The Holidays and ADHD: 6 Tips to Save Your Sanity

by | Dec 14, 2023 | ADHD Success Skills and Tools | 2 comments

The holidays and ADHD can be a painful combination.

As it is, we’re overwhelmed by the day-to-day on our regular days. Then here comes December bringing a cartload of extra tasks and activities along with shorter days and colder temperatures.

And what’s worse yet… we expect ourselves to juggle it all with style, grace and good cheer.

It’s torture. At least for me and many of my ADHD coaching clients. In September, when Christmas music starts in the stores, a deep sense of dread settles in our stomachs.

It doesn’t seem to matter how organized we try to be or how many lists we make. Holidays with ADHD can be hard.

Other than huddling in a fetal position in a corner, what can you do?

Here’s a novel idea: What if you stopped trying to add more stuff? What if you got clearer instead? What if you went about the whole holiday season in an easier, more ADHD-friendly way?

Let me share with you how I work with my ADHD coaching clients to make the holidays easier.

The Holidays and ADHD – 6 Tips to Save Your Sanity

1. Your first step is to get clear on how you want the holidays to be. I have my clients come up with three words to describe what they want. Usually, they pick words like: peaceful, calm, fun, relaxed, and meaningful.  I’ve never yet had anyone say they want stress, overwhelm, debt, and guilt.

2. Cut out the extra stuff. All those things you feel you should do. Use the words you picked in step #1 as your guide. Decide what you need to let go of to make your holidays ADHD-friendly. Sending Christmas cards? Going to boring parties? Traveling to your Aunt May’s? Yes, it can be difficult to let go of the shoulds. But, if you have ADHD, you already have a reputation for marching to a different drummer. Live it!

3. Center your holidays on the people and things that create an ADHD-friendly Christmas. The one you want to have. What’s fun? What’s easy? Be aware of what you want and focus on how to create it. We have neighborhood grog parties and go caroling. Dust off the jigsaw puzzles and dominoes. Go skiing and watch movies. 

4. Make it about being instead of giving and getting. Is Christmas an exercise in spending money no one has to give gifts to people who don’t need anything? Can you give fewer individual gifts or a larger family gift you’ll all enjoy? Do things together instead? Be aware of how your ADHD impulse to spend too much feels.

5. Remember what goes up must come down. Putting up lots of decorations means having to take down lots of decorations. Keep decorating simple. Create a tradition around taking down the decorations. We undecorate on New Year’s Day while the football games are on. 

6. Pay attention to your emotional temperature. Try not to get caught up in unrealistic expectations of how the holidays should be. Families are messy. People get complicated. Life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect. I have a handful of tricks to keep me calm and positive. Certain music. Walks outside. Dark chocolate.

The holidays and ADHD don’t have to be hard or painful. You can do this. Follow these 6 steps to focus and simplify and create the kind of holiday you want.

Want other tips on how to reduce stress during your holidays (and every day)? Check out:


  1. Fallon

    Hi Dana, I’ve been having a read of your blog, you have some great tips and I’ll be sure to try implementing some of them! Very often we don’t realise that we have to change the way we go about things to work with our brains, not the other way around.

    I’d like to hear your opinion on something regarding medication, if you’re willing to offer it. Would the correct dose of a long-release stimulant become less over time for a person that’s lost a substantial amount of weight? Personally I would think that it would, since for example vets base medication doses for animals on their size and weight. The reason I ask is that I’ve been (deliberately) losing weight, and I’m 30+lbs lighter than when I stabilised at 40mg Elvanse. I started noticing things like massive heart rate spikes, anxiety, antsy-ness, etc and all signs pointed to the dose being too high, but I’d been on the same dose for 6 months without issue. I’ve dropped to 30mg for the last few weeks and it’s much better, more like how 40mg used to feel. But when I told people about this on an ADHD support forum, everyone told me that weight has no effect on how lisdex is metabolised so it had to be something else, but I’m not sure, because nothing else has changed.

    Anyway, sorry for the ramble, was just curious what your opinion on that was!

    Happy new year!

    • Dana Rayburn

      Hi Fallon, Thanks for asking!. ADHD medication literature says that weight doesn’t have an impact on dosage. AND for you it does. So follow the lead of your body. Your goal is to be on the dose of medication that allows you to focus gently at will and feel good and healthy in your body. Perhaps your metabolism has changed with your weight loss? All best, Dana


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