Coronavirus and ADHD, planning for self isolation and remote work
Updated: May 12, 2020
Coronavirus is clearly a serious concern and my thoughts are with those who are directly affected and their families. In this post, I want to talk about coronavirus from the point of view of an ADHD coach. What are the implications of coronavirus for people with ADHD?
When I hear about panic buying of toilet paper, it's easy to laugh it off. Fighting over loo roll? Who does that? However, if you have ADHD then planning ahead is difficult and if the first shop you go to doesn't have what you need then suddenly your ToDo list starts multiplying. Now you need to go to another shop. What if they don't have any either? When do you have time to go to another shop? How long will it take? Which shop should you try first? How much loo roll is left? When will it run out? It's easy to slip into overwhelm when time blindness* and sensory overload conspire with a growing ToDo list to use up your last spoons*. So what can we do instead?
Ask for help. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Go and try it then! Ask your neighbor if they can spare a couple of rolls of toilet paper. I dare you!
Asking for help is actually a very difficult and brave thing to do, it makes us feel vulnerable. Here's the thing though. We are vulnerable, we are human and in difficult times we will really struggle if we try to do everything on our own. Sometimes we need help. And asking for it is better than getting into a fight over the last packet of toilet paper.
The other thing about asking for help is that most people love being asked. It makes you feel icky and vulnerable to ask for help but it makes the person you're asking feel needed. Who doesn't like to feel needed sometimes? The best way to quickly strengthen your relationship with someone is to ask them for help or advice. And strong communities get through disasters, so, after all, isn't it worth asking for help?
Ok, so I hope I've convinced everyone to ask for help, that applies whether you have ADHD, identify as neurodiverse or are neurotypical. What about ADHD specific challenges?
Here are some ADHD coping strategies and ways in which they could be impacted by coronavirus, especially if you have to work from home.
If the virus spreads then it is possible that sports matches and exercise classes may be canceled and gyms closed. In that even it's really important not to give up on exercise if you know that it is beneficial for you. It's time to put your creative problem-solving skills to use! Can you do an online yoga or exercise class from your home? What equipment will help you keep an exercise routine going? Maybe a yoga ball? Skipping rope? Weights? Wobble cushion?
Variety of physical location
Many people with ADHD find that varying their physical location helps them to focus. For example, moving your work to a cafe can generate new ideas and help you work better. What can you do if you have to self-quarantine indoors? Well, it's still possible to vary your environment without leaving the house. Can you set up work stations in different rooms? Swap out your chair for a yoga ball? Stand up and take 5 mins to do some stretches. Face your chair in a different direction than usual? Get some new posters to stick up on your wall and change them up when you need some variety?
Aspects of your daily routine may change, for example, if your workplace shuts or your kid's school closes. Changes in routine are stressful for anyone and with ADHD that's even truer. Try to think about what parts of your routine were really working well and helping you and then figure out a way to keep that routine modify them so that you can keep the benefits. For example, maybe you find that taking your medication first thing, then having a slow breakfast and a journey into work ensures your medication works effectively. You can still set your alarm for the same time, take your meds as normal and have breakfast as normal. You don't need to travel to work anymore but that doesn't mean you have to start work straight away. Did you love listening to a podcast on your commute? Listen to it now, or do an exercise routine or whatever you need to start the day well.
Often people with ADHD need more downtime and alone time to process all the things our brains are throwing at us. That could be tricky if you share a house with a lot of people who are all suddenly staying home. Be clear with yourself about what you need and then communicate that. Do you need uninterrupted time to focus? Tell your partner/children/housemates when you are going to go and work and let them know that you don't want to be interrupted until X time. If you have to share a workroom then use headphones to indicate when you can't deal with interruptions. It's also ok to need time to relax by yourself. Maybe you spend your lunch hour on a solitary walk or reading and need to be alone. Just let the people you live with know what you need and don't be apologetic about it.
Hopefully you know your own ADHD coping strategies, so have a think about which ones could be impacted by coronavirus and then brainstorm some creative indoor alternatives. You might think of something so ingenious you want to try it out even if you don't need to stay home! I'd love to hear your ideas.