Holiday Hell, Part 2


I wrote a post last year that talked about how to deal with the holidays and the stress and overwhelm that they can bring here , and I wrote about grief here. Today’s post talks about how to deal with grief at the holidays. I am not talking about the generic sadness that can strike because imagined holiday joy is offset by the reality of dealing with family, or work, or horrible happenings in the world at large.

I am talking about the kind of grief that comes from spending your first holidays without the best friend, the child, the mother, the brother, the son, the daughter, the husband, the wife, the partner, the father, the grandfather, the grandmother, the auntie, the uncle, or sister that has left this world.

I am talking about the kind of grief and sadness that sneaks up on you randomly and delivers a heart crushing pain. It can be little things that trigger it, a familiar smell, a place that reminds you of them, a store display, a gift that you might have bought, lighting the candles, a song that you hear, an ornament, or a tradition that now seems empty.

I have lived a bit at this point in my life, and have had my share of holidays that were about getting through them rather than celebrating. I know that I have been fortunate to have more years where I have reveled in all that is wonderful and good and happy about the holidays. I know that this year many of my friends are trying to find a way through the holidays. This my letter to them, and to everyone who is trying to support them.

  1. Take care of yourself. Do what you need to do to feel better, even if that means that you are doing something completely different.
  2. Let yourself be as sad as you need to be, don’t try and stuff your feelings because you are afraid of making others uncomfortable.
  3. Do not self-medicate with alcohol and drugs. As hard as it is, feel your feelings, masking them with substances is not good for your health.
  4. Let others do for you. If you cannot get it together to do what you have always done, let someone else do it.
  5. Surround yourself with people that love you, birth family, or made family, whoever it is, let them love you.
  6. If you are considering self-harm, please, please, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline . They have online services that are there to help.

If you are the one trying to help someone that is struggling here are your five tips:

  1. Ask what you can do to help, and then do it.
  2. Do not change the subject if the person grieving wants to talk about their sadness, let them express how they are feeling. Listen.
  3. If you are concerned about how someone is handling their grief, ask them. It is okay to talk about being sad.
  4. Love them, even if they are not themselves, even if they are angry, moody, or cry a lot, hold them if they need/want it, give them space to feel what they are feeling.
  5. If you are concerned that the person is at risk for self-harm, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline . They have many resources, to help you help the person you are worried about.


Holiday Hell or How to Survive the Holidays with ADHD

This is my face when I know that we are heading into the holidays. I am happy but cautious. I know that for me and folks like me the normal everyday distractions that cause us to wander off into our own little world multiply like rabbits gone wild.


 Many Christmas mornings I have felt like this, off center and out of focus,
 after having indulged in things like this,


and this.


I love the holidays, but I am easily overwhelmed by the lights, shiny objects, people, and activities that go with the holidays. Parties, gift buying, gift wrapping, kids off from school, travel, big family dinners, New Years celebrations are great and horrible at the same time. I loose track of everything, my routines are interrupted, and I get very little done. For many years it would take me until February to get back to center. Here are my top ten survival strategies to make the holidays less overwhelming

1. Plan some time each day to just sit. Even if it is just ten minutes, set a timer and forget about everything, let your brain and adrenal glands rest.
2. Limit or no alcohol.  I know it sounds harsh, and I know it is the season to be merry, but too much merry makes for a rough day the next day. ADHD folks often have issues with substance abuse, and the holidays make it so easy to over indulge. We like to quiet the noise in our heads with libations. Be honest with yourself about this.
3. SET A BUDGET for gifts, entertaining, and decorations. Really. Managing money is tough for folks with ADHD.  Impulsive spending feels good, and combined with the distractions of the season can cause debt to balloon to epic proportions. Do it. You will be grateful when you are not still paying for the holidays in July of 2018
4. Say No. You can do it. Say NO to those events, and situations that have caused you stress in the past. This will be impossible if it involves family. In family situations, if your really feel that you have to participate, set time limits. If you know that certain family members become total nut-cakes, and act out after a few glasses of eggnog, leave before it happens.  If this is you, see tip #2. Remember, their drama does not have to be your drama.
5. As hard as it is, keep up with your exercise routine. Be creative if you are traveling. Go for a walk, ride your bike, heck even shoveling snow is great exercise.  For folks with ADHD, some sort of movement each day is essential self care.
6. Eat well. Have some holiday treats but beware of the stress-eat sugar-max out my caffeine-screw it because it is the holidays trap. Loading your body with stimulants only exacerbates your impulsiveness and makes you do crazy things.
7. Avoid busy shopping times. I pretty much stay away from big box and chain retail stores from November until the middle of January. I shop local. Small stores are great, less overwhelming and have fewer choices. I also like supporting my neighbors and small businesses.
8. Go back and read this post about getting better sleep .  Really.
9. If other family members have ADHD remember that they are struggling too. Help your kids by modeling coping skills for sensory overload and situational overwhelm. Remind them that they can take breaks when ever they need to calm down. Help them moderate their sugar intake. Be aware that the stress of the holidays can make kids with no issues act out, ADD/ADHD just stacks the deck.
10. Enjoy yourself. Do what you need to do for your own self-care and your family’s well-being. If folks judge you for that, that is their problem, don’t let it be yours.

I hope these tips help.

My daughter trying to make the Grinch feel better.

My smirk, perpetuated by my son…