holiday stress

Tips for Reducing ADHD Related Holiday Stress and Anxiety


Ah, the holidays. The lights. The carols. The food. The family. It’s the most wonderful time of year. Right? Well, for many of us, the holidays are far more jangled nerves than joyful noise. And if you or a loved one suffers from ADHD, the stress of the holidays can be almost too much to bear. If you have ADHD, you already know how lonely and frustrating it can be when the holidays roll around, and it seems that everyone in the world is in the holiday spirit but you.

Increased Stress, Fatigue, and Sadness are Common During the Holidays
The truth is, though, that the season of celebration is also the season of stress. No one is immune to the pressures of the season. But the disruption of normal, daily routines, the added responsibilities of social engagements and familial obligations, and the abundance of symptom-exacerbating holiday foods make the stresses of the holidays particularly acute for ADHD sufferers.

Nevertheless, whether you or someone close to you has ADHD, or you are just seeking to navigate the season with more pleasure and less pain this year, there are some simple things you can do to manage holiday stress. The following techniques, derived primarily from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), might just help you relax and enjoy the magic of the season.

1. Make a Plan
As much as we hate to admit it, there are only so many hours in a day and there’s a limit to what we can accomplish in those hours. So take some time before the rush and tumult of the holidays begin to prioritize what you want, need, and must do for the holidays. Figure out what matters most to you and yours and set up a clear, incremental strategy for getting it done. Knowing you have a doable action plan in place and working a little each day on your holiday tasks can minimize stress, worry, and fatigue, leaving you with the time and energy to actually enjoy the season. Whether it’s allotting five minutes a day for writing holiday cards or two hours of online gift shopping each Saturday, the best way to eat the elephant is one bite at a time.

2. Be Realistic
Yes, you’re good. You’re a rock star. But as awesome as you are, you’re still just one person. And trying to do it all is just not possible—and it’s also just not fair. The answer? Delegate! Have a sister who is a Mozart in the kitchen? Put her in charge of the meal preparation. Have a spouse who’s a Picasso of design? Let him handle the holiday decorating. Not only will this take some of the pressure off you, but it will enable you to enjoy what the holidays are really all about anyway: spending time and making memories with those you love.


3. Forget Perfection
Face it, life is not a Frank Capra movie (and even good old George Bailey had it pretty rough there for a while). So let go of the fantasy of a Capra Christmas or a humdinger of a Chanukah. Inevitably, something is going to get lost or broken; invariably someone’s going to burn the bread or forget the cookies. And, yes, somebody is going to hurt anyone’s feelings. But that’s life. Real life—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Just remember that the imperfections are what make it real, unique, and, in the long run, beautiful. These screw-ups and squabbles that we put such desperate pressure on ourselves to prevent in our pursuit of some fictitious “perfect” holiday are exactly the things we will remember so fondly, and laugh about most heartily with our dear ones, in the years to come.

4. Practice Extreme Self-Care
No matter what the greeting card companies say, the holidays are not the time for self-sacrifice. The only thing playing the martyr will get you is stress, exhaustion, and resentment. Ho, ho, ho. Instead of running yourself ragged, make sure that you do what you need to do to recharge your batteries, to nourish your mind, body, and spirit. Take an hour each day to do something that gives you joy: a warm bath, a long walk, a good book—a nap.

While you’re at it, don’t forget about exercise and nutrition. Indulging in holiday treats is fine. Complete denial will only lead to resentment. But everything in moderation. Rich, highly processed, sugary, and fatty foods can worsen ADHD symptoms. Be selective about what, when, and how much you eat, and remember that exercise, whether an hour of yoga or a brisk bike ride, can help to dispel the brain fog borne of these less-than-healthy foods—not to mention working off some of that holiday stress when it does come!

Begin Reducing Your Stress Today!
Whether you or a loved one has ADHD, or you only want to thrive and not just survive this holiday season, these few simple techniques can make it possible. For more information about ADD/ADHD in adults, please read:, Wishing you and yours less stress and more joy this holiday season!

Looking for a way to help manage ADHD? You can find natural remedies  here.

Written by Terri Beth Miller, MA, PhD. She is freelance writer and contributor to Open Forest, the online mental health self-help website.