Turkeys, Tempers and To-Do Lists

Terry Matlen, ACSW Health Guide
  • Here we go again. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and if you're an adult with ADHD, chances are you haven't begun your to-do list, let alone pull together a plan for celebrating the holiday. If you're lucky- real lucky- you've been invited to someone's home and all you have to do is bring a dish to pass (which in itself, can be overwhelming) and make sure you have an outfit that is clean and unwrinkled.

     

    If you're unlucky, you still have to figure out how many people to invite to your home, plan a menu, buy the food and remember that temper outbursts and turkeys often go together. The stress can simply be that bad.

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    Here are some suggestions to get you through the holiday without panic or Xanax:

     

    • Make this holiday a family - only event. If you've been overly stressed and simply can't fathom having a house full of guests, explain that you need this time to connect with your immediate family. If you feel guilty omitting other family and friends, ask them to stop by after dinner for a visit and dessert.
    • As I preach over and over again at my presentations throughout the country, there is NO right way to celebrate and make holiday meals. You must take into account how your ADHD affects you and find ways to work around it. If you had a physical disability, you would probably be able to accept certain limitations a bit easier. Invisible conditions like ADHD are harder, in some ways. Just as a person with limited mobility wouldn't stash dinnerware in cupboards beyond their reach, a person with ADHD likewise, shouldn't take on more than they can handle.
    • Don't shy away from asking for help. Ask your family and guests ahead of time what they can do to help. Many with ADHD find it nearly impossible to ask for help; we continue to try and do it all, regardless of the toll it takes on us. Try making a list of tasks each person can help with, like clearing the table, helping with dishes, putting chairs back, etc. Guests want to help but are often unsure what specific help is needed.
    • There is no rule etched in federal law books that state you must roast a turkey. If that overwhelms you, make something you're more familiar with, like baked chicken. People coming to your home for dinner are more interested in your company than your kitchen skills.
    • Take a break from cooking altogether and have dinner out. Many restaurants cater to holiday diners. You can enjoy a wonderful meal with your family and friends and not deal with any of the stress.
    • If the idea of eating out doesn't sit well with you, cater your dinner in. If you absolutely must roast your own turkey, bring in ready made side dishes.
    • Recognize your stress level and have a plan in place. When you see yourself ready to "blow", give yourself a time out. Discuss with your family your plan and don't forget that they too will react to the stress. Work out a plan for the whole family on ways to keep things as calm as possible. Give yourself plenty of down time as needed and try not to make plans for a day or two afterward so you can recoup and relax.
    • Put on relaxing music while preparing, serving and enjoying your meal. You will be amazed at how calming music can be.
    • If you have young children or kids with ADHD who find it nearly impossible to sit still, relax your house rules. Let them eat standing up if necessary, or give them their own smaller table so that you don't stress out from their behavior. Allow them to leave the table when needed. You might even want to consider letting them eat in a different room. If it makes everyone happier and calmer, why not?
    • Keep reminding yourself why you are hosting the holiday dinner. If it's mainly to enjoy the company of friends and family, you might find that you don't need to work so hard to impress yourself and others. Make the holiday work for you!
    • Here at ADHDcentral.com, we have a number of related articles to help you get through the holidays. You can read them at http://search.healthcentral.com/query?q=holidays&st=s&ver=adhd

    Now, get your pen and paper out and start writing your to-do list, while keeping in mind that you need to make accommodations for yourself and your ADHD. Oh, and...Happy Thanksgiving!

Published On: November 20, 2008