Going on Vacation with Adult ADHD

Health Writer

You are going on vacation You are ready have fun, see family, enjoy time with friends. You want to take time away from work and other responsibilities and just relax. But you also know there is a down side to vacations, the "do whatever" attitude doesn't always work well with your ADHD and can sometimes cause chaos rather than relaxation. Without the structure of your work day, you tend to wander aimlessly and never seem to get around to doing all those fun activities you have planned.

There are ways to help you better enjoy your vacation. The following are some ideas. Use those that fit with your life, your family and your situation.

Try to stick with your regular sleep schedule. It's true that part of vacation is staying up late and sleeping in, but this can throw off your day to day rhythm and make you feel out of sync. Going to bed around the same time and getting up at the same time you usually do (within a half an hour), helps you stay on a routine. Not only will you be better able to enjoy your vacation time, you will be better able to cope with getting back to work when the vacation is over.

Develop "temporary" systems. You have probably created different systems and patterns for getting through your work day, such as your morning routine for getting ready for work. While on vacation, some of these systems and routines might still have a purpose and others might not fit into time off. Remember that you can change, adjust or modify your systems during your vacation. Keep those you think will still be useful.

Build some structure into your vacation days. Too much "free" time can leave you feeling lost. You want to create balance, enough free time so you feel like you are on vacation but enough structure to keep your ADHD in check. Think about what you want to do each day, what restaurants you want to visit, what sight-seeing you want to do. While you don't need to create a strict schedule, having guidelines are usually helpful.

Create lists. When planning a vacation, lists are indispensable. Make lists of items you want to bring with you, things you need to do before leaving (hire a dog sitter, get extra dog food, have a neighbor bring in your mail, pay bills, purchase books to read, etc), things you want to do while you are away. Keep your lists on your phone or iPad to make sure they don't get lost and check each day to see what you can get done.

Take time to tie up loose ends at home. When planning your time off from work, you might want to plan for an extra day off before you leave to take care of home. This is when you make sure everything on you "before we leave" list is completed. Taking the time to buy the extra dog food, water the plants, talk to your neighbor about the mail and pay the bills lets you relax once you have left home. It gives you peace of mind that everything is taken care of and you can have fun. Before you leave, take the time to make the bed, straighten up and clean the kitchen. While it might seem like extra work before your trip, you will appreciate coming home to a clean house.

Think about relaxation strategies before you go. As much as you envision your vacation going smoothly, chances are there will be stressful moments"flights delayed"disagreements between family on what to do"weather that doesn't cooperate with your plans. Think about how you are going to handle the disappointments, disagreements and frustrations ahead of time. Plan on using deep breathing exercises, spending ten minutes each day meditating or doing yoga or download a relaxation app. Having a strategy in place makes difficult moments much easier.

Plan for the boring times. Vacations often come with boring moments, such as waiting for a plane, sitting in the car or sitting on the beach. Before your vacation begins, plan what you will do during those times. Be prepared with music playlists, entertaining apps, several good books. Keeping yourself occupied during these times will make your vacation more pleasant overall.

Consider ending your vacation at least one day before you have to go back to work. This gives you time to unpack, do laundry and make sure everything at home is okay. You don't want to come back from a relaxing time only to create chaos in your life because you must immediately jump back into work and other obligations.