Holiday & Travel Planning

Does Your ADHD Help or Hurt During the Holidays?

Hyperfocusing on the perfect gift. Decorating ad nauseum. Addressing but never sending cards. ADDitude readers describe how ADHD shows up during the holidays, and how they manage the season while avoiding holiday burnout.

Artem Kniaz via Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/photos/noz2NZbC914
Artem Kniaz via Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/photos/noz2NZbC914

ADHD brings creativity, spontaneity, and generosity, which can enrich any season. During the holidays, it can also cause cards to go unmailed, or make you forget about that school potluck until your child asks what you’re bringing — just minutes before the event.

We asked ADDitude readers how their symptoms show up during this time of year, and how they get through the holiday season with minimal burnout. Read their responses and tell us how you make the season work in the Comments section below.

Holiday Hyperfocus and Perfectionism

“I make handmade Christmas cards that never get sent out. I generally run myself ragged trying to make everything perfect. There’s never enough time and I end up being really disappointed in myself.” — Janet

I get so excited about gifts and I end up spending way too much money (and I am terrible with money as it is). Also, I don’t often buy them in time, so January presents are a thing.” — Izzy, England

“I research everyone’s interests and try to make presents as perfect and personal as possible. I end up disappointed if I am unable to get the perfect gift for someone, especially if that gift doesn’t exist or is way outside of my budget. – Charlotte, United Kingdom

[Get This Free Download: Your Holiday Survival Kit]

Seasonal Overwhelm and Burnout

“Usually as overwhelm. I have all the ideas but none of the initiative.” — Liz, Missouri

“I am always overwhelmed, scattered, and too tired to really enjoy the season. There’s no mental energy left for any creativity, spontaneity, or generosity.— Amy, Virginia

“ADHD shows up during the holidays as procrastination anxiety. Lots of running around, getting distracted in stores, and wrapping gifts late.” — Kaleigh, Massachusetts

“As a mom with ADHD, Christmas and Thanksgiving are often overwhelming due to the extensive to-do list. Planning six to eight weeks in advance seems like overkill, but it may be the only way for me to be able to enjoy the holiday season without feeling totally stressed out.” — Joy, North Carolina

[Read: How to Avoid Family Drama and ADHD Ignorance This Holiday Season]

Thriving During the Holidays

I thrive during the hectic pace of the holidays. My mood is happier and I flourish.” — Helen, California

“I am the family decorator and get completely immersed in creating magical Christmas displays for my family members.” — Leslie, Michigan

Holiday Mishaps

“Years ago, I had a personalized ornament made for my sister, who lives in another state, as a gift. I forget to send it in the mail to her then — and every other year after that. Now the ornament hangs on my tree. The year the ornament was made is part of its design, so it makes me laugh every time we put it up.— Amylynn, Massachusetts

“I showed up to our neighborhood progressive dinner dressed up and bearing a hostess gift — only to discover I was a full day early. Oof!” — Regina, Virginia

“Before I was diagnosed with ADHD, I purchased front row seats to a Wiggles concert for myself and the kids. The concert was a few days before Christmas, and I purchased the tickets back in May. Despite having the tickets displayed on the fridge for months, I mistook the concert date for being a day later than it was. I only realized my mistake on the night of the actual concert. My kids had already gone to bed by then thinking they were seeing the Wiggles the next day. That concert I had tickets for was their last performance in my town, so we had no other chance. I ended up telling the kids the next day that the Wiggles were sick and couldn’t perform. (Luckily my kids were only toddlers then.)” — Denise, Australia

Avoid Holiday Burnout: Simplicity & Setting Your Own Rules

“For Thanksgiving, my husband and I used to go shopping, overspend, overcook. Now we just book a restaurant and enjoy a delicious meal.” — An ADDitude Reader

I make sure I have down time during the holidays and try not to say yes to everything. This may mean that we miss some events, but we focus on having fun in the events that we do attend.” — Glenda, Canada

“I used to try getting everyone dressed and coordinated for the ‘official’ family pic for our Christmas cards. What a nightmare! Now I just make a collage of informal images I’ve taken throughout the year.— Michelle, Mississippi

I always have cookies and casseroles in the freezer in case of a holiday emergency.— Poppy, New Hampshire

“We try to forgo traditional Christmas season festivities and choose our own activities. It’s to grant ourselves a break from everyone and everything, including (and mostly) from expectation anxiety.” — An ADDitude Reader

I gave up controlling the Christmas tree and have accepted the chaos of my child’s decorating as part of Christmas charm!” — Kate, Oregon

“Our family pares down holiday celebrations to our most-loved essentials. As introverts with ADHD, we decline most invitations, focus on small family celebrations, and repeat our favorite traditions year after year.” — Doña, California

“At 57, I think I have the season down. I’ve reduced the number of gifts I need to send and receive and mail my cards in November. We keep it simple.— Rita, Canada

“During the holiday season, I have learned to lower expectations and keep it simple. Overall, don’t let other people set expectations for you. I have learned that most people are just as overwhelmed and will not blame you or even notice the things you miss!” — An ADDitude Reader

How to Get Through the Holidays with ADHD: Next Steps


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1 Comments & Reviews

  1. Conversely, I get most gifts by end of October. I then forget where I put them, and later when they show up in the strangest places and I can’t recall how they got there, I give them to kids after Christmas and well into the new year. My kids have come to expect this as even in the following Summer I show up with a gift for them that was actually a Christmas present from 6 months before. I don’t get frustrated or embarrassed at all anymore. This and so many other things I accept as just part of the ADD and it’s who I am. Often actually funny to me. But it definitely is not to many others. After 50, we just sort of go through what I call the “ADD Ripening”

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