Do you secretly hate summer vacations? Do you feel ashamed that everyone seems to be having a grand ol’ time- everyone but you? Do you feel guilty that you looked forward to your week off, having planned it for months, only to feel anxious, depressed and simply out of sorts?
It makes sense to me. Women with ADHD have a lot on their plate. You’re juggling work, child raising (if you’re also a mom), maintaining the house, taking care of elderly parents, paying bills, and a zillion other things.
Suddenly, you find yourself in a whole new environment with no schedules. No schedules means no structure and we know that folks with ADHD strive on having structure in their lives- it’s what keeps us together, keeps us from falling apart. I admit- it’s a love/hate relationship but in general, we do best when we have deadlines and to-do lists. Without structure, we’re more likely to gaze out the window, daydreaming, or inventing some product that’ll certainly make us millionaires. And then we find our minds wandering, decorating our new mansion in Versailles from all the money we made with that new invention.
Vacations can be stressful for a number of reasons. First, there is the (shudder) packing. Whether you’re just packing for yourself or a family of four, it is, for many, a nightmare to be avoided if it were possible to do so. Making decisions (often not our strong point) on what to pack, what to leave (and usually ending up over-packing yet still forgetting essentials) is just the beginning.
Once we’ve arrived at our destination, we’ve lost our lifesaving daily structure and routines. So we end up in a sea of options- do I read a book? Swim? Play a board game? All that indecision can land us into the dark abyss, where we end up sitting in front of a computer or TV for hours at a time.
Or perhaps you find yourself bored to tears. You want to do new things with your friends or family, but maybe playing shuffleboard is on your list of things you hope never to do in your lifetime. Then you have to make the decision: go along with it and be bored or feel guilty for excusing yourself, saying you feel a kidney stone attack coming on, and retreating back to your room.
It’s ironic and sad that vacations can be anything but relaxing and fun. If your sleep and eating habits have changed, you might also not feel physically well. And all that together time! Maybe you’re feeling claustrophobic in that little cottage on the lake with everyone breathing down your neck.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
First, throw the guilt out the window. Though many may not understand how vacations can turn out to be stressful events for those with ADHD, it makes sense, for many of the reasons outlined above.
Second, make your vacation work for you. If you’re perfectly happy sitting and staring at the lake for 3 hours straight, then do it! If all you want to do is swim, do that! Stop the guilt before it destroys your vacation.
Here are some more tips to help you with your vacation time:
- Plan ahead. Don’t wait until you’re at your destination to decide what you want to do. You might end up staring at each other, trying to figure out your day(s), only to lose out on precious exploration time. If you are taking a Staycation at home, plan that out as well, so you don’t waste all of your time watching TV, playing video games or surfing the net.
- as a team what you would all like to do. Chances are that there will be lots of disagreement over chosen activities, so make sure each family member has an equal say.
- Try and stick to regular meal and bedtime routines. Both adults and children benefit from staying on target so that sleep schedules aren’t disrupted, resulting in irritability and fatigue.
- Though some parents choose to stop medications in the summer, discuss that option first with your child’s physician. Remember that hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention don’t take a vacation. Your child might benefit by having ADHD symptoms under control even when school isn’t in session.
- Use this time to re-connect. School/work days are fast paced and filled with stress, triggering tension between family members. Discuss the past year and what each family member might change in order to have better success after vacation is over.
- Allow the children to take the lead at times in deciding activities. Children with ADHD in particular, feel they are criticized and scrutinized due to their problematic behaviors or ADHD symptoms. Take a deep breath and relax. Point out each person’s strengths and gifts.
- Learn new skills. Take a short course in an area you’ve always wanted to explore. Find activities (yes, even shuffleboard) that allow for all ages to attend so you can strengthen your family bond. Consider classes that encourage physical exercise, so that everyone can improve their health.
- Don’t let nutrition take a back seat just because you’re on vacation. Try and choose healthy meals which will also improve the mood of the entire family.
- Allow for down time. If you or your child needs to “chill” and do nothing, go for it! There’s no rule that says you must fill your days with activities. Relax!
- Swap family activity time with your partner. If he/she likes to explore little towns with the kids, but you’d rather spend the time sunbathing, offer to do something else with the kids while he/she gets to do something they enjoy.
Do you have a tip to share? Post it below!