Brain Health

How Could This Pandemic Change Me for Good?

“For women with ADHD, this is our chance, finally, to float. To slow down, to be more intentional, to reflect on what we want to keep when this is all over and what we want to move away from. It’s a time for discovery, liberated from the pressure of tasks we think we should be doing. This doesn’t have to be the tunnel. This can be a light in the darkness.”

Water lily floating on water

“In panic, we want to push the stick away from the spin, wrestle the plane out of it,
but the trick is, as in everything, to go with the turning willingly,
rather than fight it, give in, go with it,
and that way come out of your tailspin whole.”

This passage comes from Edward Field’s poem titled “Tailspin” that perfectly illustrates our current reality. Whether the metaphor is a tailspin, quicksand, or a riptide, the truth remains constant: If you struggle and fight, these things just pull you down; they make you sink more deeply. The same is true with this pandemic.

For women with ADHD, this is our chance, finally, to float. I see this period of time as a chance to slow down, to be more intentional, to reflect on what we want to keep when this is all over and what we want to move away from. It’s a time for discovery, liberated from the pressure of tasks we think we should be doing. This doesn’t have to be the tunnel. This can be a light in the darkness.

This is life right now. This is happening. It’s a huge thing. Let’s let it illuminate who we are and what we value now, instead of just waiting for this to be over. We need to learn something from this. We need to let it affect us to that, when we go forward, it has changed us.

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Let’s not just go back to the way things were. Let’s see how we can use the things we’ve learned and the changes that we’ve made, to affect real sustained change. It’s a time to stop running, get off the treadmill, and look around.

What brings you meaning? What brings you joy? Have you reconnected with your children, or yourself, your partner, your community? It’s understandable that this pandemic is causing personal shutdown and paralysis, but what if you viewed it through a wider lens? What if this Great Pause is your chance to create a new normal? What would that look like?

1. Practice Setting Boundaries

Right now, you don’t have to worry about how to say “No” to a social event that you don’t want to attend or having company over. There is no possibility for that. More importantly, now is the time to question all those rules that women have internalized about saying “Yes” and doing all these things. Finally, there are no rules. There is far less pressure to figure out what to wear, to worry about makeup, to run around on shopping errands, to schedule and coordinate appointments.

What does that feel like? Do you like it? What rules will you put in place to prioritize the important commitments and say “No” to more of the insignificant ones?

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2. Practice Accepting Life’s Accommodations

Before the pandemic, I can’t tell you how many women clients told me, “Oh, no, I can’t do online grocery shopping; nobody else would do that. That means something’s wrong with me.” This shows how culturally mandated these things are. Now that everybody’s doing online grocery shopping, it’s not a big deal anymore. Suddenly, it’s OK to get help.

What’s more, some women find online grocery shopping stimulating. They are utilizing their natural creativity in this crisis. They’re like hunters, trying to find the right delivery service, keeping three or four options open and having to hunt for the food delivery.

What supports have you started using during this pandemic that make your life easier? Will you keep them in place without shame or saying “Sorry?” If so, that’s a win.

3. Practice Mindful Living

The maneuvering, the bobbing, the dropping off of kids, and transferring materials from here to another location, and, of course, the driving — these logistics are all eliminated right now. As a result, a lot of women with ADHD feel like they’re living in the moment for the first time — and it’s almost like a Buddhist thing. People can’t make plans, so you’re really forced to live in the moment. You’re also able to spend more quality time with loved ones.

Are you enjoying slowing down and spending time together? Will you establish protected family time or non-running-around days in the future? Will you guard your mindfulness?

4. Practice Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Some people are trapped in quarantine with strong emotions they’ve tried to push away for a long time. They’re confronting old traumas, old fears, and letting themselves feel their feelings. Some women are noticing now how much they use marijuana, or alcohol, or food as a way to self-soothe. They are questioning those coping mechanisms and experimenting with alternatives, like exercising and being in nature. Bars and restaurants are closed; we can’t speed around and travel anymore. This forces us to confront more intentional ways that we want to relate to ourselves, and to other people, and to make new choices that can be uncomfortable at times, but it is part of this transition process that we’re going through.

Transition means to go through something and emerge in a different way. Resist the urge to replace pressures you used to face with new pressures in quarantine. Use this as transition to a time of discovery to understand who you are and what is important to you.

5. Practice Intentional Self-Care

Self-care is truly critical during a pandemic, when feelings of uncertainty, mourning, and fear can bring up past emotional issues. Use this time to determine a plan, or “emergency exit,” to make yourself feel safe and secure when you feel triggered. Have in mind a physical space where you can go for some quiet, or a person with whom you can talk safely. Your safe place could be your porch, your bedroom, your bathtub — ask yourself where you need to go to anchor yourself. Know what music soothes you; have a playlist or radio station ready. Consider keeping a journal, or listening to meditations or a YouTube channel with relaxation exercises. Use this time to build an emergency self-care plan that you know will work when you’re feeling overwhelmed in the future.

Everyone is feeling vulnerable right now, and we all manifest that vulnerability differently. Some women might want to stick to a strict schedule, some might want to take a more relaxed approach. Have empathy for how others are handling this situation and have empathy for yourself.

The content for this article came from an interview with Sari Solden, M.S., LMFT, a psychotherapist who has counseled adults with ADHD for 30 years. She is the author of Women with Attention Deficit Disorder and Journeys Through ADDulthood, and co-author of A Radical Guide for Women with ADHD (July 2019).

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