Over stimulation at the holidays

When I turned 10 (I think) it was the last time that my parents invited everyone in my class to a birthday party at my house. It ended up being 30 or so kids running around and going crazy. Apparently it was too much for me to handle and I went outside and hid in my dad’s car. And I don’t mean hiding in the sense that no one knew where I was. I mean that I was hiding from the chaos.

As my Dad loves to tell this story, I have had a chance to reflect on its meaning many times over the years. I used to think of it as an anomaly. I never thought of myself as an introvert and am very much a social person. I spent my first career in commercial kitchens, which are, at best, controlled chaos. And, I thrived in that environment. So why the freak out at the birthday party all those years ago?

Well, I’ve realized recently that as much as I am a people person, I can also be over stimulated by my environment. Don’t love going food shopping in the middle of the day on Saturday at Wegmans. I never liked taking our son to the children’s museum on a Saturday unless it was members only hours. Generally speaking, I don’t love crowds.

I guess my point is that I’m a guy who handles busy situations pretty well and can thrive in them, but only if I have a way to make order out of the chaos. That was the case in the kitchens I working in. But, I can’t create structure in a supermarket on the Saturday before Christmas. So that I do find over stimulating.

There are many ADHDers who are even more susceptible to being overwhelmed by stimulation than I am. For those folks especially, it is really important to know their limits and be able to get the space that they need to feel comfortable. It’s also really important for spouses and other family members to understand those needs and be accomodating.

If you need to, give yourself a time out. (Like I did in the car at my birthday party.) Go into another room and sit by yourself and listen to a podcast, read a book, or meditate for a few minutes. Try not to plan too much back to back that could be overwhelming. Maybe sit out a select activity to give yourself room to breath. And, of course, exercise is always a good idea. Bring your running shoes to your folks’ house for the weekend and plan to get a few miles in before dinner.

And, while I’m speaking of planning… If you know yourself and plan ahead, you can probably predict when the points are that you may find overstimulating. Definitely plan ahead rather than waiting until you have an emergency. And, plan as a family. Let your spouse know what you are going to need to ‘survive’ the holiday so it’s not a surprise when you need to step a way for a bit.

Lastly, as a parent of an ADHD child, try to be aware of the potential over stimulation hazards that you child will face. Plan ahead, talk about it as a family, and teach self monitoring and self management skills. All of this should make your holiday season much more manageable and enjoyable.

I’ll probably take a few weeks off from posting around the holidays. So, Happy Everything. And, look for my next post in the new year. Or consider using the new subscribe feature so you get an email whenever I post a new entry.

Standard Disclaimer:  In an effort to foil my own perfectionist tendencies, I do not edit my posts much… if at all. Please excuse and typos, mistakes, grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing. I focus on getting my content down. An imperfect post completed is better than a perfect post that goes unposted.

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