Living with ADHD at uni: tips, tricks and hacks

Starting uni is stressful for everyone, even if you’re just returning for your next year. There is the knowledge of impending deadlines, responsibility and budgeting. So, for those with a disability, it can be even harder. October is ADHD Awareness Month, and it’s a disorder often overlooked or mistaken for laziness among students. Although I don’t have ADHD, my flatmate of 3-years does; I asked her how she deals with it, and for any tips that she can pass on.

What is ADHD?

ADHD means ‘Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder’ and can be the cause of hyperactivity, struggling to maintain attention and impulsivity. There is no concrete answer for what causes it, but it is definitely not due to excessive screen time or the overconsumption of sugar, as many myths claim. ADHD is more of a spectrum and lots of situations can affect everyone differently.

What can friends/housemates do to help you?

ADHD is frustratingly a personal disorder to deal with. However, my housemate tells me it really helps her when there is a friend/housemate who can keep tabs on her during a particular day. For instance, she will tell us her work goals, and throughout the day that chosen person will keep checking that she is on track to achieve that set goal without being too forceful or telling her off like a parent might.

What if I’ve left a deadline until THE last minute?!

You can’t change the past, so there is no point in beating yourself up! The first point to remember is that the marker is not going to know that the work was completed last minute. In terms of strategy, a suggestion from my friend is to collect all of the research you have so far and place it in one document. This will mean that it is all in one accessible place. Make a plan of what you need to do and write it in order, this allows you to break your workload into a more manageable size for you to approach. Maybe give yourself a time limit to approach each section too. Most importantly, don’t panic. Panicking will only mean the work takes longer!

General Tips

  • PLAN! Writing lists and getting the information down on paper is supposed to be a really good way of figuring out the jumble that might be going on in your head. Get a pretty notebook, a whiteboard or anything that will allow you to structure your day/timetable to be more manageable for you!
  • Have regular breaks. Take a 20-minute break every now and then, and my friend really encourages you to do something active. Play a game, go for a walk or even making a cup of tea is supposed to be good. It will just give your brain a bit of a break, and hopefully, keep your productivity going!
  • Background sound: for my friend, this is super important, and I rarely find her in silence. During writing an essay, she will play something that has no lyrics such as classical or soundtrack music. She also enjoys the sound of rain and will play that sometimes too. Another one of my friends will play electronic music as he says that the regular fast tempo of that genre helps him to stay focused. It’s up to you to find what works for you!

Most importantly, if you find yourself struggling with ADHD, or want to help someone with it, contact your university support services. They will have multitudes of help to give you, and usually, have support sessions available for those who need some extra help. Remember first and second year are a great time to figure out what works best for you, but also don’t be disheartened if you get past those years not completely sure – you can only try your best!

Michaela Clancy

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