According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ADHD is “one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood.” Unfortunately, many people misunderstand the disorder and what it actually is. Oftentimes, the disorder is seen in childhood and presents throughout adulthood. For adults and young adults with ADHD, it can typically present through the following symptoms, as noted by the Mayo Clinic: impulsiveness; disorganization and problems prioritizing; poor time management skills; problems focusing on a task; low frustration tolerance; frequent mood swings; and trouble coping with stress. Please note that this list is not exhaustive in nature.
October was ADHD Awareness Month, with the goal of raising awareness about the disorder, eradicating the stigma, sharing helpful and informational resources, and shining a light on supports that can help individuals and families in their quest to live harmoniously with ADHD. So let us look back and better understand what ADHD is, what support students can find at SUNY for this type of disorder, and general health and well-being strategies to better manage ADHD or symptoms that mirror those associated with the disorder.
Eight Holistic Strategies for Attention-deficit Behaviors or Symptoms
Whether you have ADHD or not, or may think you have it and haven’t been formally diagnosed, the below holistic strategies can help in living more harmoniously with ADHD or related attention-deficit symptoms. Please note that the below is not meant to represent medical advice, but rather wellness and self-care behaviors you can carry out to better support your overall mental health and well-being.
1) Incorporate Exercise Regularly
Research shows that regular exercise or body movement may be able to improve ADHD symptoms. During exercise, the brain releases chemicals called neurotransmitters, including dopamine, which aid in attention and clear thinking. It doesn’t matter the type of exercise you do. Here are some suggestions to get you started: biking, running, dancing, fitness classes, or weight training.
2) Try a Yoga or Tai Chi Class
While yoga includes body movement and could certainly qualify as a form of exercise, it also incorporates meditative and mindfulness components. Research has shown that individuals participating in a regular yoga practice saw improvements in hyperactivity, anxiety, and social problems. Additionally, Tai Chi may also help with feelings of anxiousness and hyperactivity, as well as emotional regulation. Check with your campus Recreation Centers to see what class offerings are available.
3) Mindfulness and Meditation
PsychCentral shares that individuals with ADHD may be more likely to experience shorter attention spans and a wandering mind. Practicing mindfulness through breathing exercises, journaling, and meditation can help to reduce anxiety and hyperactivity over time. Don’t be discouraged if these practices don’t come naturally to you at first–keep setting aside time little by little to become more familiarized and comfortable with the practice that resonates best with you.
4) Prioritize Sleep
Getting enough sleep–seven to eight hours for adults–helps to lessen the effects felt by ADHD and the ability to control or resist impulses. PsychCentral shares that getting good quality sleep can help us recharge our brains, store memories, and make room for new information. Here is a resource that will help you learn more about actions you can take to sleep more soundly.
4) Spend Time Outside
If you have access to greenery and nature settings, getting outside on a regular basis for even 20 minutes can help improve concentration. Studies have also shown that going for a walk in a park or in a nature setting before performing a task that requires a longer attention span can help increase one’s ability to concentrate. So, take a walk around the greener parts of your campus or at local parks or nature preserves to take advantage of this benefit!
6) Meal Planning
Deciding what to eat or when to meal prep can feel overwhelming amidst a busy schedule and stressful lives. For those with ADHD, it can especially be difficult because, as according to NextStep 4 ADHD, “Meal planning requires decision-making, planning, prioritizing — all of which are executive function skills.”
Eating balanced meals that align with your nutritional preferences is a great way to maintain good health and ensure you’re eating the proper nutrients to support your brain. Here are some tips on how to make meal planning easier for you: make a master list of 10 easy-to-make recipes, make extra food and freeze it, check your pantry before heading to the grocery store, and check your daily schedule to figure out the best timeframe to cook.
7) Consider Targeted Therapy
If you have access to a therapist who is skilled in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), this form of therapy is very helpful for people with ADHD and other folks who experience who may struggle with anxiety-fueled or negative thought patterns. CBT is best known for helping people see things in a more logical, balanced manner, and gives them the confidence to approach their more fearful-based thoughts head-on.
SUNY Supports and Services
At SUNY, there are supports and services in place for students who either are already diagnosed as having ADHD or are seeking to be assessed for ADHD. For starters, SUNY campuses each have Disability Services Offices to help support students with learning disabilities or other forms of disabilities so that they have access to welcoming and inclusive living and learning environments. Contact your campus Disability Services Office to learn more about what supports they provide.
Additionally, students may seek out ADHD assessments at their respective counseling centers; community mental health partners; or SUNY’s Student Tele-Counseling Network, if they attend a school that participates in the network. Students will need to contact their campus mental health and wellness professionals to inquire about the availability of assessments and any other pertinent information.
SUNY’s Mental Health Repository is also a great resource to learn more about campus, county, and nation-wide resources available to students.
In closing, ADHD Awareness Month helps us to raise awareness and have conversations about the disorder, its effects, and how we can incorporate practices into our daily lives to help manage our attention space, concentration, and other elements of mental health.
The Mayo Clinic’s webpage on ADHD also includes more information on symptoms and causes, when to see a doctor, risk factors, and more.
If you are experiencing a crisis and do not have access to a healthcare practitioner, you can reach out to the following resources:
SUNY Crisis Text Line
Text Got5U to 741-741
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
New York State COVID-19 Emotional Support Hotline:
Veterans Crisis Line:
- Call: 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK) and Press 1
- Text: 838255
- Chat: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/chat
Support for deaf and hard of hearing:
- Chat and text message (838255)
- For TTY users: Use your preferred relay service or dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255. Or chat with us.
Disclaimer: The information contained within this blog is being provided as a convenience for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide specific medical advice to any individual. This page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by SUNY of any particular products or services provided. Please consult a medical professional for any medical advice or assistance.