Navigating Zoom University With ADHD

When I was in fourth grade, my teacher told my parents that they should look into getting me tested for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Shortly after, I was diagnosed with ADHD (primarily non-hyperactive type), previously known as Attention Deficit Disorder. After that day, I started on my life-long journey of learning to cope with ADHD.

ADHD is a chronic neurobehavioral condition that causes trouble paying attention or focusing, impulsive behaviors, and for many, being overly active. ADHD looks different for everyone, but for me, it looks like having my mind in a million different directions every single second of every day. It’s forgetting to do things even if I’ve been reminded six times and have it written down. It causes me to be disorganized, and I struggle with prioritizing things. It causes me to get frustrated easily because I don’t slow myself down to process my emotions.

My journey with ADHD has not been an easy one. It’s been a lifetime of not really understanding why I am the way I am and why my brain works differently than my friends'. It’s been a lifetime of trial and error and having to learn how to go about school and my daily activities. It’s been a lifetime of trying countless different medicines in an attempt to find one that makes me feel like even a portion of myself, or doesn’t give me have anxiety attacks every night when it wears off, or doesn’t make me sick to my stomach or give me daily migraines. This portion of my journey pushed me to go through a period in high school where I refused to take medication as I hated the way it made me feel, and as a result, my schoolwork suffered.

However, when I made it to college, I came to the realization that I needed to take control of my ADHD. I would have to resume taking my medication and actually learn what strategies work for me. Over the last two years, I've gained a lot of insight on how to cope with my ADHD. By the time Spring 2020 came around, I felt as if I was finally on top of it and learning to effectively live with my diagnosis. I discovered that online classes were not for me. I lacked the time management, discipline and attentiveness that online classes required.  Then, the world changed, the circumstances changed, and COVID-19 was introduced into our lives. This caused the shutdown of classes, the university, and essentially, the world.  So, imagine my delight when I discovered that my entire course load would be online until further notice.

Don’t get me wrong, I understood and supported the change, but that did not make it any easier. I had to learn to adjust. Over the last six months, I've been working tirelessly trying to adjust to the world of online school. It has not been easy, but there are some easy changes that go a long way.

  1. 1. Make a list of daily reminders

    Test Taking Rep

    Here’s my list:

    - Take your medicine – I know it’s hard, but it’s necessary.

    - Make your bed in the morning – it’s so simple, and it serves as an all-day reminder to not get back into bed.

    - Eat something for lunch (even if it’s small) – it’s easy to forget, but it’s so important to make sure you’re eating.

    - Drink water – getting dehydrated won’t help anyone.

    - Don’t push yourself too hard – it’s okay to let yourself rest in the evenings.

  2. 2. Establish a routine

    woman stretching in bed

    Establishing a routine is important for everyone, not just for those who suffer from ADHD. If you have a solid routine for your day (what time you wake up, what you will study and when, etc.) it makes your life so much easier and helps you be more productive.

  3. 3. Schedule in breaks

    self-love

    When coping with ADHD, it's so easy to get hyper-focused on something and not take any breaks. If you don’t take any real breaks for eight hours, you are going to end your day feeling miserable and exhausted because you didn’t let your brain rest. I try to schedule in 15-minute breaks every two hours and a 45-minute break at some point in the middle of the day.

  4. 4. Exercise

    Exercise has proven countless times to be one of the most effective ways to reduce ADHD symptoms. If you can work out for even 30 minutes a day, your body and mind will be so grateful. It helps burn off energy and boosts dopamine and serotonin in your brain, which will significantly help your focus and energy levels.

  5. 5. Find the help you need

    The biggest part of learning to cope with ADHD is getting the help you need, whether it's finding the right medicine, going to therapy, trying meditation, exercising, or trying a specific diet. It’s hard to acknowledge when we need help, but suffering in silence only hurts you, so reach out and get help. UCF, like most universities, has an abundance of resources: there are doctors at Student Health Services that can help you or refer you elsewhere, therapists at Counseling and Psychological Services, a free gym to work off that extra energy, and so many other resources.

I’m by no means an expert on ADHD, and I still struggle with doing those things on a consistent basis. It’s a constant fight between what I want to do vs. what I need to do, however, all I can do is try my best! I know these times are hard and things are out of our control, but all we can do is adapt. That can mean a lot of things to different people, and it’s important to remember that however you are handling this is okay, even if it means taking some time off from school. Last, but certainly not least, remember that your mental health is of the utmost importance and you need to make sure you are taking care of it.