I’m on vacation! I’m on vacation! Isn’t that just how you feel when you finally get yourself (and your family) packed and ready to head out of town?

It takes me hours and hours to prepare for a trip, even if it’s only for a few days away. My anxiety begins to kick in, as I worry about forgetting something important, whether it’s medication or contact lenses- things not easily replaceable when you’re away from home.

I dream of all the things I want (or don’t want) to do and can’t wait to get to my destination. I arrive at our little cottage in Canada, just 2 hours from home. Since Michigan summers are so short, every weekend away is cherished like a rare gem.

But then something odd happens. The lack of structure, the close quarters, the wide-open space of nothingness begins to make me feel funny. I suddenly can’t tell if I’m happy, sad, or bored! The lack of stress (did I mention my ADHHHHD daughter is away at camp?) makes me feel disoriented. There’s no yelling, cupboard slamming, tumbling through space or…heaps and heaps of…stuff on the floor waiting to trip me. I listen to the incredible QUIET and am stunned. The sensation of peace and quiet is foreign to me.

But something is bothering me.

You see, many of us with ADHD thrive on structure, predictability (even if it’s boring at times) and caffeine-driven brain activity. We need to be- if not physically, then at least mentally active- even those of us with inattentive ADHD. I kid you not- even the most sluggish of inattentives have brains on steroids. So, here I sit, in the deep dark purple shade of nighttime, wondering…what the HELL am I going to do tomorrow? Everything is a double- edged sword. I can walk the beach. Head out to the provincial park and explore the trails. Drive through the glorious farmlands in this remote rural area of Canada. I can lie on the hammock and read the newest Anne Tyler book. But…will that bore me? Will I adjust to this floating sensation? No deadlines? No projects?

Enough about me. I will venture to say that many of you also feel torn about vacations. The stress of planning the trip, packing, preparing the house, traveling, and the sometimes disappointing moment when you arrive but feel so….lost…can make vacations terribly disorienting.

We sometimes set ourselves up for disappointment, as we visualize all the things we want to do. As the days tick away like minutes on a clock, we race through each day trying to hold on to each second.

Take solace in knowing that it’s not just you. Of course, there are many who jump into vacations feet first and are exquisitely happy. But if you’re one who feels lost during the transition (transitions are a common problem in general for those of us with ADD), here are some suggestions.

10 Top Tips for a Stress-Free ADHD Vacation

  • Make a list (I know, I know) of things you’d like to do. Do your research beforehand. Have a backup plan in case the weather doesn’t cooperate.
  • Change your expectations. Don’t go forward thinking you’ll have the best time of your life- go with the idea that you’re going to get away from the routine, period. Or perhaps, look at this as a time to simply kick back. One of my problems is that my expectations become so high and unreachable, I get too upset if things don’t pan out. I need to see these mini- trips as simply down time- time away from daily stress, period.
  • Move out of your comfort zone but don’t leave it completely behind. If you find out you hate scuba diving and would much prefer reading a book under a shade tree…that’s fine, too.
  • Brain storm with your family/friends so that everyone has the opportunity to do what they enjoy. Rely on others, if needed, to help you organize the trip.
  • Start your packing and to-do list early enough so you don’t find yourself stressed out at the last minute.
  • Don’t obsess about how few days you have left of your vacation. You’ll only lose the pleasure of the moment. Do it the Buddhist way and live in the moment- because all we really have is now.
  • Build some structure into your days. Maybe it’s meeting your friends/family for lunch each day at a specific time/place. Or maybe it’s a ½ hour swim every day at noon. Build around that daily plan so that you don’t feel lost the rest of the time. Take a tour with a guide, who will structure the time for you.
  • If you’re taking a highly active trip, make sure you have down time so you can re-charge and not expend all of your energy.
  • Express your needs. Let others know when you need more time to rest (or conversely, need more activity) and negotiate with each other so that everyone is happy.
  • Recognize and accept that it may take you a day or two to get into the swing of things.

Everyone needs a break from work and other routines. But it’s not always as easy as it seems.

What works for you? Share your experiences in the Comment section below.

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