Brain Health

Imagining Life After the Pandemic: Helping Women with ADHD Move Forward with Purpose

Anxious about life after the pandemic? Here’s a simple ADHD-friendly blueprint for slowly returning to, or re-imagining, your life in a post-pandemic world.

Many women with ADHD feel anxious about the impending return to their pre-pandemic lives. They dread re-adopting past norms and bristle at the re-opening that everyone else seems to embrace – this, in turn, creates feelings of guilt and/or confusion about life after the pandemic.

Despite obvious pandemic drawbacks, there were benefits to staying and working from home with ADHD (for those who were able to) — most notably, relief from the pressures of everyday life. Many women with ADHD have experienced more than a year without the demands of executive function, coordination, logistics, and social pressures. And, for them, returning to life as it was before the pandemic is both terrifying and exhausting to even consider.

So as pandemic-related restrictions continue to lift, women with ADHD need transition strategies to begin to peek out and move forward. Here are some of my favorites.

After the Pandemic: 4 Guiding Rules for Women with ADHD

1. Be Gentle with Yourself

A lot of women with ADHD feel guilty now, or they feel depressed and disappointed that they didn’t accomplish all they thought they should have during the pandemic. We didn’t go through all of our boxes and didn’t clear out all our clutter. We didn’t write the great American novel.

First and foremost, women with ADHD need to understand that the pandemic was not a vacation and it was not a sabbatical. It was a trauma. As a result, our psyches have changed. Be gentle with yourself in this re-emergence process, and realize that we’ve all collectively gone through something unprecedented. Millions of people have lost loved ones and/or had the disease themselves, suffering terrible losses.

[Take This Self-Test: ADHD Symptoms in Women]

2. Learn to Say “No”

You’ve heard of “vaccine hesitancy?” What about returning-to-normal-life hesitancy? Many women with ADHD feel that going back will be too much for them to handle because they devised creative (and now comfortable) ways of living with social distancing.

I see women with ADHD who would never have thought of ordering groceries doing that now. They enjoyed not having to say “no” to things like dinner parties because there weren’t any! They didn’t have to worry about makeup, accessorizing, and getting dressed because friends weren’t dropping in.

They didn’t feel the pressure to go to the gym because gyms weren’t open! A lot of people saved money because there was virtually no travel or entertainment to spend it on. They didn’t have to go to doctors’ appointments in person, thanks to telemedicine. They didn’t have to schedule carpools. They didn’t have to make small talk. Day-to-day, moment-to-moment demands were reduced for women with ADHD.

But now we’re faced with giving that back up – and it won’t be an easy transition. We’ve spent a year learning to view people and places as dangerous, and it will take time to overcome that. In the meantime, say “no” more often, and practice setting boundaries that protect your mental and physical health.

[Read: What If ‘Back to Normal’ Is Terrifying?]

3. Dip Your Toe in the World

There won’t be a big opening day when everything suddenly goes back to normal. We have to plan our first small steps.

I encourage women with ADHD to ask themselves:

  • “What new experiences have I discovered that I value during this time out that I want to continue when the pandemic is over?”
  • “What have I discovered as a result of this time away from my pre-pandemic life that I want to discard or modify?”

As for me, I discovered the river close by my home, and I now go there every day. I never did that before. I have groceries delivered now, and I may never go back to the grocery store. I discovered that I love being in nature. I started listening to classical music.

The answers to these questions can also influence your symptom management. I’ve heard from many women that they were able to see firsthand the true challenges of their life with ADHD during the pandemic.

4. Keep New Rituals

Start to think about what might make you excited in life after the pandemic. Seeing a person you love? Visiting a certain place? What will help you take small steps toward your own new normal?

I am personally motivated to become comfortable in public again. I want to do an internal inventory to discover which people are important enough to make me push a little further out of my comfort zone.

Some people are not ready to go back their old lives. When you go through something difficult, make it count for something. Use this experience to think about who you are now.

Once you know what you want to discard and what you want to move toward, take that first step.

After the Pandemic for Women with ADHD: Next Steps

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