Creative Ways to Tackle ADHD During Covid-19
When I was 17 years old, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), predominantly inattentive subtype. Once diagnosed, all those symptoms that affected the way I learned made complete sense; I was able to connect the dots. I would continuously daydream, would get easily distracted, and had trouble organising my thoughts; hence, I had difficulty writing essays, doing multi-step maths problems and recalling what I read.
Despite my challenges, I worked relentlessly and was always a good student; but as academic work became more challenging, it got harder for me to keep up. I was working two to three times longer than my peers. Finally, I asked my family for help. I was tested, diagnosed and placed on ADHD medication which changed my life. I was able to finish high school and college with excellent grades and enjoyed learning.
In January 2020, I started my master degree at ESCP Business School’s London Campus. With meds on hand, I was prepared to start this new adventure. Everything was going smoothly until the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world hard and disrupted everyone. On 13th March 2020, ESCP decided to close its London Campus and shifted to online classes.
Instead of staying in London where I did not have any family or close relatives, I decided to go back home to Honduras. As I landed in Miami, Florida for a scheduled 18-hour layover, I heard the news that Honduras had indefinitely closed all airports. Thankfully, I had family in Miami that I could stay with. When I was unpacking and getting ready for my online classes, I realised in a panic that I had forgotten my ADHD medication back in London. To make matters worse, anxiety overpowered me, making my ADHD symptoms even worse. I felt overwhelmed, frustrated and out of control.
I decided to go for a walk around the neighbourhood since movement helps me re-focus and become more centred. As I walked, I began to regain some control over my emotions. I intentionally created a mental representation of my goal and all those things that could hinder me from achieving it. I had joined a fantastic and exciting master programme and was not going to allow either my anxiety or my ADHD take the best of me.
During the 1st term at ESCP we studied a module called The Art & Science of Creativity. The aim of this module is to deconstruct our traditional approach to problem solving by deeply breaking down the problem, understanding what the roots are and using a relevant canvas to help build a creative solution.
As I began writing my game plan, it became clear that the real problem were the negative thoughts and feelings I had towards online learning. I felt that without my ADHD medication I would lose focus more quickly and not be able to keep up. These thoughts triggered my anxiety, which was exacerbated by my ADHD symptoms.
My game plan included changing my negative attitude and focusing on achieving a positive mindset towards online learning, precisely without ADHD medication.
I used a notebook as a diary, writing down the negative thoughts in one column and paired each one with a positive affirmation in the other column. The task at hand included replacing negative thoughts with positive affirmations every time I found myself thinking negative thoughts or immersed in negative self-talk.
While reviewing the seven PSDM (problem solving and decision making) steps used as guidelines, I checked that I had defined the problem accurately and carefully, and had structured my ideas well enough to put them into practice. I then proceeded to evaluate other options and resolve any open issues that needed my attention. These included specific ADHD symptoms.
I decided to tackle them by using strategies from my personal toolbox that I have learned since I was diagnosed. After going over them, I realised that establishing routines and minimising distractions were vital, not only to counteract ADHD but unwarranted anxiety as well.
I designed a schedule where I would wake up and go to bed at the same time. I made sure I would wake up early enough to make my bed, get dressed and have breakfast, even if I didn’t have anywhere to be. This helped condition my brain and body to get ready for learning. Furthermore, as part of my daily routine I would take a few minutes to meditate, to clear my mind and regain focus. I also chose a specific space for my work area and made sure it was free from distractions.
I also decided to incorporate a less conventional strategy. I chose punishment as a form of behavioural approach to reduce unwanted distractions. Every time I found myself wandering or daydreaming, I would do 10 push-ups. It helped reduce my unwanted behaviours, not necessarily as a punishment but as a quick way to incorporate movement into my routine. I ended up including 10 push-ups mid-morning and mid-afternoon into my daily routine.
This game plan helped regulate my mood and concentration, and enabled me to enjoy my coursework. Through this experience, I learnt that medication does help with my ADHD symptoms, but I can also thrive without it. I learned to separate myself from my ADHD; I have ADHD, but it does not define who I am or what I can do.
Arielle is a MSc in Marketing & Creativity student. Feeling inspired by her blog? To follow in her footsteps, check out ESCP Business School and its Marketing & Creativity programmes: