02 December 2022 at 14:00
Calm Christmas – be present as well as giving presents
Tips for dealing with hyperactivity and overwhelm for you and your kids
For those who suffer hyperactivity and overwhelm, or have children with hyperactivity disorders, the run up to Christmas can be a super stressful time. Remembering dates, making lists, choosing presents, attending parties, changes to daily routine – not to mention trying to keep up with what everyone else seems to be doing. The holidays can soon become a mixture of excitement, stress and chaos.
Being aware of the difficulties that you might experience is the first step. If you can identify likely triggers then you have a good chance of pre-planning to either avoid or reduce the impact.
So what measures can you take to promote a calmer Christmas?
Try not to deviate too far from your usual routine. It can be extremely hard when social occasions mean late nights and sleepy mornings, but the more you can stick to your sleep and wake times the more balanced your energy levels will be. A 10,000 lux lightbox (also known as a SAD lamp) used for an hour in the morning can be extremely useful even for those who do not experience SAD, to regulate the sleep-wake cycles and keep energy balanced. Studies have also shown light therapy to reduce symptoms of ADHD including inattention and impulsiveness.
Getting adequate rest is crucial, especially if you or your child has a tendency to get over excited during festivities. A meditation or mindfulness app such as Calm, Balance or Headspace can be a great tool to help relax the body and aid sleep. Breathing exercises, such as the 4-7-8 method developed by Dr Andrew Weil, can also be extremely effective.
Stock up on relaxing essential oils for use in diffusers, pulse point oils or pillow sprays. Lavender and Chamomile are two of the best known, and are both generally safe for inhalation. If you prefer brighter fragrances try Mandarin, which is soothing and calming and can also be blended with Lavender or Chamomile. Frankincense is a wonderful Christmas scent – it is deeply relaxing and has meditative properties when inhaled - it blends well with Mandarin and Lavender.
If you or your child have been diagnosed with a hyperactivity disorder you probably already know quite a bit about food triggers. A fundamental strategy is to keep the blood sugar levels balanced throughout the day. This means avoiding simple carbs (like sugar, pastries, biscuits, white bread, rice and pasta) and ensuring breakfast and snacks are protein based. Chemical additives and cow’s milk are also common triggers for hyperactivity, so check labels and look for milk alternatives. If your hyperactive child is attending a party, make sure the host knows their dietary requirements and offer to provide any special or hard to find foods.
Lists are the secret weapon to being organised! Plan out everything you might need for the holiday season and mark all key dates on your calendar well in advance. Include supplies of medication, cooking ingredients, a new outfit, car service, travel insurance etc. The less that is left to the last minute the calmer you will feel.
Reminders, reminders, reminders
A diary or wall calendar is extremely useful – choose something that appeals to you and make sure it is somewhere very visible that you will see often throughout the day. Use colour or stickers to highlight different types of events – be it dates of travel, mailing deadlines or parties – so you can see clearly what is happening and when. If your child gets upset by the unexpected, give them plenty of advance warning and reminders about trips or events that they will be attending so there are no last-minute surprises.
Avoid the crowds
Where possible, try to travel when roads are quieter and go shopping at unpopular times when there are less likely to be crowds of other people. If you need to eat while you are out, plan in advance and book a table somewhere small and quiet so you can get away from the hustle and bustle for an hour or so. You could also make a list of quiet retreats in the local area - like open churches, cathedrals, parks or museums - in case you or your child need to take a breather.
Travelling to see friends and relatives can be difficult. Consider whether it is better to have friends to your own house (which might involve cleaning and catering) or travelling to them – which could involve a tiring journey, children getting restless in the car, and an unfamiliar environment with different food, sounds and smells. If you are the parent of a hyperactive child bear in mind there won’t be the same safety proofing that you have at home. Make sure you bring along some familiar toys or activities that your child can use, and suggest some outside activity to burn off excess energy before sitting down to a meal.
The big day!
When Christmas day finally arrives, there are a few things you can do to maintain a calmer atmosphere.
- Start with a good breakfast and make sure children don’t have access to sweets or sugary drinks too early in the day – this may mean no chocolates hanging on the tree!
- Try not to keep too many sugary snacks on display - mince pies can be brought out in the evening but don’t need to be available all day long.
- Plan a time for present opening, and consider splitting into two sessions or opening a set number of gifts at a time. For some children you may want to put a few gifts aside to open on boxing day, to avoid overwhelming them with too many new things at once.
- Try to clear gifts and wrapping paper from the room before settling down for a Christmas film, so the room is less distracting and looks more like it would on any other day.
- Make time for walking or playing outside for children to burn off energy, even if the weather is cold.
- Schedule a time for relaxation. If you think it will be difficult to slip off unnoticed then tell your guests that you will be disappearing for 15 minutes at 3pm – set an alarm so you don’t forget. Use the time for breathing exercises or meditations.