In a world that constantly demands attention, staying focused can be a formidable challenge for many. For those navigating the unique landscape of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), maintaining concentration on studies, work, and daily tasks can feel like a neverending uphill battle. People with ADHD are also more likely to experience anxiety, which can make focusing on the task at hand even harder because you may feel anxious about the fact that you are having trouble concentrating. 1 The journey to sustained focus is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather a personalized exploration of strategies and techniques tailored to each individual.
If you are considering applying to ND school and are concerned that your ADHD may get in the way of your studies, we have compiled a few evidence-supported tips that can help folks with ADHD feel confident in their ability to manage academic expectations and achieve their goal of becoming a naturopathic doctor. *Please note this should not replace formal assessment and treatment by a licensed healthcare professional.
Many people with ADHD struggle to keep track of tasks and responsibilities. Finding an organizational habit that works for you and sticking to it can help make it easier to manage your studies, work, and personal obligations. Some people like online calendar systems, while others prefer physical dayplanners or a combination of both. Try out different systems for tracking your schedule, and see what works for you. Make daily, weekly, and monthly to-do lists, and use sticky notes (either paper or virtual) to organize and prioritize your assignments. Learn how to hack into your energy and focus, as each of us is wired differently.
If you know that your ADHD sometimes causes you to get distracted for long periods of time, factor that into your planning by breaking projects into multiple “chunks” with separate due dates. This “chunking” method will look different depending on your personal workflow and the project you are working on, but here is a simple example of how you could break up a project:
Day 1: Brainstorming due
Day 2: Outline due
Day 3: paragraphs 1-3 due
Day 4: paragraphs 4-6 due
Day 5: edited final draft due
Structuring projects this way can make the information easier to process and reduce the likelihood that you will become overwhelmed and unable to finish the project on time. 2
When making your schedule, try giving yourself a final deadline of a couple of days before an assignment is actually due so that you have some buffer time built into your plan.
Schedule Short Breaks
Try working in a focused way for a set amount of time, then taking a short break and getting back to your focused work when the set time of your break is up. Research shows that the Pomodoro technique, where you spend 25 minutes of focused time followed by a 5-minute break, can be a helpful tool for individuals with ADHD to get work done effectively. 3 Having a set time of 25 minutes to work followed by a 5-minute break helps to create momentum and increase focus. Also be attentive to the time of day that is naturally most productive for you, along with the role meals and blood sugar regulation play in your energy and attentiveness.
Move Your Body Mindfully
Research shows that practicing mindful meditation may increase the attention span of those with ADHD. 4 Mindful movement practices, including yoga and tai chi, can be effective for calming those with ADHD and improving focus. 5 6 Try integrating a daily mindful movement practice into your routine by doing ten to twenty minutes of yoga or tai chi in the morning or before bed.
It may also be a good idea to get outside for short walks or exercise when you start to feel your focus waning. Studies have shown that spending time outdoors in nature can help those with ADHD calm their minds. 7 Try taking a walk around a nearby park, nature trail, or beach to help clear your mind and reset.
Give Yourself Reminders
Those with ADHD may have a tendency to procrastinate. 8 Giving yourself little reminders can help reduce the urge to procrastinate and get you back on track. Set alarms on your phone and leave sticky notes nearby reminding you what you’re supposed to be doing. Having plenty of gentle reminders may help you shift your focus back to the task at hand. Setting rules around when you can use social media or other distractions can limit the number of rabbit holes you go down.
Many people with ADHD are able to manage their symptoms effectively and successfully pursue their goals. If you are thinking about becoming an ND, using the above tips can help you navigate your chosen program and balance the academic and clinical requirements. Patients with ADHD may also benefit from working with counselors who specialize in ADHD. A counselor can help you determine the tools and techniques that are best for you. NDs can also be a powerful addition to your healthcare team, helping to find nature-based focus hacks.
Remember to be gentle with yourself, you can do it!