ADD & Holiday Stress: Why You Are A Ferrari With Bicycle Brakes

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Dealing With Anxiety: ADD & Holiday Stress
Stressing and obsessing over holiday obligations and overstimulation?

If you are a woman who struggles with ADD, I know how you must feel during the holidays: overwhelmed. Correction: beyond overwhelmed.  Here's why: Most people with ADD have an overabundance of zest and excitement for life, but throw in the holidays, family, parties, gifts, vacations, and other miscellaneous drama and you've got an ADD woman on steroids. You know how I know? Because I have ADD. Yes my friend, I am one of your true soul sisters and I cannot begin to tell you how long it took me to sit down and start writing this article. 

Renowned ADD expert, Edward Hallowell, explains it brilliantly: Having ADD is like "having a Ferrari engine for a brain. It will propel you to win many races in your lifetime. However, there is one problem. You have bicycle breaks!" So here you are, speeding into the holiday season like a sports car with tiny breaks and it's no wonder you and I both feel like we're overwhelmed to the point of frozen.

It's a maddening feeling when you have so many ideas and so much motivation, but just end up feeling like a dog chasing its tail. Throw in the holidays, and now you feel like a dog on crack. So in an effort to experience a more enjoyable holiday season, let's look at seven behaviors for you to put into action:

1. Defriend Perfection
Although you may feel deliciously cozy with your perfectionist ways, here's the reality: they're sucking the life out of you. The holidays are about the experience, not the "look", and you need to find some sort of balance. For example, maybe this is the year you don't send your family holiday cards to every person or every family you have encountered since your eldest child was born 10 years ago. If you haven't spoken to Mary since your Mommy and Me class 9 years ago, chances are she's not waiting around for your holiday card which is a snapshot of you and your family in midair as you all are jumping off a cliff into the Pacific Ocean, with all four of you in matching white T-shirts and smiling from ear to ear. Trust me — she won't be offended if she doesn't make the list, so perhaps send the cards only to those who are close to you in your current day.

2. Lean away from obsessive thoughts
Us ADD peeps can obsess like it's going out of style. Obsessing is a detrimental hyper focus which yanks you off task as opposed to productive hyper focus which helps you to stay on task. The less obsessive you are with the miscellaneous holiday details, the faster you will move through your to-do list. So stop the endless nights of searching on Pinterest for the perfect Christmas Turkey recipe — chances are you've already pinned at least 10 of them, so choose one and move on to the next task.

3. Better time management
There are three words to write down and carry with you at all times: Break. It. Down. I know, I know, easier said than done for us ADD folk, but here is an example: rather than use your smart phone calendar, instead print out the month of December on a large piece of paper so you can view the entire month at glance piece by piece. Break down each event or project into smaller tasks and schedule accordingly so that you are pacing yourself throughout the month rather than stressing yourself. Don't wait to go ingredient shopping for your holiday meal the morning of the holiday. Talk about cooking up a hot ADD drama!

4. Realistic scheduling
In order to manage your time effectively, you must be realistic about what you can and cannot accomplish within a certain amount of time. If some days your family has more than one party to attend, then it would be wise to only attend one. As the old Yiddish saying goes: You can't dance at two weddings with one tush. It may be hard to say no, but if by the end of the day your brain is not spinning as badly and your kids are not climbing the walls as badly, then your wise decision will be worth it.

5. Allowing transition between tasks and/or activities
One hallmark trait of people with ADD is the sensitivity to transition, especially when finishing a hyper focused task. For example, when I finish proof reading this article, I will give myself 10 minutes to decompress before I get in the car to have lunch with my girlfriend. Otherwise, I will show up to the lunch looking and acting like I am stoned and unable to be present with my friend. So if you've spent that past hour wrapping 20 gifts with no break, then you best take 10 or 15 minutes to decompress before you pick up your child from school. Otherwise, you may arrive to your child in a total discombobulated state which will definitely not prepare you for the tantrum he or she has because you (of course) forgot to bring them a snack.

6. Keep it simple
I know how to complicate a task as easy as it is for me to breath and if you are one of my people, then you know what I'm talking about. So keep it simple! For example, when shopping for gifts, buy only what is on your list. Stores such as Target have a way of seducing me to throw into my cart extra non-gift items which I didn't even know existed until I entered the evil mega store. Cut to the next day where I am standing behind 20 people in the return line and quietly moaning because what I really need to be doing is wrapping the initial gifts I bought!

7. Boundaries
This is twofold and vital for your survival this holiday season. The holidays bring family time and unfortunately for some of you that isn't always a plus. So rather than get stuck feeling deprived about what you don't have, instead empower yourself by remembering what your limitations are with certain family members and set appropriate boundaries necessary. Furthermore, without boundaries none of the above 6 actions will work. You need boundaries within yourself, because otherwise you will end up an uptight, tantrum ridden, obsessive, frenetic, hostile, manic woman for the entire merry month of December.

But remember this: Your execution of the above seven suggestions will not be perfect. Accept the fact that you probably will act a tiny bit obsessive, frenetic, derailed, and hyper over the next few weeks and that it's not the end of the world. Without you having some of those ADD moments here an there, you wouldn't be you and well... that would make you a boring person. 

May the force be with you and your Ferrari brakes this holiday season. 

More dealing with anxiety advice from YourTango:

Article contributed by
Advanced Member

Carin Goldstein MFT

Marriage and Family Therapist

Carin Goldstein, MFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Los Angeles as well as the witty writer of Be the Smart Wife where she writes about the trials and tribulations of how to naviagate through your marriage. Sign up for Be the Smart Wife bi-weekly posts and connect with Carin on facebook and twitter. If you live in the Los Angeles area and are interested in learning more about Carin's psychotherapy services, visit her website at caringoldstein.com.

Location: Sherman Oaks, CA
Credentials: LMFT, MFT
Specialties: Couples/Marital Issues, Empowering Women, Marriage
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