December 6, 2022

How to Survive this Holiday Season

Facing the holiday season can be intimidating. Normal everyday life is complicated enough living with ADHD, and yet so much more is expected of us in the last few months of the year.

Our inner child may have this beautiful fantasy of a perfect holiday season, but we feel let down when it doesn’t all go according to plan. So how can we approach this year differently to make sure we make the most of all the magic without getting swallowed by it?

In episode 188, I offer a strategic plan for managing your expectations and capacity in order to face this time with intentionality and prioritization. By staying grounded in reality and sitting in the driver’s seat of how we want this season to go, we can avoid those icky feelings of shame, exhaustion, disappointment, and stress while embracing real connection, rest, and genuine joy!

If you want to set yourself up for success before it gets hard with a fantastic support group, I invite you to join my group coaching program, FOCUSED. All month long, I’ll be focusing on ways to manage the holiday season, and I’d love to take you along with us. >>FOCUSED<<



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Kristen Carder

Welcome to the I have ADHD podcast, where it’s all about education, encouragement and coaching for adults with ADHD. I’m your host, Kristen Carter and I have ADHD. Let’s chat about the frustrations, humor and challenges of adulting relationships working and achieving with this neurodevelopmental disorder. I’ll help you understand your unique brain. Unlock your potential and move from point A to point B.

Hey, what’s up? This is Kristen Carter and you’re listening to the I have ADHD podcast episode number 188. I am medicated I am caffeinated and I am ready to roll. Hello, hello. Hello, how are you? I am so glad that you are here with me today. And I am so glad that we are talking about how to survive the holiday season because literally I just had to cancel all of my Thanksgiving holiday plans. And I do think that this episode is going to come in handy for those of us with ADHD who are trying to navigate the holidays, with intentionality, with just at least some executive function and trying to survive it with our sanity intact. Every single member of the Carter family has been sick in the last two weeks, we dropped like dominoes one after the other first Charlie and then Crosby and then Owen and Greg. And I was the last domino to fall I thought maybe I had escaped it. I was praying that I had escaped it. But alas, I fell sick on Thanksgiving Day. All of the plans were canceled. Thanksgiving plans, Friendsgiving plans, everything canceled. So sad. Oh my goodness, I was really looking forward to a lot of the festivities and having to cancel, it just did not fit into my plan. It was not part of the plan. And if you have had to cancel a holiday recently, or ever, you know how that feels. It’s just it’s really not fun. So I am finally back to work. I am squeezing this podcast in at the deadline I had it actually written and recorded last week. But the recording was terrible. It was very quickly and I just I couldn’t put it out there. So we’re getting it out. We’re getting it out. Now. I hope that you if you celebrated Thanksgiving last week, or whenever two weeks ago, I guess now, I hope that you had a lovely holiday with the people in your life that you are connected to the most that you love being around.

And if you feel like the holidays are difficult, same. I’m going to talk all about that today. Because listen, normal, everyday life is complicated enough for those of us with ADHD, right? It’s hard to just do our daily work and parenting and taking care of all of the things that need to be taken care of. If there’s any sort of routine that you’ve been able to cobble together, that is hard enough, just basic life and now we add in a holiday season, suddenly everything is thrown off. So much more is expected of us holiday parties, kids concerts, deciding who to buy presents for and then actually following through on purchasing and wrapping and delivering those presents. It’s enough to at least make me crazy. And maybe you are a little bit like me. I don’t know, I’m just guessing. In addition to all of like the hubbub and the chaos, there’s also the added bonus, maybe we could call it I’m seeing lots of people from years gone by that maybe you struggled to be around.

Perhaps it’s hard for you to see family but you feel obligated. I’m just speaking hypothetically, of course. So I thought it would be helpful to do two things. First, I’m going to record this totally free podcast with lots of helpful information, lots of empathy, lots of tips and tricks for you to take advantage of right now. And second, I’ve designed to the entire month of December in focus, which is my coaching program for adults with ADHD to be all about supporting ADHD years through the holidays. So if you need more support then this podcast can offer you please come join my ADHD coaching program where we’ll be studying these topics ready.

Managing your money this holiday season, creating a plan or like a vision for what you want the holiday season to look like setting boundaries for the holidays and how to make Manage your mind so that this can actually be not a repeat of every other year, but your best holiday season, yet your most intentional holiday season yet your most connected holiday season yet. So I’ve compiled a list of five ish things that I think go into making a holiday season bearable, is not going to be perfect, it’s still going to be chaotic.

Yes, there will be some fun to be had. But let’s be real. There’s also so much to manage. And it can get really complicated. So here are five ways to make your holiday season more manageable. The first thing that we need to do is create some sort of vision for what we want the holidays to look like. Now ADHD are suck at nonverbal working memory, which is the function the executive function that literally allows us to have a vision in our mind’s eye. So this might be difficult, it probably will be difficult to create a picture for yourself of what you want it to look like.

And that’s okay. It’s actually supposed to be hard for you because you have ADHD and your nonverbal working memory is impaired. But this is a really good skill to develop, what do you want your holiday season to look like? If you can see it, if you can envision it, if you can picture what you want it to look like, you’re going to have a high chance high probability of being able to make it happen, almost like creating a vision board for your holiday season. What do you want it to look like? The caveat here, we want to make sure that you’re not just creating a fantasy, because a lot of times our inner child comes out really strong around the holiday season. And so what happens is we create this fantasy picture of what we want the holidays to look like. And then we kind of set ourselves up for disappointment. Or just like we say yes to way too many things.

Because we’re just kind of living in Fantasyland of like, it’ll be fine, I’ll definitely be able to do it. So I want you to make sure that you’re staying grounded in reality. But what do you want the holidays to look like for you. So here’s the thing, we need to decide in advance what we want it to look like, or it will be decided for us. Life happens fast, you probably have a job, you might have a family or friends or a partner or a boyfriend or girlfriend or somebody that you are feeling like obligated to things are going to be thrown at you. And if you don’t start to think with your executive brain, what do I want this to look like it will be decided for you. Now I get that some of us intentionally don’t make decisions so that decisions are decided for us because decisions can be very hard for those of us with ADHD. But I am encouraging you to step into your authority here and say,

Okay, I would like to kind of paint a picture for what I want the holiday season to look like, here are the people I want to connect with, here’s the money that I want to spend, here are the events that I want to go to, I want to make sure that I don’t miss out on XYZ, you fill in the blank, and create a vision for yourself so that you can make sure you’re in the driver’s seat. I want to empower you to be in the driver’s seat over the next couple of weeks. Okay, so it doesn’t mean that we don’t, you know, listen to what other people want and say yes to it. But what it does mean is that we prioritize our own needs, our own desires and our own ones, okay? So we’re going to decide the hard things in advance, we’re going to create a vision, we’re going to create kind of like a picture of what we want it to look like. And we’re going to make decisions on purpose, so that we can be in the driver’s seat and not at the whim of the other people that are surrounding us.

Okay. The next thing I want you to do, is I want you to create some sort of budget now, don’t don’t turn me off. I understand. I understand that’s a bad word in the ADHD world, I totally get it. What I’m asking for here is not a very detailed analysis of what’s coming in what’s going out and exactly every expenditure tracked. That’s not what I’m saying at all. If you could at least just get a feel for what do I have, and how much room do I have to spend? What’s happening? What’s the reality of the situation right now? And how much money do I have to spend The answer might be zero. And that’s fine, we’re gonna we’re going to talk about that. But at least get a clearer picture of, is there any money that I have in my account to spend on gifts, you want to take stock of what you have in your accounts, and how much wiggle room you’ve got to spend, don’t make it too restrictive. But do figure out how much you have, and how much you want to spend. And if you know, like, Okay, I literally have no money. So I know I’m going to be spending outside of my means that’s not a problem, what I would just encourage you to do is make that decision consciously.

So you’re going to make a plan for, here’s how I’m going to, you know, this is the credit card that I’m going to use, this is how much I’m going to spend. And this is how I’m going to pay it off in the next couple of months. So it’s actually like a decent decision that you’ve thought through, instead of a shame filled, judgment filled, blame filled, like, Oh, I knew I was terrible at money, and I knew that I was going to do it wrong, etc, etc.

So, I would really encourage you to take stock of what you have figured out how much you want to spend. And then if you know that you’re going to need to use a credit card, make that decision with your executive brain. So you just make the decision of Okay, this card is the card that makes the most sense for me to use. This is how much I’m going to put on the card that I’m not going to go above this certain amount. And here’s my plan to pay it off in the next couple of months. Okay. And if money is tight, I encourage you, I mean, this is super basic, but I encourage you to find ways to connect with people that don’t include money, or at least lower cost things, making a card writing a heartfelt note, baking cookies, taking someone out for like a hike or a walk or a meal, instead of buying an expensive gift saying to the family like hey, family, you know, money’s tight for me this year, I’m going to be getting everybody a bottle of wine, and I’m going to be writing you a heartfelt card. And that’s going to be my contribution this year, things like that, that’s totally fine. But again, I’m encouraging you to make those decisions with your executive brain in advance.

It’s only the first week of December, you can make these decisions right now in advance, and then tolerate the discomfort that comes along with it. Knowing that it’s a decision that works best for you what you need and what you want. Okay, so step one is create a vision or a picture of what you want the holidays to look like. Step two is create some sort of budget or understanding of what you have and want to spend. And then Step number three is don’t go into ADHD debt this holiday season, and I’m not talking about money.

What I’m talking about is the thing that we do when we get really excited, really overjoyed, and we overcome it. We overcome it impulsively, we get excited about an event that comes up and we tell ourselves, Oh, it’ll be fine. I’ll just fit this in. And we create a lot of debt for ourselves, meaning we’re going to have so much less time we’re going to have so much less energy and capacity, and we’re going to have so much less money. Because we are over committing to these things. Another way that we go into ADHD debt is that we offer to help when we don’t have the capacity to do it. Hey, do you need anything? Hey, can I help with that? Sure. I’ll sign up for that bake sale. Yes, I’ll commit to, you know, doing Toys for Tots or whatever. Like we offered to help when we literally don’t have the capacity to do it. I implore you don’t create this time and energy and capacity depth for yourself by offering to do things that you really don’t have the capacity to do. And then the last part of this ADHD debt is we often say yes, when we want to say no, because saying no is really uncomfortable. And this is a whole thing.

This is a whole thing that you know, would take a long time to unravel. I actually do have a podcast on how to say no. And if you feel like that podcast would be helpful to you in this season. I highly encourage you to go listen to it. But this is one of the ways that we put ourselves into ADHD debt is that when someone asks us to do something we feel so uncomfortable saying no, that we end up kind of people pleasing them and saying yes, but putting ourselves into ADHD debt, meaning our energy, our capacity, our time our money all get depleted because of our yes When we knew that we wanted to say no, in the first place, your body will tell you when to say no, listen to it, it tells the truth, it knows how to take good care of you. So please, please listen to it.

Okay, number four, the fourth way to survive and maybe even thrive, the holiday season, as an adult with ADHD is really begin to think about the relationships in your life, and who you want to spend your time with this holiday season, I would really encourage you to prioritize connection over presence, and buying gifts, and spending a lot of money, prioritize connection.

Connection is what we are all longing for. In relationships, we are dying for it. So prioritize connection, prioritize relationships, that you feel safe in, prioritize relationships, where there’s reciprocity, where there’s back and forth, we call that mutual relationships, relationships with people who are at your level. And I don’t mean that in a really gross way. I mean it in a way that’s like someone who can meet you where you’re at. mutual relationships are rare. But they’re so beautiful. And I encourage you to think through the people in your life right now, who go on the list of like, these are the people that I want to make sure that I connect with this holiday season. Again, I want to circle back to the idea that if we don’t have intentionality, if we don’t think this through and decide with our executive brains, who we want to spend time with, or how we want to spend our time, or how we want to spend our money, we just end up impulsively flying from one thing to the next, and really not feeling like we are in the driver’s seat. And then we kind of look back on the month and we’re like, oh my gosh, like, first of all, I’m completely hung over from all of the energy that I expended.

Second of all, I didn’t connect with the people that I really, really wanted to be with this holiday season. And third, I put myself in a huge financial hole, because I wasn’t thinking through clearly what I had and what I wanted to spend. So this just goes back to making those decisions ahead of time. This is just me, encouraging you to engage your executive brain, you have a beautiful, well functioning executive brain that makes good decisions, as long as we think it through ahead of time.

The problem is, so many of our decisions are made impulsively in the moment, on a whim, you know, without regard to how we’re feeling. And then we get ourselves into trouble that way. So what I am encouraging, is for you to just take a step back and make decisions in advance. Okay, another thing along the lines of relationships, I would really love to empower you to set boundaries with people who are unkind or who your body reacts to really in a negative way. Remember, your boundaries are just an expression of your preferences, your limits your property, what you are going to manage and take care of. And really, they’re an expression of your capacity. And it’s okay, that you have a different capacity than the other humans in your life. It’s okay, if you want to say no to something that other people think you should say yes to.

If your capacity is low right now, in this holiday season, that is O. K, you’re allowed to say no, you’re allowed to prioritize the people in your life, who you have a beautiful connection with, you’re allowed to prioritize mutual relationships where there’s reciprocity, and you’re allowed to set boundaries with people who you feel like are unsafe, this might be a great time for you to head over to the episode that I just put out a couple of weeks ago on safe versus Unsafe people. Because around the holidays, there’s a lot of obligation for you to be around people who feel unsafe to you. And I just want to say to you that you really don’t have to be around anyone that you don’t want to. You are a grown human. You get to make decisions.

Now, what we don’t get to do is make decisions in a vacuum that don’t affect other people and have everybody get really excited about our boundaries and about our limits and about Our capacity. So of course there’s discomfort to tolerate, when other people think that you should be showing up differently. And I understand that I am spending a lot of time unraveling that in my own life. So I get the pole, to take care of other people, I get that I get the pole, to feel responsible for your family, I get the pole to make others happy at your own expense. I get it. I’ve lived it for 41 years, I am slowly doing the work of unraveling that in my life. And it’s not easy. So no shame or blame. If you’re like, Nah, I’m going to people please my way through this holiday just as a survival mode. No shame or blame from me, I get it. I did that for a very, very, very long time. But if you want to prioritize the safe people and set boundaries with people who feel unsafe to you, here’s a co signature from Kristen Carter to do it. He’s got it. All right. And then step number five, how to manage the holidays as an adult with ADHD.

Make sure that you are taking care of yourself. Don’t neglect your mental health. Don’t forget to take your medicine. Don’t forget that eating and drinking water. It’s a thing that people do sometimes, and maybe you should try. Don’t forget about sleep. Don’t forget to go on a walk. Don’t forget to do like the exercise or the movement that feels good to you. Don’t forget about that stuff at the expense or because of all of the holiday hubbub. Okay.

Make sure to set yourself up for as much support as possible. If you have access to therapy, schedule extra therapy sessions. If you have the ability to do so join my coaching program, I’m telling you it will change your life. But if you don’t have the means to be able to set those supports up for yourself, download podcasts that support you make sure that you are following people on Instagram and on Tik Tok, that really resonate with what you need. Make sure to curate your social media feeds to eliminate anyone who is triggering to you like those are very simple and free ways that you can take care of your mental and emotional health. And speaking of emotional health, there’s a lot of emotions to be felt over the holidays. And one of the best ways that you can take care of yourself and manage yourself this holiday season is to understand that whatever you feel this holiday season is valid. Maybe you’re feeling grief, because you’re missing someone you love. Maybe you’re feeling loneliness, because you don’t have the meaningful connections that you wish you did.

Maybe you’re feeling so much anticipation and you’re excited because of all of the parties and all of the the glitter in the hubbub. But you’re kind of afraid that anticipation might get you into a little trouble when it comes to your budget. Maybe you’re feeling shame speaking of budget, because you don’t have the money to buy the gifts that you want to buy. Or maybe you’re feeling so much joy, because you’re surrounded by people that you absolutely adore. Whatever is coming up for you, I want you to make space for it. And tell yourself it’s okay to feel this. It’s okay to feel this. What I’m feeling right now makes sense. Let the emotions come and make space in your body for them. But what I would really encourage you huge encouragement here, don’t take action. Don’t make decisions from the high highs or the low lows.

A lot of times we get ourselves into so much trouble when we make decisions from those high highs from feeling excited anticipation or joy. We commit to so many things and we put ourselves into that ADHD debt because we’re just so excited about the holidays. Rather than grounding ourselves in reality, grounding ourselves in our own capacity and making a decision from a very grounded place. Additionally, don’t make decisions from the low lows. If you’re making decisions out of guilt, and shame and judgment and regret. You’re not going to love the outcome of those decisions. So allow those emotions to come. Allow the judgment and the shame and the blame and the regret and all of that yuckiness to come but don’t make decisions from that place. You see the difference?

You’re creating space for it. You’re saying like okay, it makes sense that this is here. I’m willing to feel this, but I’m going to wait to make a decision. until I can get myself into a grounded place. And, lastly, this is so important. This is maybe the most important thing in the how to manage yourself, okay? Remember that rest is a human right? Rest is productive. Taking care of yourself, this holiday season is productive. So when you’re making your plan or your schedule for the month, make sure you’re building in downtime, make sure you’re building in some time to rest, to play to do things that are so fulfilling for you.

And I’m not talking about scrolling on your phone, although sometimes that is very delicious. But what I’m talking about is true, restorative rest, and if this is a struggle for you, I’ve got podcasts on how many times you’re gonna say that an episode Chris and Gardner, I’m sorry, I have podcasts on it. And I also think the hobbies call from a couple weeks ago would be really helpful because I talk a lot about why we struggle to prioritize rest and play. And listen, if you can come out of this holiday season feeling restored, feeling like your fuel tank has been filled up feeling like you have more to give in January, than you did in in December, because you’re not completely hungover because you haven’t burned out. Because you haven’t lost all of your capacity in the last couple of weeks.

I think that’s a huge, huge win. Rest is a productive thing to do, you can put it on your list, and you can check it off your list, it is productive. Okay, let us review five things that you can do that you can implement starting today to make sure that you are going to have a holiday season that doesn’t just repeat the past. First you’re going to create a vision or a picture of what you want it to look like. Next, you’re going to create a budget of your capacity for spending. And really get a clearer picture of what you have and how much you want to spend. Then you’re going to make sure you don’t go into ADHD debt, meaning you’re not going to overcommit, you’re not going to help beyond your capacity, you’re not going to say yes to things that you want to say no to, you’re going to next think about the relationships in your life.

And you’re going to prioritize connection, mutual relationships, and people that you feel really, really, really good around. And you’re going to set some boundaries if you want to with people who feel unsafe, or unkind, or people who just make your body feel really, really yucky. And last, you’re going to prioritize managing yourself making sure that you’re taking your meds, drinking your water, eating food, and you’re going to set up as much support as possible. Feel your emotions. And remember, that rest is so productive. And if you can leave this holiday season rested, you’re going to set yourself up for 2023.

That’s going to blow your mind. Thank you so much for bearing with me through this podcast. You don’t even know how many times I have tried to record this. How many interruptions I had with trying to get my kids quiet, and also trying to formulate proper thoughts after being sick. Oh, my goodness, it was a labor of love and it was for you my ADHD ear. I adore you. I am so glad that we are connected here on this platform and I’m sending you the biggest biggest hug. I’ll talk to you next time.

If you’re being treated for your ADHD, but you still don’t feel like you’re reaching your potential you’ve got to join focused. It’s my monthly coaching membership where I teach you how to tame your wild thoughts and create the life that you’ve always wanted. No matter what season of life you’re in or where you are in the world focused is for you. All materials and call recordings are stored in the site for you to access at your convenience. Go to Ihaveadhd.com/focused for all the info.

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