Nothing New Under the Sun
Updated: Apr 18
I hope this post finds you and all your loved ones well and healthy. I know you're confused, frustrated and stressed about this unprecedented situation we all find ourselves in. You can't remember what day of the week it is. You are disappointed that you had all those plans for decluttering, learning a new language or weaning your kids off screens; whereas all you've done so far is make 5 different kinds of failed home-school schedules, refereed an infinite amount of physical fights and binge-watched all the Netflix series you were ever interested in.
OK, maybe that's just me. Actually you are all heroes in my eyes. You survived The Great Eggless Pesach of 2020. Quite frankly, if the kids are breathing and you changed pajamas this month, you are totally rocking lock down!
I've been struggling for the past few weeks to come up with a fitting theme for this month's post. Honestly, like you, I've been preoccupied with just trying to stay afloat. However, today it dawned on me that we don't necessarily need any new tricks or tools to deal with current challenges. ADHDers fall prey to distraction, fail to carry out intentions and feel overwhelmed all. the. time. Pre COVID-19, we had difficulty remembering, prioritizing, managing our time and our emotions. While the setting may be different with us staying mostly at home, the same challenges are still there.
So after just over 2 years of monthly blog posts, and after 3.5 years of coaching clients with ADHD, here are my Top 10 Survival Secrets to get us through COVID- 19. If you've been following me for a while, none of these are new, but as I often say: It's not always about knowing what to do. Sometimes it's just a matter of doing what you know.
1. Break it Down
What’s overwhelming you now? How to entertain your kids? How to keep on top of housework in a home that’s always full? What to feed everyone? How to get in a day’s work with kids at home?
What Can Help:
Separate the big picture into smaller parts. Make a list of 5 things you can do to entertain your kids for 20 minutes (not 2 hours) at a time. Focus on one room (not the whole house) a day for household management. Make a list of 10 meals to cook (2 a day) and wash, rinse repeat. Focus on how to get 45 minutes of work done (not 8 hours) with the kids at home. You managed to get in 30 minutes? Well done! Take a break, wash, rinse and repeat. A journey of 100 miles begins with just one step.
2. Forget Perfection
Now is the time for connection, not perfection. In fact, is there ever a time for perfection? Usually it’s a big enemy of getting stuff done. Struggling to keep the house in order? Not satisfied with the level of work you’re putting out with the constant distractions of kids underfoot?
What Can Help:
Make a list of what “good enough” looks like in the scenario where you find perfectionism getting in the way of what you want to achieve.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask yourself, “What part of this can I let go of for now?” If you need to say yes to 8 hours of work a day, lower your expectations somewhere else. Say no to complicated recipes, meticulous home-school schedules or taking on new commitments right now. What can you postpone for better days? Where else can you simplify for now?
4. Get Motivated the ADHD Way
Lost your “get-up-and-go”? Need to retrieve your mojo in these challenging times?
What Can Help:
There are the magic 3 elements that fire up motivation in ADHD brains:
Challenge - Aim to finish it within a specific amount of time. Think 10-min kitchen challenges or a 5-min pick-up around the house for everyone.
Novelty – Change it up a bit. Take your laptop to a different room or outside if that’s possible.
Interest – Wash dishes to the sounds of Ted Talks. Walk up and down your 100m to uplifting music. Fold laundry with your favorite Netflix series playing.
5. Harness Social Support
Although we can’t see some of our family and friends right now IRL, we can recruit them to help us get stuff done. Need to get some work done? Your child needs help focusing for home-school work?
What Can Help:
Set up a Zoom meeting with a friend or colleague. Not to chat, but to sit down and work simultaneously. Tell a friend you intend to declutter for the next hour and ask her to check in on you after the hour. Your children may also benefit from you acting as a “body double” while they work. Sometimes just sitting in the same room as your child is an anchor that helps them to focus. Don’t forget what ADHD expert Ned Hallowell calls “The other vitamin C - Connection”. Many ADHDers thrive on social interaction. So pick up the phone regularly to stay in touch if you are feeling down.
6. Wander and Wonder
Excitement is bubbling over here right now at the news that our 100m outside walking limit will extend to 500m after the weekend. Going outside for a walk can be rejuvenating in many ways, especially if you leave your phone at home. With our compulsion to follow the news and social media right now, “dead time”, aka time off from technology, is important for our brains now more than ever. We hardly ever access this kind of brain activity anymore. "Dead time" time is critical, not only for replenishing our brain energy, but also for imagination, creativity and decision-making. It’s why we always seem to get our best ideas in the shower or late at night while trying to sleep.
7. When Not to Problem-Solve
Kids having a hard time? ADHD parents are likely to have ADHD kids, who struggle to keep their emotions in check. Especially now, when their world has been rocked, ADHD kids are having lots of big feelings.
What Can Help:
One of the best parenting books I ever read taught me that it is not our job to solve our children’s problems for them. Most of the time, that's not even what they want! It is enough to just be with them as they weather an emotional storm by offering our presence and a listening ear. Feeling heard and understood often help more to overcome difficult emotions than giving advice or solving the problem for our children.
8. The Past’s Place in COVID-19
Mourning about how things used to be before COVID-19 does not get us far, but noticing what we had and appreciatively looking forward to having that again is a different story. This too shall pass, and then we can return to all the good things from the past. What are you most looking forward to?
9. The Future’s Place in COVID-19
Stressing about the consequences of COVID-19 on the economy, our kids’ education or how we will manage to put bread on the table are all legitimate and normal worries right now. We can’t help our minds wandering into what will be. But this is only an effective use of our brain space if it comes with the thoughts:
“What is out of my hands?”
“What about this is in my control?” and most importantly
“Ok so what can I do about it?”.
10. The Present’s Place in COVID-19
When you find your thoughts stuck in the past or fretting about the future, remember the acronym STOP:
S - Stop
T – Take a breath, or two or ten. Deep breathing triggers the body’s relaxation response. Bringing our attention to our breath guides us back from past laments or future worries into the present moment, the only place that really counts.
O – Observe your stressful thoughts. What are you thinking right now that is making you feel bad? What words are floating around your head? “It will be difficult for find a new job”? “My kids will struggle to get back into routine”? “There’s no way I can finish that work assignment with the kids home”?
P – Proceed into the present after you’ve put the phrase “I’m having a thought that…” before your stressful thoughts. “I’m having a thought that it will be difficult to find a job.” “I’m having a thought that my kids will struggle to get back into routine.” “I’m having a thought that there’s no way I can finish that work assignment on time with the kids home”. Using this phrase can put some distance and perspective between you and the stressful thought.
Nothing New Under the Sun
The biggest secret is that there are no secrets! Yes, this situation is unprecedented in our lifetime. But that doesn’t mean that tools and strategies that have helped us before can’t be adapted to COVID-19. Take yourself back to a challenging time in your life. What behaviors, skills and personal traits got you out of it? How can you use these resources again now? What advice would you give your present self if you just came out of that past challenge?
Contact me here to find out how you can apply these secrets to your specific situation. Learn more about my Special COVID-19 Offer here. I hope you found this helpful. Wishing you and your families love, strength and health.