Christmas is supposed to be the season of joy, particularly for Christians, right? I don’t know about you, but for our family there have been more moments of chaos, anger, irritability, crying, and uncomfortable emotions than joy this season. For people with ADHD, something like a global pandemic can wreak havoc in the home. Many people with ADHD also experience hypersensitivity. There are several forms of hypersensitivity and it manifests differently in different people. Some may be sensitive to sounds, some to tastes, some to the way things feel, some to smells, etc. Some people may experience sensitivity to all of these things. There is so much occurring in the brain, it would be impossible to explain here, but suffice it to say, when someone already has trouble determining what stimuli is most important to focus on, a distraction like the sound of a buzzing light bulb or an itchy sock might just put them over the edge!
How does a global pandemic affect hypersensitivity in someone with ADHD? In people diagnosed with ADHD, there is a greater chance of associating the threats of the outside world as trauma. While an ongoing pandemic does not qualify as a traumatic event according to the DSM-5 (ADDitude Magazine #) definition, some research suggests it may still be perceived as traumatic to the ADHD brain because it is so difficult to differentiate a perceived threat from a real threat. (ADDitude Magazine #) And so, the ADHD brain is on high alert constantly during a pandemic, making those sounds and feelings all the harder to differentiate. This may help explain why your kids are having more trouble with the feel of their mask, or the blue light of the computer screen than neurotypical children.
So how do we grasp and hold tightly to joy this Christmas season? Here are some ideas that we have found helpful in our house.
Get Exercise - Take frequent movement breaks and make them fun. Have a dance competition to your favorite Christmas songs or go for a walk and look for your favorite Christmas decorations. Exercise triggers endorphins to be released in our brains and these make us feel good! (Plus, you won’t be able to hear that lightbulb.)
Serve Others - Bake cookies for medical personnel or your neighbors. Include homemade cards. Pack bags of toiletries, snacks, hats, gloves, masks, and other goodies for people suffering from homelessness. Focusing on the needs of others is biblical (Phil. 2:3-4 and so many other places) and it’s a great reminder to be thankful for all God has given us.
Break out Your Old Traditions - Yes, things look different this year, but Jesus’ birth is always a reason to celebrate! Talk about some of your favorite traditions and discuss creative ways to do them safely this year. Maybe have a Virtual Christmas Eve service with extended family, or create a video of you singing some Christmas carols and share it with your neighborhood facebook group.
Laugh a Lot - Proverbs tells us that laughter is good medicine and medical research confirms that just exercising our smile muscles releases endorphins (it also improves our immune system and decreases stress hormones). Make up jokes or look up cheesy Christmas jokes online. We also love Tucker Budzyn videos on YouTube. Remember to always sensor shows before letting your kids watch them, of course.
Focus on the Truth - Christmas is a joyful season because of God making a way for us to be reconciled to him through Jesus. Discuss frequently what reminds you of the ultimate gift and create beautiful reminders throughout your home. You can search Pinterest for ideas if you are crafty, or simply use pretty fonts and colors on your computer to create posters.
There is so much more to hypersensitivity than we can discuss today, but when we focus our attention on the truth and joy of Christmas, as Philippians 4:8 tells us, we will have less room for the distractions around us.
Need more help with this concept? Ask a pastor or trusted mentor for help, or you can book a free Discovery Session with me by going to www.flourishingfamilycoaching.com/services and enter the code: ADHD in the checkout, or sign up for the workshop for parents which starts in January.
The content found on Flourishing Family Coaching’s website and blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding ADHD, anxiety, depression or any other medical conditions. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website or blog.
ADDitude Magazine. How This Pandemic Triggers Trauma Responses in the ADHD Brain. New Hope Media, LLC, 2020. additudemag.com, https://www.additudemag.com/trauma-coronavirus-adhd/. Accessed 16 12 2020.
American Psychiatric Association, editor. DSM-5. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013.