Getting through the pandemic is difficult for all of us, but there's reason to believe that when you have ADHD it could be even more challenging, which is why I've written this blog about how to manage ADHD during lockdown.
People with ADHD thrive not just by taking their medication, but also by living healthy active lifestyles. This is true of everyone, of course, but with ADHD for example there is a stronger response to exercise. That's because people with ADHD seem to need more movement and exercise than most. Of course being in lockdown can put limits on our freedom of movement.
Routine is also extra important for ADHD, but suddenly it's all change. You may feel like the rug has been pulled out from under your feet! If you or your child with ADHD were bouncing off walls, I can only imagine what it's like in lockdown.
So let's take a look at what can help you or your child with ADHD weather this storm and manage your ADHD during lockdown successfully.
You Can't Control Reality But You Can Control How You Respond
I noticed in lockdown when working with ADHD clients, that there were two basic groups:
- The first group were in meltdown. They were in fear. They were overly focused on the future (anxiety) their losses (past) and everything that they couldn't control.
- The second group were doing everything they could to regain control (positively future focused); setting up a new routine and making sure they were attending to their social or physical health as much as possible, despite the limitations. They were far less anxious.
If you feel like you're more in the first group, that's okay, because this blog will show you how to take back control and manage your ADHD during lockdown just like the second group did.
- Routine: Create Your Own New Normal
When you have ADHD you tend to be disorganised and lack a good sense of time, so creating structure is really important. Of course, the pandemic meant that we lost our old structures. Some of us had to work from home or children do online learning from home.
The trick is to re-organise yourself and your children with ADHD. Use to do lists and create a daily schedule that mimics the old schedule as much as possible. This will help you or your children ease into the transition. Keeping the schedule at home as close to the old schedule will not only lower anxiety but also make it easier to transition back to school, or indeed work, when the time comes.
Make sure there is separation between work and home, or school and home, when you are at home! In other words, create a dedicated work space or learning space. Our brains will relax more easily in a space that is familiar in terms of relaxation, and learn or work better in a space that is designed for working. It also means that you are able to properly switch off rather than feeling like your whole home has turned into an office or school!
Create an Outlet for the Extra Energy
Exercise is one of the best therapies for ADHD, and there is reason to believe that people with ADHD need more movement than most, due to low dopamine. Being in lockdown can lead to staying indoors and being more sedentary which can raise symptoms of ADHD.
Therefore build exercise and movement into the day. If working or schooling from home, you or your child can stand up whilst working rather than sitting down.
Here's a great tip: Did you know that Napperville High in the USA always gets the highest grades, and the only thing that stands out about that school is that all the children exercise in the AM. So why not run your own experiment: make the first “lesson” of the day on the home school schedule an exercise session to boost your children's brain power!
One of the best times to exercise is on waking, as this stimulates the biological clock/circadian rhythm into activity, leading to better focus, mood, energy and even sleep. Perhaps go outside for exercise, a walk, or run.
Not only does exercise appear to be the number one natural treatment for ADHD and helps all of our symptoms, but it's also a great way to de-stress, lower anxiety, and also boost your immune system.
Get Outdoors As Much As Possible
Staying indoors leads to sitting down more, which means less movement. As we explored in tip 2, movement is vital for ADHD. But it also means that we spend more time inside an artificial, human made environment.
This means missing out on getting fresh air, the mood-boosting benefits of natural light (as well as it's ability to boost our vitamin D production which is good for our immunity, helping us fight covid or other illnesses) but also the therapeutic benefits of spending time in the natural world.
Like exercise, spending time in the natural world has many benefits for ADHD, including emotional rebalancing and even increased focus. Author Richard Louv wrote a whole book about this, aptly titled "Nature Deficit Disorder".
One of the positive things I noticed about lockdown, was that the path behind my house leading to the woods was endlessly busy with people going on nature walks. I hope that this acted as a reminder to many children and adults that nature is not to be seen just as a resource but also as a wonderful therapy as we reconnect with the natural world again.
Socialisation: Focus on Staying In Touch
The depth of our relationships, according to research, is undoubtedly the number one factor for health, happiness, immunity, and even longevity. Of course, one of the biggest challenges with lockdown was the mandate for social distancing, very damaging when we consider that humans are very social creatures.
So it is imperative that we do everything we can to stay in touch. Phone a friend. Text. Chat online using video platforms like zoom or skype. I know, they can become annoying, but it's certainly better than nothing.
Here's a great tip: make a conscious effort to hug any family members or friends within your “bubble.” Practice the 20 second hug, because at 20 secs your brain will produce a lot of oxytocin, the “love chemical” and this can help alleviate the challenge of social isolation.
Another good thing to do at times like this is to dance. Dance when you wake up in the morning. Dance with your children. This lowers fear and anxiety.
And when no-one is looking, give yourself a hug! That's right. Giving yourself a hug can actually activate the parasympathetic nervous system, the vagus nerve, oxytocin, and indicate safety and calmness to the mind and body.
Take Control of Anxiety
Anxiety went through the roof in lockdown. I remember at the beginning having some clients who were scared to leave the house or walk past someone on the street, for fear of catching or spreading covid.
It's helpful to be sensible and careful, under the circumstances, but too much vigilance can lead to fear and impact on one's mental health.
Here's some tips to consider:
- Accept what you cannot control e.g. you cannot control that there are dangers in the world, such as covid.
- Focus on what you CAN control e.g. you can be sensible and wash your hands and do the other things suggested in this article to improve your mental and physical health.
- When fear or anxiety comes up, that's okay. It's natural. Just by being aware of it and labelling it such as “Oh that's anxiety” can help to avoid it spiralling out of control.
- If you have fears or anxieties do not bottle it up. Talk it out with a friend, relative, or someone you trust. Get it off your chest!
- Use distraction when necessary if feeling anxious. Yes this sounds like a contradiction of my previous tips, but the key is moderation! When your mind gets anxious, how about playing some nice music you enjoy, crochet, watching a feel good movie, or going for a walk.
- Finally, why not take up a relaxation practice such as meditation and/or hypnosis. In fact, if you don't know already, I have created a “Covid Anxiety Hypnosis” track which you can listen to here whenever you're feeling a little overloaded...
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