Understandably, you’re probably experiencing an abnormal amount of Hunger Games survivalist feels. Despite our obsession with post-apocalyptic and dystopian worlds, navigating a world affected by a pandemic is probably something you never expected — or actually prepared for.
But, it has happened and now we have to deal with it one way or another. The repetitiveness and lack of routine has likely led to difficulty managing time, remembering details, maintaining normal habits, planning your day, and executing plans. These difficulties can represent executive dysfunctioning, which may be exacerbated at this time.
Executive functioning, and the lack thereof, is something with which I’m very familiar. I have ADHD and struggle with executive functioning, and have a fair amount of experience on how to pull myself together when all I feel like doing is falling apart.
Here is a quarantine-friendly schedule to help you bring structure and well-being to this “Groundhog Day” haze in which we find ourselves.
While we may be out of our usual “9 to 5” mindset, sticking to a schedule is about maintaining your skills for the long game. A rocky sleep schedule might be fun at first but over time it can mess up your circadian rhythm which can lead to unexpected weight fluctuations, slower thought processing, and — surprise — impulsivity.
To prevent overlounging in bed, set your alarm to wake up at the same time each morning, and then begin a quick 5-minute guided meditation when you wake. Or meditate during your skin care routine!
Meditation can be difficult at first for those who already lack focus, but with consistent practice it can reduce stress and anxiety, enhance mood, lengthen attention span, help regulate our emotions, and improve sleep (win-win mornings).
By slowly increasing guided meditation in small time increments, you’ll get the benefits without the “stress” of meditating.
You may be thinking, “why would I plan my day?” but, having some form of structure (even if it’s just your meals) will help separate long hours and increase productivity. You may already have a habit of making lists and planning things, even if you have trouble finishing them.
If you take medication, it can be tempting to skip it (or easy to simply forget to take it) when your days consist of Zoom calls with friends and surfing from one streaming service to another, but don’t give in! It’s imperative to continue taking your medication as it helps you keep structure and manage your symptoms.
Setting reminders for yourself and tying your medication time with a daily activity — such as eating your breakfast — is a great way to prevent forgetfulness and practice mindfulness.
Even if you don’t have pressing matters right now, go ahead and plan your day to avoid slipping into the black hole of “what day is it?” You’ll likely be surprised with how different each day’s to-do list is when looking back.
Whatever task you dread most, do that first
Not only is it out of the way now, but it may also trigger a wave of productivity energy to ride on. Of course, no one expects you to come out of this with a best-selling novel, but managing your impulsivity and practicing self-care during all of this can help you in the long run.
In this same vein, keep your news briefing to smaller chunks. Set a time limit for yourself on how much you can catch up on the latest news, as hyper-focusing may only increase anxiety and stress.
Don’t you just hate it when the advice for anything and everything seems to be exercise? Feeling down? Exercise! Trouble sleeping? Exercise!
It’s slightly annoying, but it’s also legit advice — and (surprise?) exercise also helps with impulse control and other executive functioning skills. Why it can’t be cookie dough is beyond me.
If you’re in a position to be able to go outside for a walk, make this a daily habit and consider longer walks than usual. Your physical and mental health will thank you for it. If you’re completely stuck inside, put on music, find your inner Meredith (or Cristina!) and have a dance party à la “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Do you tend to feel like you “overreact” a lot and have a hard time managing “big feelings”? This is known as emotional dysregulation, a common comorbidity amongst those with ADHD.
It’s possible, and maybe even probable, that you’ve been thrust into tense situations with roommates, family, or even your own damn self. With this added tension may come impulsive outbursts and stronger emotional reactions that could lead to unnecessary hurt feelings and discomfort. And, clearly there’s no crying in quarantine, right? Kidding — let the tears roll.
Recharging alone can help you reflect on these instances to be more in tune next time. Set this at a specific time of day, use a closed door with a sign on it if you can, or wear noise-cancelling headphones — whatever it takes to get the job done.
During a crisis such as this, make sure to give yourself a break. It’s not necessary to complete every free course available, to Marie Kondo your entire home because “you have time,” and “control” your internal feelings. You’re going to have many valid feelings: sadness, boredom, and even anger. Remind yourself that it’s okay to slow down and you’re doing the best you can.
Acknowledging difficult emotions and truly feeling them instead of trying to work them away can be what you need to wipe the slate clean.
People with ADHD often have sleep disorders, and the current events as well as a lack of structure to one’s day may amplify this. Staring at a screen and scrolling social media right before bedtime certainly doesn’t help.
Instead, end your day with something you love. What calms you — a friend’s voice, taking a bubble bath, reading a book, a hot cup of tea?
Don’t forget to turn off electronics an hour before bedtime, avoid caffeine at least 4 to 6 hours before bedtime, and talk to your doctor about melatonin or a sleep medication if sleep problems persist or worsen.
Let’s try to keep you from tallying the walls “Cast Away” style by marking your weekends in a special way.
Host a virtual party and socialize
Miss seeing friends and family? Host a virtual party. This can be as simple as hopping on a FaceTime call or you can set up a special activity such as watching a movie together or playing Cards Against Humanity.
Grocery shop and/or meal prep
Many people with ADHD may simply forget to eat. They hyper focus and before they know it the whole day has passed, which can lead to binge eating later. So, in order to keep some structure and prevent hanger from unexpectedly controlling you, consider grocery shopping and/or meal prepping over the weekend for the week ahead.
As you navigate these feelings of limbo, remember these tips won’t just help you get through today. If you follow these tips, once we re-enter the new post-pandemic world, you might find yourself feeling one step ahead because you’ve already been practicing self-control.
Ashley Hubbard is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee, focusing on sustainability, travel, veganism, mental health, social justice, and more. Passionate about animal rights, sustainable travel, and social impact, she seeks out ethical experiences whether at home or on the road. Visit her website wild-hearted.com.