Vacation Panic

Vacation Panic: a feeling that you have forgotten something very important but you can’t remember what that “something” is. This feeling becomes more intense – and paralyzing – the closer you come to the beginning of your vacation period. It may disappear during the vacation and it definitely reappears the day you return home.

Vacation Panic Warning Signs: Vacation Panic appears in two distinct phases.

Phase I – Pre-Vacation Vacation Panic

This occurs during the lead up to the actual vacation itself and may continue during the trip to the vacation spot. It usually disappears, albeit temporarily, after one has arrived at the vacation spot.

Phase II – During-Vacation Vacation Panic

This occurs during the vacation and during the return trip.

Pre-Vacation Vacation Panic Warning Signs

  1. You want to cancel your vacation.
  2. You search through piles of paper looking for that important “something.”
  3. You search through piles of bills to figure out what must be paid before you leave.
  4. You decide that NOW is the time to finish every unfinished project.

During-Vacation Vacation Panic Warning Signs

  1. You believe when you return home that your utility company (electric, telephone, etc.) has turned off service because you forgot to pay a bill BEFORE you went away.
  2. You believe you will be fired as soon as you return to work because you forgot something important that needed to be done BEFORE you went on vacation.
  3. You believe you will NEVER remember the details needed to finish X (“X” could be an important sale you were working on, an important client project, an important task for school, home etc.).

Dealing with “Vacation Panic”

Dealing with Vacation Panic requires two important changes.

Change 1: Purge your mind of that fantasy you have associated with “vacation.” It’s not carelessly lying on a white sand beach with cool, clear blue waters off in the background. It’s not gently floating in a gondola in Venice with the setting sun in the background. Get real. It’s you with two sets of baggage: one set for your clothes and the other set for all of your problems and issues. You can temporarily “forget” to bring that second set of baggage but it will show up at your doorstep, or cabana, anyway.

Change 2: Now that you know you can not escape yourself because you can not leave behind that second set of baggage, embrace that reality. Plan your vacation knowing that you have as much psychological baggage to bring along as you do regular baggage.

Real-Life Scenario: Handling Vacation Panic
This is how I handle vacation panic. You may have to adjust things for your own situation. Remember: YMMV and DNWFE.

  1. I book a hotel with Internet access.
  2. I bring my laptop and whatever bills need to be paid.
  3. I tell my wife that I will be spending about one hour each evening with the laptop to pay bills online and check my email.
    • This activity takes care of the “I forgot to pay a bill” panic and also the, “What important project did I forget about” panic since you can stay in touch with work via email.
  4. If any vacation panic should appear while we are visiting, say, Colonial Williamsburg, I stamp it out knowing that, in the evening, I can check bills and emails.
  5. For the mental “stuff” that overflows and results in mini-panics that can not be handled by the laptop (‘I better call my neighbor in the morning for I am sure that coffee pot is still on!!’), I have with me a regular notebook and pen that acts as a temporary mental garbage pail. I just toss all of these thoughts inside knowing that they are recorded somewhere and can be dealt with at a later time. [note 1]

That’s it! It’s real simple to do and it took me only 3 1/2 years of on-again/off-again therapy in addition to reading about A.D.D. and taking Wellbutrin and endless talks with my wife and my old business partner (who is also A.D.D.) to be able to handle vacation panic. But it CAN be done! Be patient! You can make changes. It takes perseverance and that’s something A.D.D.ers have in abundance.

  1. See Jennifer Koretsky on journaling and how to handle mental clutter.
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