fitness · health · planning · self care

Christine H says yes to Holidays but no to Holi-daze

For those of us who celebrate Christmas, or some Christmas-like event, or at least for those of us who end up on a different schedule between December 24 & January 1, we are currently at the time of year when the days all run together.

Routines are off kilter – meals happen at weird times, we’re eating a lot of different foods, and our sleep patterns have gone out the window.

This is when we lose all sense of time and end up in a holi-daze.

An especially dangerous thing for those of us on Team ADHD who have a tenuous grasp on the concept in the first place.

Two drawings of stick people. The one on the left is wearing a red santa hat and has the words '1st-26th Dec' above their head and the word 'Festive' as a caption below. The one on the right has a piece of cheese in their hand. The words '27th-31st Dec' above their head and the words 'Confused, Full of cheese, Unsure of the day of week.' as a caption below.
I’m more likely to be full of raisin cake than cheese but this is the feeling I mean! Image credit: Hurrah for Gin

In this odd year, that out-of-phase feeling has been recurring for most of us. The things that give shape to our year have been changed and time has been expanding and contracting around tasks/plans/activities as they mostly moved online.

I think, though, that having that out-of-phase feeling recur so often this year has made me realize (Re-realize? Possibly!) how important schedules are for my mental health.

In previous years, this week would find me with all kinds of lofty ideas about just letting the days progress in any old way, seeing what might appeal to me to do at any given time.

Text above the image reads 'Me, during that weird time between Christmas and New Years where I don't even know what day it is:'  and the image is of the free-spirited character of Phoebe from the TV show 'Friends.' She is wearing a striped onesie and drinking a pink drink through a long straw while she lies on the floor with her head on a pillow.  She is being asked 'Do you have a plan?' and she responds ' I don't even have a pla.' "
Phoebe, from the TV show ‘Friends’ might be able to get away with a lack of structure in her days but I cannot. Image source

I have encountered some fun days that way in the past but mostly, I end up feeling a bit scattered and let down by the end of the day.

Because, as much as the idea of spending a day drifting from task to task might have appeal, in reality, I know that I won’t drift pleasantly from task to task.

Instead, I’ll spend the whole day feeling vaguely dissatisfied and with a looming sense that I should be doing something else.

So, I create a plan for my week and then a shape for each day so my atemporal brain won’t leave me in the in-between with a feeling of frustrated sadness.

Making a loose plan for my week and then giving each day a shape makes me choose how I am going to spend my time. It helps me notice if I am trying to cram too many different things into the time that I have. And creating that shape lets me do important preparatory things like saving enough time to actually make the meals I plan to eat or to drive to the places I want to be.

And, yes, giving my days a shape does include a (fairly flexible) schedule and some rough time limits for my chosen activities.

I know to some this will sound like ‘Christine doesn’t know how to relax.’ but this approach is actually the key to my relaxation.

Khalee, a medium-sized, light-haired dog, sleeps on a  blue flannel pillowcase decorated with frogs , crowns and hearts.
My dog, Khalee, does not need a schedule in order to relax. She apparently just needs to sleep on my pillow when I run downstairs for some pre-bed ginger tea.

For starters, these plans and shapes do not necessarily involve work. My plan for the week includes holiday activities, some special meals, and hanging out with people on Zoom. My shape for a given day might be to read a book for an hour after breakfast, to do some drawing for 45 minutes before lunch, and then to take a long walk at 3pm.

And having that plan, that schedule, is actually restful. It means that time won’t gallop away from me.

It means that I won’t spend the whole week figuring out when to do which activity. And I won’t spend each day continuously trying to decide if now is the ‘right’ time to read, to draw, or to head out for a walk.

And, having that plan, that shape, lets me make stress-free decisions when someone asks me if I want to do something else. If my plan is to go for a walk at 3, and someone asks me to watch a movie at 2, knowing the shape of my day means that I can more easily decide whether to change the time of my walk or to say no to the movie.*

If I know that I have enough time for the things that I really want to do, that I won’t run out of time, that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing at any given time, my brain will stop looping around ‘Now? How about now?’ and give me some ease.

And if that’s not a recipe for a holiday, I don’t know what is.

A small, green, holiday tree is sitting on a white shelf. It is decorated with gold star lights and has a gold star topper. Two points of a large cardboard star can be seen to the right side of the photo and part of a ukulele decorated with the image of a Polynesian-style statue can be seen to the right.
The gold stars on this tree celebrate my self-care efforts this holiday season.

*Perhaps, to the Neurotypical, this may look like overthinking, or as if I am making a big deal out of something simple, but for my ADHD brain, a holiday schedule is a relief. And, I thought that anyone who finds themselves in a holi-daze might borrow some of these ideas for themselves.

10 thoughts on “Christine H says yes to Holidays but no to Holi-daze

  1. Amen sister! I do not have ADHD but I have totally experienced the “holidaze” which was made worse this year in that I was grieving the loss of my beloved dog for the first week of my extended break. My schedule was so off that I was physically sick.
    I find it super helpful to have a task list for each day, nothing lengthy, just enough to make me feel like I have been a productive human being.

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    1. Oh, Jewel! I am so sorry for your loss. I hope your memories bring you some comfort as you move forward.💚

      As you can tell from my post, I am completely behind the idea of a task list. Giving shape to our days makes them real and helps us differentiate one day from another. Separating the days like that keeps me from feeling like the time went by in a blur.

      I hope that giving shape to your days gives you the mental space you need while you are grieving.

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  2. I’m usually very routine based and I somewhat feel the entire year has been a daze. I feel at loose ends a lot, and anxious that I am forgetting things.
    I have recently started saying, “in January everything will be different”. I know that is not my best way to start the new year.
    I am going to look at your list and sit for a bit and come up with a few ideas. I think I will enlist my teenage daughter…she is ADHD and uses me to manage her life. Perhaps we need a joint plan to help us both start 2021 on the right foot!

    Thank you for the motivation.

    Anne

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    1. Hi Anne,

      I’m so sorry that you have been feeling at loose ends so much. That’s just awful – and it’s so hard on the brain!

      Your reaction to this year sounds perfectly natural to me. The uncertainty and anxiety has been a huge challenge and it has gone on for so long and we’re just not wired for this sort of extended stress.

      Things *can* be different in January – I just wish it would happen automatically!

      I’m glad that my post was helpful. Let me know if I can offer any suggestions to help you get going on your January plans. 💚

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      1. Thank you for sharing this!
        I will take a few moments and chat with her.
        She has had some true successes this year at school and I am hoping we nurture them.
        Perhaps together we can come up with thoughts on creating a bit more structure to our weeks!

        I appreciate this! It is really exactly what I needed to hear. Kind and hopeful.

        Anne

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  3. Jewel, I am so sorry for your loss.
    For those of us who celebrate Christmas, I think it would help to stress the fact that Christmas is not a day, but a season–twelve days long, remember? And maybe (in a normal year) spreading out holiday celebrations might cut down on the stress we experience before the 25th and the let-down feeling we experience after the 25th.

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