How to learn to wait and focus - CHADD's Adult ADH...

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How to learn to wait and focus

sAdEin profile image

Hello everyone with ADHD.

It is very difficult for me to concentrate on something. I cannot start working. Watch a course or lecture or something else. I can't start, because on a subconscious level I understand that it hurts me a lot. I can’t focus on things that are not very interesting to me for a long time. For example a movie. I share two states: when I'm interested and when I'm not. When it's interesting, it's cool, but what to do in those moments when it's not interesting? For me to endure, to wait is the worst that can be.

I want to ask you for advice, friends, on how to learn to endure without feeling like expecting that now your head will explode if you don’t do anything: don’t move, don’t get up or some other action.

Maybe someone has already found out? Because I am not here and I do not know how to study further. Learning is based on concentration, which I don't have, and I think I can never learn anything.

10 Replies

Hi There, this sounds really hard. I have been there all my life. I've only just been put on medication and I'm 51, so I do have some experience in what works for me.

Exercise has been key for me. It takes away the excess energy that I have at times and improves my mood. I do interval training on a stationary bike. Global cycling network have great 20 min sessions. Also I have to be very careful about what I eat. I can get very hyperactive from certain foods and too much coffee is really bad. Too much coffee also stops me from sleeping which also affects how well I function, so I only have one cup a day in the morning. Medication has been great for helping my impulse and emotional control.

I would focus on health as a start and keep on asking and looking for good sensible solutions. Different things work for different people.

I do find that I can learn more easily when I have all of the things above in action. I can be more strategic about how I approach my learning and also I can harness my hyper focus which can be a great attribute when used in the right way.

I hope that helps.

All the best

ialkuzak profile image
ialkuzak in reply to Fred2001

Even before I was diagnosed with ADHD, the only way to control my condition was to exercise. I even remember that when I was studying and doing homework, I did all kinds of physical movements like crunching and walking in the room just to get concentration, but the interesting thing is that I thought I was very interested in sports but it was not like that. Exercising only made me feel better so I could focus on my daily routine.

Fred made some really good points on coffee, exercise, and medication. Monitoring these three is vital even if you hate exercise, or if you love coffee.

Another important thing is to develop habits, because consistency is key. Try to do it in whatever way works for you, like even have someone remind you about it. I’ve never had a routine ever, and because of it I suffered through a lot of chaos. So now I think it’s important to develop habits and routine.

notanotter profile image
notanotter in reply to schesmu

Routine: critical so we don’t have to think about every little thing. Leaves room to think about the new stuff. I’m still working on this because like you I’m starting later in life. We will do it though!!

Deep breathing can help with the agitation too.

I can have trouble sitting still to read a book and have found audiobooks and podcasts to be really helpful. I'd recommend checking out "Adult ADHD ADD Tips and Support Podcast" on Spotify. Michael wrote a book and this is his podcast. There's a ton of helpful tips and I found it very approachable. I even recently completed his workshop. He addresses things like routine, nutrition, exercise, and making small changes toward your goals.

These are great answers! When I was studying I used the services at my University to help with essay writing and the specific things I have trouble with. I also asked for more time when I could to finish assignments. There's no shame in asking for help. Your just giving yourself a better chance and leveling the playing field.

I love the ADDitude experts podcast and website. I love the episode 137 with Cindy Goodrich about having a growth mindset and setting yourself up for positive learning.

I have learnt a lot from the podcasts from ADDitude, I highly recommend!

Fred2001 profile image
Fred2001 in reply to Fred2001

You are or you're I should say. Still not good with grammar and that's ok too.

notanotter profile image
notanotter in reply to Fred2001

Heck Fred, my phone autocorrects me to the wrong words all the time on here. You should see the typos and grammar Apple thinks are correct. 😱

Hi sAdEin,

College with ADHD is really difficult. I tried college in my late teens and early 20's and did miserably (I attended community college for nearly 5 years, only had a cumulative GPA of 1.69, and only had 15 transferable credits in the end. Just sad)

My problem was that my ADHD was not diagnosed, and I had no idea I had it, though it ran in my family, and I had not developed any coping skills at this point in my life, so I was flailing. This was in the late 1980's and I am not even sure if there would have been any help, had I sought it, especially as a female. Today, it's much different. But that does not make it any less challenging. However I went back to college at age 38, attended a state school and kicked ass academically, then transferred to an Ivy League school, got my ass handed to me my first semester and nearly dropped out. The Ivy League workload was just too much, considering what helped me succeed was doing all this extra work, and mental gymnastics to stay engaged, learn the material and stay on top of the demanding schedule of college. My first semester was a disaster. I was on academic probation and hated all my classes. I had to quickly figure out how to survive, or I would walk away without a degree.....again. It was everything I feared.

So, I changed my major and picked up a second minor in an area I really enjoyed. I also found ratemyprofessors.com. This was a game changer. I only took courses with highly rated professors, so I was guaranteed a better, more engaging classroom experience. I enjoyed my classes so much more and found them easier, because they were engaging and did much better my second semester. Good professors tend to have better grad students who help them too, they have more people apply. So it was great in more than one way.

Do you need to consider changing your major? If the lectures are not like the movies you love, maybe you have the wrong teacher. My most favorite professor during my second Ivy League experience was my Botany teacher. He was an amazing artist, he used color chalk (which made the mental recall of his drawings fantastic--I wish all professors did this in their lectures) and he explained things in a linear way or by using scaffolding, really, really well. I loved the topic (I am a plant nerd) and he brought it to life. Maybe you need to find this kind of engagement?

Of course, there are some really dry topics out there. (I don't know why I am suddenly typing in italics, the Italic button at the bottom is not on...GRRRRRR--sorry) I really hate math, but I did have a great math teacher at the state school and it was a better math experience in that class If you struggle with staying engaged in boring classes you must take because they are a requirement, outside of using rate my professors.com, I played mental games with myself to make those classes SEEM less horrible. Here's some of what I did, so maybe these will help, or inspire you to think of your own examples.

1) I tried to get ahead on some readings/homework, so on days when I had mentally or psychologically exhausting classes because they were horrible, so I could head home early and give myself a break that day to relieve some stress.

2) I took advantage of the school gyms and worked out as often as I could. Cardio--hard and fast, 30-45 minutes, to the point of exhaustion. This relaxed my brain, helped me sleep better and reduced my stress, and made some homework assignments more bearable.

3.) At the state school, I religiously went to the study center and found study groups for my hardest classes (math, and chemistry--mostly because the teacher was one of the worst I had ever had--just useless). I found all the best students in the class at the study center. We would work together, and being in a study group forced me to do my homework--it made me accountable. There was a little friendly rivalry to get the problem done first and get it right. Not in a negative way, but more a badge of honor that helped me step up my game, it heightened my focus. It was another way to make work I hated engaging. We helped each other through difficult problems and no one was "stupid" shamed for not knowing. When I tranfered from my state school to my "fancy" school--no one helped anyone else. There was no "study center" where I could find other students. Most classes curved the grades, so from other student's perspectives, to help another student was to hurt themself. I hated this mentality and it added to my disdain of the place from which I graduated. I don't know if this is an option for you, but studying with others made it feel less daunting and helped me learn better, because they pushed me.

4) I was always finding ways to make learning SEEM easier. My semesters were 15 weeks. There was usually a week long break somewhere in the middle (14 weeks), fall semester is a bit shorter because there are more holidays. I mapped the weeks out in my student paper calendar.

So really only 13 weeks of instruction in spring, 12.5 in the fall. I would take note of what week it was on Monday morning each week to give me motivation like time was moving and help me feel like I WAS making progress. And if I made it to class that Monday morning (which I almost always did), I would not count that week any longer so my total weeks left on Monday morning, till the end of the semester, was smaller. When the weeks got down to single digits left, they seemed to fly by, so only 2 or 3 weeks into the semester it already felt doable. I just had to stay the course so to speak.

This also helped me to look at my syllabi and determine how to divvy up work for the semester so I did not feel overwhelmed and hit an undoable bottleneck I could not handle towards the end of the semster. I viewed each assignment, whether reading, topic papers, mid-terms, exams, finals, as being one pavement stone to getting to the end of the semester. Only 4 semesters by the time I landed at the Ivy League school in my Junior year. I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other for 13-12.5 weeks, 4x (4 semesters to graduate) at that point. I know this might seem odious, but honestly, these kinds of mental gymnastics help me get through tough things. I learned how to do this as a wildland firefighter for more than a decade in my 20's and early 30's, when I was being asked to do things that were very physically and mentally challenging, and so hard sometimes, I was not sure I would survive it. One foot in front of the other--literally. Pain and suffering lets you know you are alive.

Aside from finding a major that engages you, picking great professors to help with mundane classes, seeking comradery for increased learning/accountability, and arranging things in your head to help get you motivated, I don't know what else to offer. If you are much younger, perhaps finding an ADHD coach to help you develop your own skills?

I did not have these skills in my first college attempt and it showed. I walked away from the state school with a 3.85 GPA. The Ivy League I did manage to recover after my first semester and academic probation and eek out a 3.03 GPA. A vast difference from the 1.69 in my late teens and early 20's. I hope some of this helps or inspires you towards finding your own system that serves YOUR needs.

One thing, my dear, please practice more positive self talk. The world is negative enough toward those with the ADHD. I see you. You are smart enough to articulate your problem, motivated enough to try to find a solution, driven enough to recognize and ID your challenge and accepting enough to seek help, learn and grow. Those are amazing capabilities that will serve you well throughout your life. I am sure you have many other positive attributes. You might not feel like you have the time, but you should sit down and honestly list and understand your strengths. After you do that you can ID your challenges. But do realize, if you didn't have challenges, you would not have strengths. ;) I wish you luck, and in the event that you can't find solutions now, if you are young, it will not mean you will never finish college, you just might have to wait for the right time. I was 38. Hugs and all the best wishes.

notanotter profile image
notanotter in reply to

Your post ought to be pinned as an academic how to for ADHD.

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