Holidays Mental Health

Managing ADHD During the Holiday Season

Holidays can heighten stress and disrupt routines for individuals with ADHD, making mental health management crucial during this period. Awareness and planning are key to navigating the holiday rush while maintaining well-being.

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It's Okay Not To Be Okay This Season

The time of the year when many festivities and celebrations is fast approaching 🎄. This festive season will definitely have a lot of family gatherings and gift-giving. For a lot of people, the holiday season is a source of happiness, time for renewed relationships, or an opportunity to spend more time with loved ones. However, some aren't fond of social gatherings and are not used to dealing with holidays and everything that comes with it, no matter how jolly.

When the holidays come, some people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may experience the holiday stress. Our difficulties in planning may spoil a wonderful time, especially if we forget some important things to do 😰. We feel overwhelmed when there are too many tasks to do, and we might procrastinate when the holidays are near. We tend to not have enough sleep because we are taking care of everything that we are overthinking.

Feeling stressed or overwhelmed isn't exclusive to people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. On top of possible worsening symptoms during this time, our neurodivergent friends may also find it hard to manage their emotions. So, spread some love and extend kindness to everyone 💕, especially those that do not feel like celebrating with you, and do essential activities with the rest of the family.

It's Okay Not To Be Festive

Maintaining mental health during the holiday season might be challenging for some of us. Sometimes, these social events don't give us the spark to celebrate. We often see people who are all smiles and laughter, but we can't seem to force ourselves to be like them 😢. Even attending a family gathering won't make us feel that holiday cheer. I can't blame you for that, and all I can say is that it's okay to not be festive and feel happy during this season 🙆.

it's ok if you don't feel festive this year

There's no chance that I will miss seeing my family and relatives during the holidays. Even though I experience internal struggles during these times, I still want to spend time with my family 👪. The thing is, even if I happen to be present with them during our family gathering, my ADHD brain might probably be somewhere else. They may notice these suppressed feelings, and how it can lead to break down. There was even a time when I could not control my emotions, and I cried in front of everyone. That was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, but it was also a relief. I talked to my family about how I felt, and they were understanding. After that, they allowed me to have some space when we were together during the holiday season 🤗.

You are not obliged to celebrate “the most wonderful time of the year”. You don't have to force yourself to be happy when you're not. If you feel stressed because of frequent gatherings and events, it is perfectly fine to stay at home and relax 🧘. It's better to have realistic expectations during the holidays. When sadness is greater than holiday plans and excitement, it's okay to not be around and miss things because you don't feel like attending any of it.

The Pressure and Struggle of Gift Giving

Holiday seasons are the perfect time for the family gift exchange. These events are often held after Thanksgiving dinner or on Christmas Eve 🎁. Usually, this is when everyone gathers around and says pleasantries to each other while handing out gifts to everyone on your list. It can be nice to see everyone smile and be in the mood for some festive cheer. But sometimes, the behind-the-scenes, particularly the preparations, are not as nice. The pressure and struggle of gift-giving can be too much for some people, especially those with ADHD 😭.

it's ok if you struggle with gifts

Aside from planning struggles and the financial stress that handing gifts entails, some people with ADHD are more prone to feel anxiety during these moments. What if the recipient of my gifts sets unrealistic expectations? Will they like what I will give them? What if I can't find the right gift for them? 😨 All of these questions can add up, and I feel anxious about these small things. I often end up overthinking the whole process, which can be tiring.

Buying presents during holidays can also be overwhelming 💝. Usually, everyone is busy preparing for the holiday season and decides to go to the grocery stores, which can cause long lines. I'm not too patient with waiting for my turn and end up buying at a shop online. But I'll have a hard time figuring out if the gift I will give is good enough.

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Feel Like Spending the Holidays Alone?

Our mental health matters at any given time of the year. The holiday season is not an excuse to make pretenses and put up a front for everyone. Feelings of sadness or loneliness should not be disregarded simply to talk to everyone and feel ecstatic because it is the holiday season 👌. If you feel like spending time alone to prevent stress and further anxiety, give yourself that break. It is essential that we take care of our mental health first before anything else.

it's ok if you want to be alone

Sometimes, holiday blues can worsen our conditions, and it can be hard to deal with everything that's happening. The right thing to do is find more peace in spending time alone for our mental health during the holidays 🕊️. We need to practice relaxation and prioritize self-care during these times above anything else.

After that embarrassing holiday, I opted not to spend the entirety of the season with my loved ones. Aside from the anxiety that I have to deal with, I also usually have a hectic time at work and other things. So instead of adding more burden on myself, I take breaks and spend a few days of the holiday season away from them. It was a nice and refreshing experience, and I'm glad I did that for myself 🤗.

Commemorating Our Loved Ones

Everyone has a different way of dealing with grief and loss, and the holiday season can be challenging for those still in pain. The happy atmosphere can be too much for some people who are still processing the departure of a family member or a close friend. It might be sad to see everyone else celebrating while you’re still hurting 🤕. But it's okay if you take a moment to pause and remember your loved ones who are no longer with you.

it's ok if you miss those who are not here

Many adults with ADHD might have trouble regulating emotions and need more than deep breathing to calm down. Our mental health conditions can sometimes be conflicting as we are still accepting our loss while celebrating with everyone who's still around. It might be challenging, but try to focus on the good memories you have with your loved ones. It can help ease the pain and make the holiday season a little more bearable 🕯.

The holiday stress can be much more excruciating when celebrating while we mourn for someone else. The feelings of regret and sadness can be so overwhelming that they can make the holiday season harder to bear. In times like these, we should take a step back and breathe ❤️‍🩹.

The Seasonal Affective Mental Health Condition

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, some mental health problems are worse during late fall and winter, in time with the holidays. An example is called Major Depressive Disorder with a Seasonal Pattern (formerly known as Seasonal Affective Disorder). 

Especially during this pandemic, neurodivergent people may experience heightened stress or even depression during the festive holidays 🎄. Also, the possibility of experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may be high as we cannot enjoy the typical holiday activities we used to do.

Currently, experts look into three possible causes of SAD: the disruption of our internal clock due to decrease in sunlight, lower serotonin levels, and changes in melatonin levels. 

The bottom line is that Major Depressive Disorder with a Seasonal Pattern can be a comorbid condition to ADHD. If you find yourself feeling down or depressed in a particular season, it’s best to seek consultation 🧑‍⚕️ 

Be Nice To Yourself This Holiday Season

Whether you plan to sleep all day or have a different schedule, it's best to have healthy habits during this month-long festivities. Though stress and negative feelings may start to cloud your mind, try to focus on the positive things in your life and be kind to yourself as much as possible.

give yourself some kindness for christmas

When the daily routine gets too overwhelming in preparation for the holidays, take a break and do something you enjoy ❣️. Practice self-care, and don't put too much pressure on yourself to meet other people's expectations. It's perfectly fine if you want to spend the holidays alone or with only a close group of friends or family. The most important thing is that you can enjoy the season and create happy memories that you can look back on in the future.

ADHD Holidays and Mental Health

Holiday & Mental Health: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Do adults with ADHD find it hard to celebrate the holidays?

Not all adults with ADHD find it hard to celebrate the holidays, but some do. It’s possible that the hustle and bustle of the festivities can worsen some ADHD symptoms. For instance, parties and gift giving may be too much for us to handle considering our possible problems in planning. Likewise, loud music and colorful decorations can trigger our sensory overload. 

Can the festive season trigger anxiety?

Some aspects of the season may trigger anxiety, like thinking if the gifts we bought will be liked by the people we’re giving them to. ‍

Does ADHD happen with Major Depressive Disorder with a Seasonal Pattern? 

Not all the time, but it can be a comorbidity. If you experience depression during a particular time of the year, consult your doctor. 

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