Setting a timer for 30-60 minutes of studying can help you focus.
College is a key time to develop skills that work with your attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). College is less structured than high school, and this freedom and flexibility is especially relevant to those students living away from home for the first time. Even students who are extremely intelligent are at high risk of falling behind or losing concentration because college requires new levels of self-imposed structure and accountability.
Here are survival strategies that can help ensure your college experience is more productive and stress free.
1. Keep anxiety under control by relieving stress.
Half of all adults with ADHD experience anxiety disorders during their lifetimes, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. If that’s you, keep your anxiety under control by giving yourself a much-needed break:
• Exercise regularly. Looking back, I did all things better when I was making time to go running. My grades were better, I was scheduling time better and studying was easier because I was less fidgety. Running was a great way for me to organize my thoughts and mentally prepare myself for the day. After realizing that running played such an important part in controlling my ADHD, I’ve continued to make time for it in my daily routine. In fact, in recent years, research has shown that exercise can help reduce the symptoms of ADHD, depression and other disorders. Integrate exercise into your daily life. If you keep at it, you’ll find it centers you, reduces your stress and brings you the clarity you need to move forward.
• Find time to relax. Try to take a step back from anything that distracts you when you feel overwhelmed, even technology or friends. Practice mindful meditation — it’s proven to reduce symptoms of both anxiety and ADHD. You can check out how here.
2. Study smarter, not harder.
Think of college as your full-time job, and you have to work 40 hours a week by studying for each class. Take the concept of interval exercising and apply it to studying. Set a timer and study hard for 30-60 minutes then take a break. Walk around, stretch and relax before you continue studying again.
It was a shock for me coming to college, seeing my friends go to the library and just sit and study for hours on end without feeling fidgety or anxious. With ADHD it’s not as simple — I have to break things down and study in intervals to maximize my concentration.
3. Break everything down.
Review your daily schedule each morning and create to-do lists if necessary. It’s important to prioritize things when you have ADHD, especially with the extra free time that college provides.
4. Be smart about fidgeting and hyper-activating.
Fidgeting is completely natural and normal — it’s just about finding a way to fidget that is respectful to people around you. Instead of clicking a pen or doing something bothersome, find a way to fidget that is unnoticeable to your classmates or peers. It’s important to understand that fidgeting shouldn’t complicate other tasks. If you need to listen, doodle while you listen — if you need to watch, then tap your foot.
5. Seek out help and counseling.
At almost every single university there is a center for students with disabilities. Utilize the professionals who are there to help you and keep you on track with your disorder. They know what works, and won’t try to fit you into an organizational system that isn’t realistic for students with ADHD. They will help keep you accountable and are always a great resource to have.
Organizational problems, impulsivity, hyperactivity, time-management issues and trouble focusing are all hallmarks of ADHD. It’s no doubt then that college can seem daunting or discouraging at times, but by identifying the tools that help you work with your personal strengths, you’ll be able to realize your own potential and overcome your weaknesses.
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