A holiday party is less than fun when you’re the one arriving late, or forgetting the gifts, or – worst of all – scrambling in the kitchen and wishing you had never volunteered to play host while hungry guests sit in the living room.

As the nights grow frosty and the dreams of sugar plums start to dance through the little ones’ heads, you can either don your cap and slide into your cozy bed with an extra feeling of gratitude – or cranky and miserable from holiday stress. Now is the time to make this holiday season your best holiday season.

Start With a Heaping Spoonful of Self-Reflection

There are so many moving parts to the holidays: unpredictable weather, hectic travel, renewed connections with old family and friends (and all of the complex relationships they bring), gift-giving, cooking and cleaning, and a total upset of the daily routine. These conditions could bring out the worst in your ADHD.

The trick is to size up the problems ahead of time and prepare. In these quiet days of mid-autumn, when life still feels normal or maybe even a little boring, amp up your meditation or exercise routines, or whatever activity you use as an outlet. Think about the holidays last year, and what you didn’t like about them. You waited too late to book your flights and the prices were through the roof. A distant relative showed up at the party with gifts, and you regretted that you didn’t have a spare tucked away to give in return. You agreed to bake Great Aunt Mary’s Cookies last year, but put it off and then couldn’t find the recipe. As you brainstorm, write down everything.

Also take time to think about the best parts of the holidays. Visualize these moments going better than ever. Ask yourself what you want to get out of the special events this time around. Hold on to these priorities – they will be the aspirations that ground you if the holidays get a little out of control later.

Add a Sprinkle of Time Management

Get your calendar in tip-top shape now, and create a plan to keep it running in the best condition as invitations start arriving. Whatever works for you, run with it: a digital calendar on all of your devices, a wall calendar, a day planner – just make sure you have it ready.

Pencil in all of the annual events that you know are coming up. Every entry should include “Time,” “Place,” “Host,” “Attire” and “Bring.” Every day when you read your mail, be ready to add new events with all of that info to the calendar. Digital invitations can be easy to lose track of since you probably read emails as they arrive in your inbox, so either be diligent about adding each new event to your calendar as you see it or go back through your inbox every night or two.

When the wider schedule of the holidays begins to take shape, zoom in on the things that you will be responsible for: cooking, decorating, hosting, and so on. Set aside fifteen or thirty minutes in the beginning of November to game plan these responsibilities. Estimate how much time you will need to prepare, and mark down the best days to fit that preparation in. Hopefully this will save the scramble of creating, printing and mailing a hundred holiday cards in mid-December, or staying up until 2 AM with pies in the oven and the vacuum going the night before a party.

Dice Up a Handful of Shopping Lists

With a good handle on the big events coming down the pike and your role, work up your shopping lists. Doing this in advance will allow you flex time to bargain shop, or to fit in special trips to out-of-the-way specialty stores. If you need to buy gifts without being positive of the

recipient (like extra hostess gifts or Yankee Swaps), buy something generic that you wouldn’t mind keeping if the event falls through. A bottle of wine, box of chocolates or potted herbs or flowers are always safe bets. Make note as well of items you need to dig out of storage or borrow, like the family recipe book or the Christmas tree stand.

Combine With a Healthy Dose of Flexibility and Serve

These preparatory steps should help minimize the holiday stress that comes from lots of entertaining, travel and social obligations. Yet even the best-laid plans can go wrong. Family events can be tense, fluke snow storms can blow in, a nasty flu can go around. Be ready for who-knows-what. With the higher priorities that you visualized at the start of the holiday season in the back of your mind, it will be easier to let go of the smaller disappointments and look on the bright side.

The key to dealing with unknown stressors is to hold onto as much of your routine as you can. Now is not the time to try a drastic change in your ADHD treatment regimen. Do whatever it usually is that calms you down. Spend time outside, even if it is chilly, and make sure to fit in exercise. Excuse yourself for some meditation or quiet reflection in the morning. In between big meals and seasonal desserts, eat foods that make you feel healthier. Find things that make you laugh. After all, is there anything more important this time of year than comfort and joy?

Author's Bio: 

Carol Gignoux, M.Ed. is founder and President of ADDinsights, LLC, a Boston-based firm that provides coaching and training for adults and teens with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Carol’s passion is to provide services that transform the lives of people with ADHD.

Carol began her work with ADHD immediately upon her graduation from college in 1972, and has continued that work for the past 35 years. Carol specializes in working with both teens and adults, with or without an ADHD diagnosis, who want to see better results in their academic, professional and personal lives.

Carol has trained with Coach U, Inc. and is a certified graduate. She has also completed a graduate coaching program with the Newfield Network in Minneapolis, MN and an Executive Coach Training Program with Success Dynamics in Concord, MA. Carol has been certified by the ICF as one of their first Financial Coaches. She was also one of the first participants in the Top Human Coaching Program in Shanghai, China, has taken several of T. Harv Eker’s Peak Potentials Training Programs, and is a member of his Private Circle Club. Carol co-created the Institute for the Advancement of ADHD Coaching, the international organization that certifies ADHD Coaches and ADHD Training Programs. She has achieved the most advanced ADHD coaching designation: the Senior Certified ADHD Coach or SCAC.