thanksgiving meal

You’re an adult with ADHD. Are you ready for an ADHD Thanksgiving?

Do you find holidays such as Thanksgiving overwhelming?

In Canada, we celebrated Thanksgiving last month, but Americans are getting into the holiday season. It will look different this year because of Covid. This post is written as if it’s a “normal” year. Take what applies and leave the rest until next year.

Thanksgiving (and other holidays) can be a challenge for people with ADHD, and ADHD symptoms are quite evident on thanksgiving. ADHD symptoms that usually lie dormant might flare up.

Here’s how you might experience Thanksgiving as an adult with ADHD:


If you’re the one making and hosting dinner, there’s lots of planning to do. Menu planning, meal preparation, recipes and cook times can be overwhelming.

Then there are the guests. All those guests. Does having family/company over overwhelm you? The number of people, the diverse personalities.


Do you stop one task in the middle to do something else? You’re mashing the potatoes and go for salt. Do you then organize the spice rack?


After dinner, do you clean up immediately because you always need to be doing something (restlessness, fidgeting) or do you linger at the table because you’re not good with transitioning from one activity to the next?

Sensory overload

This is really a different type of overwhelm.

Do you experience sensory overload from all the smells? The cacophony of voices? People speaking over one another to be heard?

Phew. Reading the above gives me a bit of anxiety, and I wrote it. Here are some tips.


Properly plan Thanksgiving

As much as we’d like to, people with ADHD can’t wing it.

Choose your Thanksgiving menu. Consider recipes that you’re familiar with instead of trying something new that might cause anxiety.

Start your Thanksgiving preparation early. Is your turkey frozen? If so, when does it need to leave the freezer to thaw?

What can you make ahead of time? Some side dishes, such as green bean casserole, can be made in advance. Salad can’t be made, but you can wash, cut and store vegetables for a salad. Spin lettuce and store it in a bag with a damp paper towel. Other vegetables can be kept in airtight containers.

Put dates and deadlines on a calendar.

November 12- Email invitations/call family
November 20 – Confirm attendance
November 22 – Buy the turkey
November 23 – Vegetable prep for salad
November 24 – Bake pie crust, make cranberry sauce.

(These tasks wouldn’t be in list format, they’d be on your calendar.)
A paper calendar is all you need, but if you use Google Calendar, I recommend creating a new calendar and color-coding it. Share it with your co-host.


Thanksgiving lists

Lists are a lifesaver for adults with ADHD. If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner, be an organized list-making machine.

Create a proper Thanksgiving shopping list on your phone. I like to use Evernote. Here are some suggestions for how to use Evernote to your advantage.

Save online recipes to an easy-to-find place. When you find a recipe online, use the Evernote bookmark clipper. Then, open the note and list the ingredients you need to buy.

Alternately: Create a list that’s organized by recipe. For example, under the heading “Green bean casserole” you’d list “2 cans of green beans, 1 can of mushroom soup, French fried onions.” Below that, you’d have the next dish and items you need.

When you randomly think of something you might forget – a task, an idea, an ingredient –  write it on a notepad or in your phone.

Do what works for you, but have a list. And plan.

veggie display

Outsource Thanksgiving shopping

Even if you’ve never done it before and never will again, consider ordering your Thanksgiving groceries online. It’s a huge timesaver, and adults with ADHD need timesavers.

Be aware of the deadline for orders so that you’re not stuck.

Take shortcuts

It’s okay to not make everything from scratch, or not entirely from scratch. You can replace fresh ingredients with canned, frozen or jarred versions. Minced bottled garlic. Frozen herbs or squeeze bottles of herb paste. Canned cranberry sauce. Pre-made bagged salad and pre-cut vegetables. Gravy starter from a packet.

cooking from a recipe

Cooking for Thanksgiving

Physical accessibility: Have your recipes nearby. You might want to print them out if they’re from websites.

Mise en place. Before you start making a recipe, measure all your ingredients.
(As of this writing, I didn’t do that this morning and had to restart my bread after I mixed the yeast with the wrong amount of sugar. This mistake made me have to go buy more eggs.)

Watch the cooking times: Know how long each item needs to be cooked! Use multiple timers on your phone or smart home device. Alexa or Google can set multiple timers.

Minimize multitasking and don’t get distracted by things you don’t need to do.

Ask for help.

Thanksgiving dinner

The Meal

Consider making the meal a potluck. If you do, have an online sign up form so that not everyone brings the same thing.

Set the table the day before.


Set earlier deadlines than necessary because tasks could take longer than expected.

Don’t neglect self-care. Get some aerobic exercise in the morning to maintain focus. Meditate that week when you need it. Take baths. During dinner, feel free to disappear for a time out.

Be kind to yourself. You’ve got a lot to be thankful for. You’ve got this!

(American) Thanksgiving Countdown








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