You may find yourself rushing through the mall to the strains of Michael Buble’s “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” or “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” sung by Andy Williams.
Christmas IS a wonderful time of the year, but for those of us who live with ADHD it isn’t always so “Holly, Jolly.” According to ADHD coach Sandy Maynard, surveys show that women with ADHD are the most likely to experience stress during the holiday season. With the added stressors, self-care often takes a back seat. We may not be eating in a healthy way, exercising, getting enough sleep, or simply allowing ourselves enough time to reboot.
Consider the Spoon Theory
The spoon theory may offer a framework that helps us cope during stressful seasons of life. The spoon theory was written by Christine Miserandino as a way to explain how her chronic illness, lupus, depleted her energy on a daily basis. At a diner with a friend, Christine used a visual to help her friend understand what it was like to live with a chronic illness. She grabbed 12 spoons. Laying them out on the table, she said that each spoon represented an available unit of energy. For example, getting out of bed was 1 spoon. Getting showered and dressed used 2 spoons. Understandably, by the end of the workday, she might only have 1 spoon left, which determined if she was up to cooking or had to order take-out for dinner. In other words, her energy supply was limited.
Likewise, people with ADHD have only so many spoons, given the cognitive demands that impact every area of life. A great deal of energy goes into life on a daily basis and the holidays add on more. What if there were ways to not only conserve energy, but to actually give us energy?
Michelle Novotni, Ph.D., states “tasks and actions require more energy from neurodiverse brains, leading to more spoon shortages. How we conserve or expend energy is vital to our daily decisions. With habits, that is, acquired behavioral patterns that have become automatic, the ADHD gaps in our day close up.” So, for example, if you are able to manage time, you will know exactly how long it takes to get out the door and how long it takes to drive to work. The time estimate then becomes automatic. You know that if you allow 45 minutes, you will not be late. Contrast this with running out the door at the last minute, worrying at each red light, stressing out that you won’t get there on time. Then, you run inside, hoping that no one notices how late you really are! Stress has a high price tag and will most definitely TAKE AWAY spoons!
There are other healthy habits that can actually increase our energy, such as getting exercise or a good night’s sleep. Added to the daily routine, these habits can ADD more spoons to our day!
What can I do now?
Try one of the following habits this week, and see if it adds any more spoons to your day.
- Do a Mind Map: Mind mapping can be a powerful ADHD tool in getting all of the pieces of a complex project out of your head and onto one piece of paper. After mind-mapping, it becomes easy to create a list. New to mind mapping? Learn more.
- Make a List and Check it Twice: Create a daily plan with a time for each task that you plan to do. Review it the night before or in the morning. It is what researcher Russell Barkley calls “mentally rehearsing.” A pre-made plan cuts down on stress!
- Be good to you: Choose one self-care non-negotiable during the holiday season, such as sleep or exercise. Something has to give with all of the extras, but keeping one aspect of self-care can go a long way in helping you get over the finish line.
- Be Selective: Consider what the holidays mean to you. Choose to celebrate the traditions that you value the most, as opposed to trying to do everything that someone else does.
- Sidestep Perfection: Decide what is good enough. A job done is better than a perfect one unfinished. As the saying goes, “If what you want is progress, then skip perfection.”
Be intentional as you celebrate the season and enter the new year. And remember to dish yourself up a spoonful of holiday cheer!
For support in managing time and energy, schedule a free coaching session.
ADDitude Magazine: Happy Holidays, Really!, Sandy Maynard, M.S.
YouTube: The Spoon Theory, written and spoken by Christine Miserandino
butyoudontlooksick.com (website of Christine Miserandino)
ADDitude Magazine: The Antidote to ADHD Fatigue and Exhaustion, Stacking Habits (and Spoons) - Michele Novotni, Ph.D.