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  • Writer's picturelaurahelfrich

Post-Holiday Regret

Post-holiday regret… it’s a “thing”, right?

I just wrapped up another holiday season, and what am I left with? I would love to say festive memories with loved ones that I will cherish for years to come. Yes, the good memories will be what remains years from now. But what I am left with at this moment are the regrets.

Which regrets, you may wonder? Sadly, there are a few but I will not leave you in suspense. By far my biggest regret is that I have regrets. (Kind of meta, but there you have it). You see, as a general rule, I am not someone who lives with regrets. I believe that the choices we make, even if in hindsight they were the “wrong” choices, were the best ones that we could make given the situation we were in. If things do not turn out, then there are lessons or blessings to take from the experiences. So yes, my biggest regret is that this holiday season has had me deviate from who I am at the core.

But I get ahead of myself. Looking back, I can see how I got off course. I can see how “life getting chaotic” runs an undercurrent of ADHD symptoms that were not properly accounted for. Perhaps looking back through the lens of ADHD, I can give myself grace and also learn the lessons that will make next year “different”.

Regret #1: Stress

We are all wired differently, and some people thrive with stress. That’s not me, and I know better. This year, I did make changes to help alleviate some of the holiday madness (starting early & simplifying).

How did my ADHD impact me despite my best efforts? Time blindness. As you know, people with ADHD can have a distorted time perception. On the time blindness continuum, I would rate myself as not that impacted. However, the bigger the project/timeline, the harder it is for me to accurately estimate how long things will take.

I think that this gets especially compounded by our ability to do “ADHD sprints”. Can you relate? No matter how late you are in getting started, when there’s a deadline your drive and focus becomes super-human and you are able to complete the project in time… even if that means submitting at 8:59pm for a 9:00pm deadline?

Yes, we have the ability to drop everything and have tunnel vision to achieve our goals (which further compounds the false narrative that it will all somehow just “magically” get done). But at what cost? Neglecting the other areas of our lives is stressful and leaves us depleted. For me, that meant waking up after the holidays rundown and sick. So, while my family was out skiing and visiting with extended family, I was at home sick and regretting that I was missing out on spending quality time with my family.

Lesson learned:

Like any super-power, the ability to hyper-focus can be a blessing or a curse. ADHD sprints are fantastic… but an ADHD marathon is a recipe for disaster.

Regret #2: Masking

Masking is all too familiar to someone who is impacted with ADHD. Especially those of us who went through our childhoods undiagnosed. The world is predominantly set up for neurotypicals and we have spent so much time and effort trying to fit ourselves in that model. This is not something that we consciously do, we just try to mirror ourselves from those around us, and then feel like failures when we do not see the same results. Underneath it all is the feeling of being different.

I have had success overcoming this ADHD hurdle by unapologetically doing things MY way. I know that when I approach life in a way that works for me, without concerning myself with how things “should be done”, I am more content and achieve more.

Somehow, the holidays are different. They are not mine to make my own. I need to consider other people’s traditions and expectations. This becomes problematic when I do not temper their expectations with the realities of what I can manage.

Lesson learned:

Approach traditions with curiosity… maybe what matters most to your loved ones are things that you have never even considered.

Regret #3: Control

Many people with ADHD are so creative, and I am not the exception to this rule. I am an out of box thinker who knows that given the space and time, I can make so many moments of the holidays magical.

I am also in the process of lessening the reigns of perfectionism. It is such a challenge to let people help me when I am so attached to how things should be done. I can have rigid thinking that makes me feel like letting other people do things would mean that they would not be done right. I had people offer to help, but the more stressed I was, the harder it was to relinquish control.

Lesson learned:

It is actually being respectful to my family to let them be involved in the holiday preparations. It also lightens my load. Looking back, this win-win seems so obvious, but it completely eluded me when I could have used help the most.


As regret is a wasted emotion to me, I will reframe the stress, masking, and need to control as opportunities for improvement. What can I do instead? I can give myself grace for letting the holidays get away from me again this year. I can give myself space to recover from being rundown. Finally, I can give myself unconditional acceptance that I will continually be a work-in-progress and there is nothing wrong with that.

These are the gifts that I am giving myself this holiday season.

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