On my walk today, one I have taken 100s of times, something had changed. With the recommendation to practice social distancing, I anticipated a thinning of families, coeds and dog walkers. What I didn’t expect was the lack of eye contact or friendly greetings, a normal part of this friendly tight-knit community. Physical distancing keeps us safe from spreading any virus. Unfortunately, it’s also creating a lack of connection, emotional distancing and challenging our mental health as persons with ADHD in ways we may not even realize. I’ve written about change before in my blogs. That change is inevitable. That any change takes courage. Some changes expand our options and choices in a positive way. Helping people change in ways that will enrich their lives is what I do every day as an ADHD Life Coach. Change ironically can be where some people with ADHD thrive. It can activate many of our ADHD talents and strengths. Change is rarely boring, allows for incredible out of the box thinking, creativity and problem-solving. It also has amazing potential for emotional, intellectual, and intrapersonal growth. However, with sudden unexpected change, the kind that brings loss of the tangible and intangible, the change that has happened with this pandemic, it is a very different experience. This kind of change threatens to impact not only our physical health but also our ADHD mental health. If you are living with ADHD, you may like many, be experiencing additional mental health concerns. Things like overwhelm, anxiety, depression, grief, fear, hypervigilance, even PTSD. This is all abnormally normal. This is our brain trying to adjust, readjust and make sense of what is happening in our world. As this uncertainty and change continue, there will be more potential impact on our overall ADHD mental health.
If you are a person living with ADHD and are concerned about your mental health during the pandemic, yo u might want to consider these following things to help maintain your ADHD mental health right now:
- Don’t Try and Do It All. People with ADHD are empathic and caring. Energetically we can feel pulled in many directions at once. It is easy to feel or think like we need to be doing more. To be sewing masks, donating money, volunteering our time, praying for something…To be preparing or planning for a new ”normal” for when this crisis passes.
On the contrary. Now is the time to allow yourself to prioritize taking care of yourself and your family. It is not helpful to expend excessive energy focusing on things currently out of our control. Right now, create as much normality as you can in your world. Focus on healthy daily habits. Take your daily walk. Grocery shop when needed. Plant a garden. You don’t need to save the world.
- Rest and Sleep. Don’t be surprised if you are feeling extra tired in the weeks ahead. Change is stressful. Our brain has an amazing ability to process these changes and uncertainties…and it’s called sleep.
So, add in extra naps if you feel like it and be sure you are prioritizing your sleep by getting at least 7-8 hours a night. Our brains are in overdrive trying to maintain our mental health during these physical, emotional and social changes. Sleep is essential for optional brain functioning and mental health for anyone with ADHD.
- Allow for the Feels. This is a crazy time. A month, now more, is a long time to suspend our normal lives. Even if you have not personally known someone impacted by this virus, you have lost something that is valuable to you.
When we lose things important to us, it impacts our mental health. It might be you’ve lost your job, your livelihood, your social connections, your sense of freedom and choice, your sense of security and trust. Let the feelings flow. Feel the overwhelm, shock, denial, anger, and sadness. Feelings are feelings. They reflect rather than dictate our lives. Be aware of the confusion and uncertainty and let it run its course. It will pass.
- Create New Structure and Predictability. As someone who always works from home, I was surprised to realize that my day to day routines haven’t been working like they have in the past. I have been less productive and less focused even though my workspace has changed little. I now realize that stopping frequently to keep abreast of world events has become a distraction and is interfering with the normal productivity of my days.
You may also be noticing that past systems, structures and habits to better manage your ADHD are needing revamping at this time. For instance, maybe you always took your medication as you were heading out the door for work. Working from home leaves you without this cue and you realize there are days you forget to take it. This may be a time to create new systems and structures around daily life activities. I encourage you to reach out to our well trained and certified ADHD Life Coaches at the iACTCenter if you are noticing a need for this.
- Tap into the Healing of Nature. Amazingly the world of nature goes on as if there were no Coronavirus. For many persons with ADHD, not being able to take advantage of nature’s natural remedy could be affecting their overall mental health. Hiking trails, parks and beaches are closed to control the spread of the virus. However, don’t forget nature happens all around us, not just in the woods. Now is a great time to notice and be reassured by the unaffected cycle of nature.
Days are warming and lengthening, flowers are blooming, birds are nesting, and trees are budding. Considering tapping into the healing of nature. This is a great time to start seeds indoors to plant later in a garden. Set up a bird feeder or two where you can watch from the safety of indoors. Awareness of nature’s cycle is good for our mental health. It might even remind us that this season of ‘rona’ will eventually run its natural course.
- Reach Out for Support. You are not the only one feeling isolated right now. Let friends, family and professionals help you get through this. Many therapists and ADHD Life Coaches are doing telehealth or video appointments right now.
- Stay Informed, Not Overwhelmed. Information is power and it is tempting to want to know every twist, turn and spreading dot that this pandemic is taking. However, if you find that you are obsessing, ruminating or unable to think of anything else but the state of the virus, it’s time to set some limits for your own mental health. Decide how often and for how long you want to catch up on status changes. A good structure may be to check in with updates in the mornings and again in the early evening. Then, for your own mental health, do something else.
- If you’ve been taking ADHD medication to help manage your symptoms continue to do so. Current lifestyle changes change the habitual cues we use to remember to take medication. Right now, ask yourself what cues you use or can use to remember to take your medication consistently. Just because you may not be going off to work every day or your child is in school, doesn’t mean that we don’t need access to our executive functions for other reasons. If you have any questions about your medications be sure to reach out to your prescriber. Many are now providing telehealth visits where you can connect with them from the safety of your own home.
- Stop Disaster Thinking in Its Tracks. It’s easy to fixate on the details of diagnoses and death tolls happening around the world. To feel as though we have lost control and imagine all sorts of catastrophic outcomes to this pandemic. Feeling out of control is common for persons with ADHD. When for most of your life your brain has not done what you have wanted it to do, it’s easy to doubt whether you have any control of life’s outcomes. However, you do have control. Of yourself…and of your thinking. Here is a worksheet I use in my training program with students at the iACTcenter. It might help you realize and focus on things that are within your control.
- Know What’s Most Important to You. If you haven’t already done so, get clear about your core values. Here is an exercise you can use to discover your core values. Knowing and prioritizing your core values during this time will help immensely with your mental health.
- Look Forward to Something. We don’t know when life will feel normal again. Planning something to look forward to is one of the ways to maintain your ADHD mental health during this time. Maybe it’s going on your favorite hike again. A family barbeque, or the return of community with a small neighborhood gathering. It is the anticipation of something positive happening that releases the dopamine in our brains and is so helpful in maintaining our ADHD mental health.
How are you doing out there in the world? What is helping you with your ADHD and your mental health during this time? I’d love to know. Post below! Keep reading:
Thanks for this, Laurie. I have always appreciated your insight and resources. I did want to mention that I’m curious about what part of the States you live in? I live in North Carolina and have found people to be more friendly to strangers on walks than usual – just wondering if it’s a cultural thing as well as the current crisis.
I was glad to get your email as I find that all this uncertainty and the new roles/rhythms (doing my job online and homeschooling my kids) has taxed my “brain-based challenges” more than ever before!
Hello Joy! Thank you for your comment. I live in the Pacific Northwest. It’s typically very friendly where I live, I just think people are very afraid right now. I am glad you are feeling the support of your community. Your brain being “taxed” 🙂 is completely normal. There is a lot each and every one of us is having to adjust to and live through. What are you finding works? I’d love to know. Stay amazing and stay healthy. ~Laurie