Surviving College with ADHD: Lesson 3

My freshman year I learned that college is a whole different life than the “real world” I was used to.
ADHD College Blog | posted by Rebeka Covell
The ADDitude college blogger writes about surviving college and succeeding in school with ADHD

So far this week I’ve talked about strategies I found helpful during college move-in and during class/homework times. But, what about the rest of the time?! You may be thinking; the rest of the time, but I’ve had ADHD all my life. Even so, my freshman year I learned that college is a whole different life than the “real world” I was used to.

Lesson One: Hyperactivity. One of the worst things I’ve found about college was the inability to just GO. You’re stuck on campus; there’s nowhere to go. Basically, the options are: Stay in your dorm room (no way, too cramped and boring), go to the library (ha ha), walk around campus (and do what, exactly?), or find other ways to entertain yourself. One of my friends and I used to have tons of fun walking to the grocery store on Friday afternoon, and buying snacks for a movie night. But you can’t always rely on friends to occupy your time. Sometimes I’ve just finished a long week of exams and I’m ready to go shopping, out to eat, anything; but my friends all have exams the next week so they’re holing themselves up in the library studying all weekend. This is where I learned to make my own fun. I just jumped on the train by myself and headed to the mall for a day of shopping alone. I was perfectly capable of shopping alone in high school, why can’t I do it now?

Lesson Two: Don’t let your sleep habits get totally out of whack. Seriously, no matter how hard you try to wake up; if you didn’t go to sleep at a reasonable time it’s going to be impossible. Trust me, it still happens to me almost every day and I’m working so hard to correct my sleep pattern. I can sleep 4-5 hours a night and have no problem the next day for a few days until eventually I can barely keep my eyes open past 7pm. It’s hard to fall asleep early in a busy dorm, but I’ve found some things that helped me a lot. The main thing was listening to music. I put a quiet playlist on my iPod which usually helped me nod off quickly. If you have a roommate and don’t want to bother them with your music you can get some regular headphones (not the ear buds), turn it up kind of loud, and hang them over your headboard. That’s what I did, and it worked every night. Also, get one of those memory foam mattress toppers; they’re so comfortable you’ll be motivated to finish your homework quickly so you can crawl into your comfy bed!

Lesson Three: Wash your dishes right away! I know the thoughts; the kitchen’s so far away, I’m going to eat later so I’ll wash everything together. But hours go by, then a few days, and pretty soon you have a huge pile of sticky plates, and mugs with an inch of coffee on the bottom. It’s gross. And week-old Easy Mac is not easy to clean out of the bottom of a bowl.

Lesson 4: Pick up your room. (OK, stop listening to me; I sound like my mom). But in all seriousness it is easier and less stressful when you can actually see the floor, find something to wear to class and grab your notebook as you run out the door. Being a complete slob myself I know that asking someone with ADHD to clean their room daily, just putting things back when you’re done, is next to impossible. Try to set aside some time on the weekends to spend an hour or two putting all your clothes, books, shoes, and everything else away where it belongs. You know as well as I do that the flip side of inattentiveness is hyperfocus; use it to your advantage to move mountains of junk as fast as you can. I always feel so much better after I’ve cleaned my entire room and I can reward myself with a T.V. show, an hour surfing the web, or a quick (or long if you stayed up late doing homework) nap.

My last tip before I completely nag you to death: Don’t stress so much! I’ve seen so many college kids worry themselves sick over an exam and not do well because they were so tired when it came time to take the test. Take a break, get some fresh air, have a 15 minute dance party during a homework break (my favorite) just remember to refocus on your work when the break is over!

OK, my last, last tip (this is it, I swear) bring your keys with you when you take a shower. Every time your hand touches the doorknob you should think: "Where are my keys?" Just going to the bathroom or your friend’s room two doors down it’s easy to forget them. But it’s no fun to be locked out, dripping wet, in nothing but a towel while you wait 35 minutes for the police to unlock your door.

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