The 5 Best Ways to Ensure a Stress Free Holiday

Blog-The 5 Best Ways to Ensure a Stress Free Holiday

This blog has been updated from its original publish date.

It seems like every family has at least one relative who excels at creating drama during the holidays. Think about the “crazy maker” at your family gatherings and try to identify them among this cast of characters:

• Uncle Jim is intoxicated by 4 pm, then has a brutally honest “nugget” to share with someone else in the family. Why is he always sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong and instigating arguments?

• Then there’s Cousin Lucy. She’s riddled with worry over uncle Jim’s drinking and still holds a grudge over the rude comment he made to her last year, which resulted in an uncomfortable argument during dinner.

• Or what about Grandpa Joe, who sits in the corner of the room and looks spaced out all day? Even though he refuses to participate in family games, he complains about being bored all the time.

What makes family members act this way? It could be they have ADD.

Did you know that there’s more than one type of ADD? Daniel G. Amen, MD has identified 7 different types. Three of those types are represented in our hypothetical family: Uncle Jim has Ring of Fire ADD, Cousin Lucy is dealing with Over-focused ADD, and Grandpa Joe has a bad case of Inattentive ADD.

The Dangers of Undiagnosed ADD

While ADD is most often thought of as a disorder for children and adolescent boys with behavioral issues, 4.1% of all U.S. adults have ADD, and 41% of them have cases the National Institute of Mental Health classify as severe.

However, those are just the adults who are diagnosed with ADD; scores more struggle through life never realizing they have it. When left untreated, ADD can be incredibly debilitating, not only for those dealing with it but their loved ones as well. People with untreated ADD often suffer from other disorders as well, including: social isolation, depression and anxiety.

If you suspect someone in your family has ADD, here are some practical steps you can take to ensure a stress-free holiday…

5 Ways to Prevent Your Holiday from Being Ruined

1. Leave Early

People with ADD often struggle with procrastination. The prefrontal cortex is the brain’s supervisor and is involved with forethought, judgment, planning and impulse control. When this part of the brain is low in activity, which is the most common research finding in ADD, people can’t supervise themselves very well, which can lead to chronic lateness and irritated family members.

Set multiple alarms to keep your family on track and tell everyone in your house that you’re leaving 30 minutes before you actually have to depart. Avoid the last-minute scramble to get out the door, which can lead to stress, anxiety, and arguments.

2. Minimize Conflict

Many people with ADD can focus well with stress, but not well without it. Conflict-seeking behavior and arguments can be used as a form of self-medication to wake up the brain, and people with ADD can get addicted to it.

So how do you handle someone who thrives on conflict? Fighting fire with fire, by raising your voice or using abusive or unsavory language, certainly won’t help matters. Avoiding confrontations isn’t the answer either, since minimizing or brushing aside a dispute can further embolden the aggressor and make things even worse.

Resist the urge to participate in discussions that can offend or create family strife. Always look for a way to redirect negative tirades or inappropriate conversations. If that doesn’t work, isolate the individual from the rest of the group to prevent them from ruining the holidays.

3. Get Active

If you need a break from a movie marathon or if you just want to work off that extra slice of turkey or ham, get the family outside for some fresh air and exercise. Engage in a brain safe activity or take a long walk. Walking can help you clear your mind, decrease anxiety, improve your mood and burn some calories all at the same time.

Intense physical exercise boosts blood flow to the brain. When everyone in the family is thinking clearly, better decisions and behaviors should follow. It’s always better to stimulate the brain with physical activity than family drama.

4. Lose the Booze

Many people think serving alcohol at a holiday gathering will help to settle everyone down, but it’s more like rocket fuel for impulsivity and family conflict.

Alcohol predisposes you to sugar abuse, stimulates your appetite, prolongs the time you sit during a meal and is associated with continued eating even though you feel full. Alcohol exerts substantial influence on the circulation in your pancreas, which increases the production of insulin. This leads to low blood sugar levels, which can negatively affect your decision-making.

Instead of alcohol, serve a low-sugar hot apple cider – it makes the house smell amazing and will warm cold hands after outdoor family fun.

5. Steer Clear of Sugar

There’s mounting evidence that sugar is toxic…even lethal. Excessive sugar intake, which is linked to diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, is responsible for 35 million deaths a year globally.

Sugar increases erratic brain cell firing, has been implicated in aggression, and increases the types of inflammation that worsen ADD symptoms.

Low blood sugar levels are associated with overall lower brain activity, which means more cravings and more bad decisions, like reaching for a sugary snack or soda. The best way to regulate your blood sugar is to eat a healthy snack every 3-4 hours. Natural snacks, like whole fruits, seeds, and nuts, are portable and are ideal for fending off hunger between meals.

We Can Help

ADD is a neurobiological disorder with serious psychological and social consequences. Children, teens, adults and parents need to know that it’s not their fault, they didn’t cause it, and there is hope.

ADD isn’t just one thing, so one treatment plan will never fit everyone. Amen Clinics is here to help you understand the ADD brain and provide customized solutions that address more than just symptoms. For more information about our full range of services and treatments, call us today at 888-288-9834 or visit us online to schedule an appointment.


  1. I read your book last year and am struggling with attempts to heels myself. I am 79 and just completed major tests: cardiologist the works. Of course all covered under Medicare and I have gap insurance I don’t have funds to be with you. Is there any way available? I live in miami

    Comment by Norine silverstein — March 27, 2019 @ 7:15 AM

  2. Hello Norine, thank you for reaching out. We’ll have a Care Coordinator reach out to you directly to discuss treatment options, insurance, and financing options. We don’t currently have a location in FL, but we do have 8 locations listed here:

    Comment by Amen Clinics — March 28, 2019 @ 10:04 AM

  3. I just read this article about add my husband has been diagnosed with it. And while I’m thinking I’m okay it sounds like me to. It was very helpful though. I’m looking to make some the new year.

    Comment by Deana Marie Pickett — December 16, 2021 @ 12:37 PM

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