When I graduated college, I decided I needed a little time off to rest and recharge. After so many years of hard work, a couple months of doing nothing seemed like an absolute dream. And at first, I loved my newfound freedom to sit in bed and watch The Office all day or take a long road trip on a whim or cook something elaborate and experimental just for kicks.
But after two months with no structure or real responsibilities, I am practically bored to tears. The novelty of an empty calendar wore off quickly and when my ADHD set in I had nothing to use my excessive energy and imagination on.
I can’t remember the last time in my life when I had more than a week or two with nothing to do. If I wasn’t in school, I was in camp or working or interning. And as much as I craved a break during those times, it turns out staying busy is a crucial part of maintaining my mental health. I desperately need things to do, think, and talk about.
Because, honestly, with nothing I need to get out of bed for, some days I just don’t. I’ve spent far too much time on my phone and on social media. I stay up too late and waste half the day sleeping. I get bored and lonely and sad. Instead of enjoying my time off, it’s started to feel like I just waste day after day after day.
So I’ve learned a big and very important lesson: those of us with ADHD and mental health issues need routine, structure, and things to occupy our wonderfully active and creative minds each day. I’ve found this to be true both for myself and my family and friends with ADHD. But since I still have few concrete responsibilities right now, it’s hard to implement and stick to a routine of my own accord even though I know I need to.
I’d be lying if I said I’ve found a magic fix. But a few things that have helped me so far! Yoga classes have been a great way to re-center myself. Instead of watching hours of TV, I’ve tried to re-direct my attention to reading and picking back up old hobbies like playing guitar. It’s also been important for me to make a conscious effort to meet up with friends regularly to get me out of my house. This phase of my life is definitely challenging, but each day I find it more and more important to learn how to entertain myself without a busy schedule.
What do you do during time off and how to do build routines? Let me know in the comments!
A lot has happened since I last posted. I graduated from college and I’m very proud to say that despite all of my learning disabilities, I was able to graduate Cum Laude with Honors.
This big transition has meant awkwardly navigating adulthood and trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. But more on that later!
I took May and June off to recharge after a stressful year, so I’ve been visiting friends around the country a lot this past month. But with ADD, a three-hour drive can feel as tedious and draining as a nine-hour drive (and the nine-hour drive I took felt like a trillion years.) So, the 40 hours of driving I’ve done in the last few weeks felt pretty brutal. Obviously sitting still for a long time is not my biggest strength and I don’t handle prolonged boredom well. So there were certainly a few meltdowns and moments of hysterical laughing along the way.
But I’ve learned a few tricks to get through it with my sanity intact. If you have a summer road trip coming up, here are some ways you can get through it too!
- Play the alphabet game! I know this may sound a little strange. But my boyfriend/road trip buddy and I played the alphabet at least 10 times during our trips and it really helps pass the time. In case you’re not familiar, have each player make their way from A to Z by finding words along the road that start with each letter in order. Whoever gets to Z first wins! It’s definitely a silly game, but I’ve found that getting competitive energizes me and keeps my brain occupied for a while
- Try a podcast. I’ve actually never really been into podcasts, I usually prefer to just listen to music. But after 6 hours in the car, I had pretty much run out of songs. Since I was driving with a hockey enthusiast, we turned on the “Podcast Off Ice” interview with Lindsey Vonn and following her story gave me something with substance to focus my attention on.
- Take enough rests along the way. If you think you can get to your destination without stopping frequently, you’re lying to yourself. It may make the trip a little longer, but the worst thing you can do is keep yourself cooped up in the car without a chance to stretch and let out a little energy. Stop at a gas station once in a while, run around, do some jumping jacks and get a crunchy snack. You’ll be very glad you did and so will whoever you’re driving (pun intended) crazy in the car.
- Bring lots of snacks. This may be an obvious one but light snacking in the car always helps keep me present. When I’m in the passenger seat, it also gives me something to do with my hands that isn’t biting my nails (they are the unfortunate victims of my trips). I particularly like crunchy snacks because it’s a little more fun and textured to help expel some energy.
- Sing in gibberish for a while and have a mini-meltdown if you need to (I did a lot of both of these). Let’s all be honest, I will never be an easy, low maintenance road trip buddy. No amount of games or rest stops can re-wire my brain to be good at sitting still for hours. But make the best of your time on the road and try some of these tips to make it more doable.
Do you have any road trip tricks? Let me know in the comments!