Returning to Work After Vacation with Adult ADHD

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Molly stopped taking vacations several years ago. It wasn’t that she didn’t enjoy the time off...she was because she didn’t like returning to work. Molly has ADHD and has learned to use it to her advantage in her job. Her job in sales requires her to always be on the go and spends most of her time on the road, visiting clients. She manages to complete her paperwork first thing in the morning, before all the distractions of the day set in.

    In the past, when Molly did take a vacation, she came back to hundreds of email messages and voicemails. She usually had a stack of paperwork to complete, sales orders that had been placed in her absence to sort through and a general feeling of being totally lost and overwhelmed. She didn’t easily adapt to the changing schedules, first to “vacation mode” and then back to “work mode.”  After a two week vacation, Molly found that the next month she played “catch up.” Instead of finding ways to cope, Molly found it much easier to simply give up vacations, instead taking a day off here and there.

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    People with ADHD, both children and adults, find transitional times difficult. They often work best with structure and routine in their day. When this routine is changed, it takes time to readjust, often much longer than for those without ADHD.

    If you are like Molly and dread returning from vacation, the following tips might help:

    Plan your vacation so you have a day to transition from vacation to work. Use this day to unpack, do laundry, food shop and complete other chores to help you get back into your daily routine. Use this time to mentally prepare yourself for your return to work. This is especially important if you are crossing time-zones, give your body time to adjust to the different time zone. A general rule of thumb is that your body will normalize itself one time zone per day so if you crossed two time zones, your body might take two days to readjust to your current timezone.

    Plan your return before you leave for vacation. Take time to write notes about projects to give yourself reminders of what you need to do upon your return. Write a to-do list of important tasks you didn’t complete. Delegate tasks to others, if possible, to be completed in your absence.

    Leave your home in order. Take some time before you leave to straighten up your house before you leave so you don’t return home to a complete mess. Ask a neighbor to buy enough food for you to last a day and leave it in your refrigerator or place an order with an online grocery and request the delivery be made the day you return. Make sure all your bills are paid up to date and someone is coming by to mow your lawn. This helps make your return relaxing.

    Go through your email without answering any emails. If your email program allows you to mark each email with a level of importance, use this feature. If not, you might want to add folders - Today, Tomorrow, Next Week. Instead of responding to each email, briefly read each one and decide which category it falls into. This allows you to start addressing the most important emails first and slowly work your way down to those that don’t need your immediate attention.

  • Listen to voicemails and use the same system to sort - Today, Tomorrow, Next Week. Start with the most important and work your way through each one.

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    Minimize distractions your first day back. If you have an office, shut the door. If you don’t, politely tell coworkers that, yes, you had a wonderful vacation, but you would like to catch up later in the day so you can manage the work that piled up while you were gone.

    Take short breaks throughout the day to catch up with coworkers and friends. Share details about your vacation and ask about their week. This helps you enjoy your workplace and might find that it increases your productivity.

    Set goals for the week. Make a list of the goals you want to accomplish by the end of the week. Make sure your goals are specific and reasonable. Being able to check off “accomplished” next to your goals helps you not feel as if you are spinning your wheels but getting nowhere.

    Avoid starting new projects. Use the first week back to get back into the swing of things, readjust to a more rigid schedule and catch up on your work.

    Once you arrive home, start planning your next vacation. This gives you something to look forward to and gives you a reason to go back to start saving for next year. Write down what you liked about your vacation and what you would change to make next year’s vacation even better.

    Remember, you can’t get caught up in a day. Don’t berate yourself for not managing everything on your desk. Pace yourself and prioritize your workload. Give yourself time and at the end of the day, remind yourself that tomorrow will come soon enough.

    For more information:

    Why Vacations make us Crazy


    Going on Vacation with Your ADHD Child


    When Parents Need a Vacation…without the guilt


    Going on Vacation? Prepare for Your Return Before You Leave


    Transitioning into Holidays and Vacations: Falling into the Black Abyss

Published On: July 01, 2014