Living with ADHD can be a daily struggle. Put social distancing, working from home, and staying inside much of the time in the mix, and you probably feel like most or all of your systems, strategies, and self-care practices have been ripped away.
You may feel like there’s no real certainty of when you will be able to reincorporate these necessities back in your life.
Well, as a therapist who is also living with ADHD, I feel your pain.
There are some tips that might make life easier as you move through this time of uncertainty.
I have never been one to do well working from home. Having nowhere to go, no real reason to get dressed, no consistent structure, or pending deadlines can send me down a rabbit hole of feeling depressed.
For me, it feels like a constant pushing, moving from one task to the other. Even the littlest thing like brushing my teeth ends with me asking, “Why bother?” If there’s no immediate reason, then there’s no point.
I struggle with activation. Getting started is always hard for me.
I can’t wake up and just get going. I need some coffee, a television show that doesn’t last longer than an hour, and my stimulant medication before I can get going.
If I have to be somewhere, I wake up at a time that allows me to have my morning activation routine. But with nowhere to go, that hour can turn into four hours. Then half of my day is gone, and I have put off yet again something I wanted to finish.
This is where my negative self-talk comes creeping in and further down the depression rabbit hole I go.
Anxiety will set in when I can’t separate work time from my responsibilities at home. Like cleaning the house, making appointments for kids, animals, medication refills, meal planning, etc,. because it is all in one space.
If you struggle with inattentiveness like me, then you know that as your brain is scanning your environment, it can’t filter out what isn’t important. So everything is of equal importance and equal urgency.
As my brain sees everything, my body responds with physical anxiety responses. I immediately feel overwhelmed, become paralyzed, and shut down. I don’t know where to start. So I procrastinate, which makes me feel even more anxious.
Well, you know how your brain works. That’s why you had all of those systems, strategies, and practices of self-care in place.
Here are 5 ways you can cope with ADHD on an uncertain schedule and still be productive.
1. Learn How to Adapt to Change.
A good book on this topic is Who Moved My Cheese? by Spensor Johnson, MD.
This is a short book about change. I think Dr. Johnson does a wonderful job of creating funny scenarios of what can happen, depending on how you respond or don’t respond to change.
Intellectually understanding and emotionally understanding don’t always go hand in hand. Especially when you don’t choose the change!
So much is out of your control right now. And honestly, many things always have been and always will be out of your hands.
Still, you always have choices. Learning how you react in these scenarios and how you can learn to react will be helpful at giving you a sense of power in your life.
This book can provide some insight and space for you to think about how you want to reset yourself in your own time and in your own way.
2. Use the “Pomodoro Method” for Productivity.
This technique makes productivity feel much more doable. It works by focusing on 25- to 30-minute blocks of working time separated by five-minute breaks.
You pick a task and just focus on that one task during the working session. It’s much easier to activate you brain if you think of working for 25 or 30 minutes segments with breaks, than if you think about the work by itself.
By breaking your necessary projects up, you’ll get more done. You can decide for yourself what time increments work best for you.
Just keep in mind the transitions. If you are working for 30 minutes, maybe set your timer for 27 minutes to allow for the transition.
Transitions can be one of the more difficult things to manage with ADHD.
3. Work with Your Own Natural Flow of Energy.
If it feels better to go straight into working from your comfy bed before you brush your teeth, then do it. You can find another time in the morning to brush your teeth. Maybe in one of your five-minute breaks.
If your body and mind want to rest, then rest. This could be the opportunity to take a real lunch break and watch a show on Netflix. Just be mindful of not getting caught in a time suck and watching a whole series.
If continuing to watch gives you the stimulation you need while cleaning the kitchen or doing laundry, go for it. But if the television becomes a distraction, then you’ll need to use something else to help you focus.
You know, all the things that require “not thought,” but are the hardest to do because they aren’t interesting?
4. Get Creative With Your Exercise.
There are some great free workout videos on YouTube or OnDemand. They also have some that are just 10 to 15 minutes. This is a great way to see if you would even like them.
Listen to your body. If your body just wants to take a walk, then walk. If you feel like yoga, then do yoga. You don’t need to force yourself to come up with the same intense workouts you may be used to at the gym.
Exercise is so important for the ADHD brain, but it’s also supposed to be fun. If it isn’t, you’re more likely to not do it.
Even a person without ADHD or focusing problems would struggle to follow through an exercise routine that sounds miserable.
5. Practice Self-Compassion.
I think this is the most important tip. What’s happening in the world is hard for everyone, but it can be especially difficult or those with ADHD who are still trying to work from home, distance, and be responsible while cooped up in the house. Maybe not all, but many.
The idea behind practicing self-compassion is intentionally acknowledging to yourself that life is hard right now, without judgment, criticizing yourself, or over-identifying with how you feel.
Because you aren’t how you feel. And you aren’t alone in how you feel — ever!
Be kind to yourself every day. Focus on your strengths and what is really important to you. As with all things, this too shall pass.
This guest article was first published on YourTango.com: 5 Strategies To Cope With ADHD When Working From Home.