit of perfectionism with often accompanies executive function challenges with ADHD. With an ADHD-friendly approach to planning, you can enjoy a more relaxed and enjoyable holiday season.


Start Early: Begin with a Holiday Calendar

There is a lot of power to early planning and getting started on holiday events early. Giving yourself the extra time you need by starting early allows you to stretch out all the parts of the holiday season. Starting in early November, you can use your holiday calendar to outline all your commitments, including parties, family gatherings, and gift exchanges. With a visual strategy, you see upcoming events, where you might be overcommitted, and avoid last-minute hiccups that cause stress.  Host a family meeting for everyone to share their one favorite holiday activity to ensure it is included in this year’s events.  Post your paper calendar where everyone can see it and duplicate this information on everyone’s digital calendar. Start strong and end strong by checking this calendar every week and adding tasks to your task list.


Breaking It Down: The Art of Task Chunking

With so much to do during the holidays, it is easy to get overwhelmed and paralyzed. ADHD can make it difficult to tackle big tasks all at once. Make holiday preparation more manageable by breaking each part of holiday preparation into smaller, actionable steps. It is easier to focus on one area at a time. Segment your calendar with these chunks. A typical schedule might include one week with a single focus, such as a week for decorating, a week for gift purchasing, a week for food preparation, and a week of rest.  This approach gives you the time you need for tasks and the opportunity to focus on one thing at a time. Use this approach with all the related holiday activities as well.


Tech-Savvy Solutions

The best gift you give yourself is the gift of tech-savvy solutions. Everything you can do with your devices, such as purchase and track gifts, make calendar reminders, and take photos to include your holiday decorations. Use a simple app to capture all of this information, such as Notes or Google Drive so you know where to find your information. Make albums in your photos app to include all of this information.


The Gift of Thoughtful and Meaningful Gifting

While giving gifts is thoughtful, it can be a major stressor during the holiday season. To make it easier, create a gift-giving strategy. Think about a universal gift for families, individuals, and co-workers. Remember that finding the perfect gift is not the goal of the holiday season. Keep it simple with a single homemade treat just to let know people that you are thinking of them.


Asking for Help: Bring on the Elves

Help is all around you. It is a matter of asking and being specific about the task. Support is here with local grocery stores and delivery services. Share food preparation responsibilities with your family and friends to enjoy the time together. This is also a time to stay connected to your therapist, coach, and professional organizer who all want to support you all through the year.


Prioritizing Your Well-Being

You have a lot on your plate all year long and holidays add even more.  Holiday preparation is exhausting, especially for individuals with ADHD. Make your self-care a priority by keeping to your regular bedtime, maintaining a regular exercise routine, and time away from toxic people. Enjoy time outside to keep grounded and focused. Fill your home with the scents of the season to remind you of the joy of the holidays. Most especially this is a time of gratitude. Tap into deep-rooted gratitude with a daily record of “glimmers”.  These are small moments of connection and joy that occur each day through the holidays. These glimmers give back to you the real meaning of the season.


Holiday preparation can be challenging for anyone, but individuals with ADHD face unique hurdles in managing holiday projects. Embrace the holiday spirit, and don’t forget to celebrate your accomplishments along the way. Wishing you a happy and stress-free holiday season!

4 replies
  1. Seana Turner
    Seana Turner says:

    I love that idea of “glimmers.” Taking note of them helps us be mindful in noticing them. I usually find that the biggest glimmer each holiday season is a moment that I didn’t plan or expect. I try to look out for that each year because I know it will come, I just don’t know when.

    Huge fan of the list, calendar, and tools. I’m so used to using my Christmas Gift app that I rely on it now. Might as well use whatever we can to make this season less stressful!

  2. Linda Samuels
    Linda Samuels says:

    These are excellent suggestions, Ellen, for navigating the stressful holiday season. I especially like your reminder to enlist help (from the ‘elves’) and ramp up with even more self-care. With so many extra to-dos and comings and goings, it can be challenging to take care of yourself. But that self-care will make all the difference in your energy and enjoyment of the holidays. Of course, planning is another favorite. It helps to have a map of what you want and need to do.

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