If you have not been hit by the shortages of stimulant medication, consider yourself lucky. Maybe even blessed.
On various forums and FB groups, I’m seeing posts from people who haven’t had their medication in weeks, or months. People calling around to different pharmacies, and in doing so, feeling like (and sometimes being treated like) a drug seeker.
And no one knows when this will end.
While some ADHDers have switched medications to one that is, at least currently, not in short supply, that doesn’t work for everyone. Some medications just aren’t the right medication for everyone; add to that the insurance barrier, and you have people who are truly not living their best lives right now-and even worse than that.
Here are some strategies that, while totally not replacing your medication, can mitigate some of the loss in focus, regulation, and organization that you might be feeling.
1 – Recognize that your life is being impacted. Because of society’s often dismissive attitude towards ADHD, it’s easy to fall into the “I shouldn’t need this medication to function anyway.” ADHD is a result of neurological and brain chemistry differences that cause issues with task management, time management, attention, and emotional regulation. It is not a choice. These challenges are mitigated by medication, just like vision issues are mitigated by glasses.
2 – Lean hard on lists, calendars, Post It notes, reminders. Even if these have not worked in the past, at this point they are what you have. If you need to write a giant list of your morning routine to post on your bathroom mirror, do it. If you need Alexa to ping you every 10 minutes to make sure you’re on task, do it. Using a calendar, task management system, and bullet journal? That’s fine. What might seem like overkill when you’re medicated is actually a failsafe system during this emergency.
3 – Automate as much as you can. This is actually a great strategy even when you can get your medication. Auto refill on meds (yours, family, pets), auto pay on bills, anything that can become something that you don’t have to remember is a good thing.
4 – Make sure you are getting the right food and sleep. Having protein at breakfast is crucial! It’s brain food! Your ADHD brain might crave sugar, but that will cause a crash that you will have a hard time bouncing back from without your meds. Also, getting the right amount of sleep for you is super important. You might have a difficult time falling asleep; think about what might help you to have more success (sleep routine, putting screens away earlier, reading before bed…just a few suggestions!)
5 – Exercise! Studies have shown that exercise is an important part of an ADHD treatment plan, whether medication is involved or not. Going for a walk, jumping jacks, yoga, a YouTube exercise video, dancing to music in your kitchen-anything that gets you moving is going to provide dopamine to your system. I cannot stress enough how important this is.
6 – Try body doubling. Body doubling is working on something while someone else is also working. You do not need to interact, or be working on the same project or assignment. For example, I can be paying my bills, while you fold the laundry. This strategy is very effective in eliminating procrastination and increasing on-task behavior. If you don’t have someone you can body double with, you can use a body doubling website (Focusmate.com is a good one), and be set up with someone with whom to work in tandem.
7 – Lean on your support system shamelessly. If you have an understanding spouse, parent, friend, ask them if they can help you out during this crisis. They might be able to insert some accountability into your task plan (a text asking if you’ve done something), to help keep you on track (and If you don’t have an understanding person in your life, well, that’s a topic for another blog post).
8 – Realize that you will not be able to attend to everything at the same level as you did while you were medicated. Decide where your focus should be. If it’s work, then let the housecleaning slide. If it’s taking care of your kids, then maybe order in for a while instead of meal prepping. In other words, expend your energy wisely.
9 – Be extra cautious while driving. Research shows that adults with ADHD are more likely to have car accidents than adults without ADHD. While stimulant medication can mitigate some of the danger, when you can’t get your meds, you are at risk. Take a breath before you start the car to get centered. Put your phone in the trunk. Shut off the radio. If you have a passenger and their conversation is distracting you, ask them to stop talking-I think they’ll be less offended if you tell them it could save their lives.
10 – Keep up with your appointments with mental health professionals, and let them know if you are struggling. You might be able to try a different medication. Your therapist might be able to give you some ideas for dealing with the anxiety that this can cause.
It can be very discouraging and frustrating to be unable to get your medication, something that enables you to live your best life. You might feel sad, angry, scared-these are all valid feelings when you don’t feel like you are in control. Don’t let anyone tell you that “it’s no big deal.” It IS a big deal-but by adopting some of the strategies above, you may be able to move through this crisis with a little more ease.