Concern around COVID-19 and the social restrictions that have been put in place to reduce the spread of the virus can impact on mental health and wellbeing. The constant news headlines, uncertainty around the virus and its future impact, and the need to constantly adapt to the ever-changing physical distancing requirements can be stressful to navigate, especially when you have ADHD.

How could COVID-19 affect adults with ADHD?

The first thing to say, is that is totally natural to feel a range of emotions during stressful times, such as the times that we are experiencing now. These emotions might vary from feeling angry, sad, worried, and frustrated. At times you may actually feel quite relaxed and calm.

Be accepting of your feelings and be kind to yourself during this time.

Some adults with ADHD may experience high levels of apprehension or nervousness about COVID-19. Changes to your home, work or study structure and routine due to COVID-19 as well as the distractions associated with working or studying at home can be tricky to navigate.

Some people might like having more time at home, while for others this may leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed which may negatively affect your ability to complete your work and maintain your productivity.

Being confined to home can be challenging for anyone as it can increase the risk of loneliness or feeling disconnected or disengaged with the rest of the world and can lead to or exacerbate low mood. Boredom due to isolation may also leave you feeling irritable, tired or unmotivated and unable to act and function efficiently.

Supporting your mental health and well-being

The good news is that there are several things that you can try to support your mental health and wellbeing during this period of change and uncertainty:

1

Continue taking your ADHD medication

Continue taking your ADHD medication as prescribed by you treating physician. Stopping your medication or decreasing your dose may result in you experiencing increased impulsivity and overactivity, which in turn, may lead to tensions and put you at risk of breaching physical distancing requirements or self-medicating with drugs, alcohol or food. Additionally, avoid increasing your ADHD medication dose or adding additional ADHD medication doses (beyond those prescribed) without first speaking with your treating psychiatrist or physician.
2

Reach out if you are struggling with anxiety or low mood

Contact your treating psychiatrist, physician or psychologist if you are struggling with anxiety or low mood. Currently, psychiatrists and psychologists are able to offer appointments using Telehealth through online video technology. Medicare rebates remain available for all medical and psychiatric appointments and will help to cover some of your fees. Medicare will also contribute to the cost of up to 10 psychology appointments a year if you obtain a Better Access to Mental Health Care Plan from your GP. Working with an ADHD coach or another professional on developing emotional regulation strategies and ways to maintain your wellbeing may also be beneficial.
3

Maintain a regular daily routine

For example, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day and follow a structured daily living, work and/or study schedule. Be sure to eat a healthy diet as part of any daily routine and maintain your fluid intake throughout the day. If setting up a daily routine or transitioning to working or studying at home is difficult for you, consider working with an ADHD Coach, other professional and/or reading the information resources below.
4

Stay connected with friends and family on a daily basis

If possible, use technology such as FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, Messenger or WhatsApp so that you can see each other. You will find several fun ideas for staying connected below. Additionally, consider reaching out to any of the ADHD support organisations or joining a community or online ADHD support group.
5

Exercise regularly

There are many exercise videos available on You-Tube including beginners, intermediate and high energy aerobics; HIIT; Zumba; Yoga and Pilates. Working with a personal trainer online or exercising virtually with your friends is also an option. When able to exercise outside, you could also consider walking or running with one other person while maintaining your social distance of 1.5 meters.
6

Incorporate stress-relieving activities into your day

These could include relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation (alternately tensing and releasing muscles) or mindful colouring in. Completing crosswords, reading a book, dancing, gardening, listening to music or participating in hobbies you enjoy can also help to decrease stress and help you to relax. There are copious resources available online that can be easily accessed for ideas.
7

Get enough sleep

Not getting enough sleep makes everything worse and can increase anxiety and lower mood. Having a set sleep-wake schedule can help to regulate your sleep and ensuring you have a regular daytime routine and that you get plenty of light also helps to regulate your sleep-wake rhythm.
8

Avoid or reduce the use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco

Drugs, alcohol and tobacco can cause or worsen anxiety and low mood. If you recognise that you are using more alcohol and other substances to cope during these challenging times please contact one of the drug and alcohol support services in your state. You will find their contact details here https://adf.org.au/help-support/
9

Limit your media exposure

Consider only consulting trusted media outlets once a day for a news update. Excess media exposure to stressful events can have a negative impact on one’s mental health.

Ideas to stay connected during the lockdown

  • Get dressed up and eat dinner with family or friends online.
  • Host a virtual movie night via Netflix Party.
  • Cook the same recipe virtually with a friend and compare your results.
  • Join an online exercise forum by yourself or with a group of friends.
  • Play your favourite games online.
  • Join an online choir.
  • Start an online book club.

Tips for working or studying from home

  WATCH: A Simple Guide to Working or Learning From Home from How To ADHD.

Making the transition to working or learning from home? Watch this video from How To ADHD for some research-based strategies for making it easier.

  READ: ADHD Brains Working at Home

This article contains helpful tips for maintaining focus, setting boundaries, avoiding unproductive hyperfocus, and getting the job done with telecommuting and working remotely. Read The Beginner’s Guide to Telecommuting and other helpful articles on the ADDitude Magazine website.

LISTEN: Attention Talk Radio

In this episode of Attention Talk Radio, ADHD coach Jeff Copper shares strategies to help you manage yourself and be as productive as you can at home.

If you test positive to COVID-19

If you test positive for the COVID-19 virus or develop a mild case of COVID-19 you can continue taking your ADHD medication. However, if you develop severe symptoms such as increased blood pressure, increased heart rate or breathing difficulties please seek medication advice from your treating physician or psychiatrist.

Further information & support

Phoenix Australia are specialists in managing traumatic events and have developed some helpful mental health resources to support both health practitioners and community members during COVID-19 including tip sheets on taking care of yourself and your family and isolation activities for children and adolescents as well as the following videos. Visit the website for more helpful resources.

Beyond Blue have regularly updated information on their website including advice and strategies to help you manage your wellbeing and mental health during this time. No matter how the coronavirus pandemic may be affecting you, you’ll find a range of information, strategies and expert advice to help support your social and emotional wellbeing.

Lifeline Australia are there to provide support to anyone who is experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. Visit the Lifeline Australia website here.