If you have ADHD like me, you’re probably a little concerned about reports of a national Adderall shortage. I was able to refill my prescription to Adderall recently, but the idea of not having access to my medication on the days I need to focus stirs a bit of anxiety.
That said, I’ve always been troubled by my dependency on the stimulant. Although we know that Adderall is a popular study among college students and news writers alike, its side effects are many, and it’s illegal to use without a prescription.
Thankfully there are plenty of natural ways to improve your focus and concentration. First, always consult your doctor about treatment for ADHD and usage of prescription drugs. Once you do, here are 8 Tips on How to Focus Naturally without Adderall:
1. Getting enough sleep is the important first step to focus naturally without Adderall
When you’re sleep-deprived, your ability to focus and concentrate suffers. Aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night to keep your mind sharp. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, reduce bright screens like TVs or your phone in the hours before bed, or turn on a blue-light filter, as the blue light can trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime.
A healthy body equals a healthy mind. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which helps to deliver essential nutrients and oxygen. It also releases chemicals that promote brain health, such as serotonin.
3. Consuming omega-3 fatty acids may have positive effects
Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in salmon, nuts, seeds and can be taken as a supplement. They have been shown to improve cognitive function and protect the brain against age-related decline, and research shows they have some benefits for children with ADHD.
The Children’s ADD nonprofit CHADD reports that researchers in Taiwan and the United Kingdom performed 12-week randomized trial on the effects of omega-3s consumed by children, finding, “children with low EPA levels showed improvement in their abilities to focus and maintain attention,” when consuming the fatty acids.
The results were mixed however, with the study also noting, “children who had normal or high levels of EPA did not have any improvement in their ADHD symptoms, and some displayed an increase in impulsivity.”
4. Have a cup of coffee or tea
While it may seem counterintuitive to switch your Adderall prescription for another stimulant, the caffeine found naturally in coffee and tea may have fewer side effects as the prescribed drug, and, of course, can be bought without a prescription at the grocery store and is pretty cheap.
A study has shown that moderate doses of caffeine can boost brain function and focus, including improvements in reaction time and, “facilitates learning in tasks in which information is presented passively.”
However, the study also noted, “in high doses, there is an increase in tense arousal, including anxiety, nervousness, jitteriness,” so don’t overdo it and squander your day zipping around the office like Jessie Spano in Saved by the Bell after taking too many caffeine pills. You’ll be so excited, yet so scared when you don’t get a lick of work done.
5. Manage stress levels through meditation
Stress can take a toll on your mental wellbeing and make it difficult to concentrate. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try some relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation.
6. Limiting distractions is an important step to focus naturally without Adderall
This one might seem obvious, but so many of us try to get our work done in places with unlimited distractions, essentially shooting ourselves in the foot… or rather, the focusing parts of our brain.
That means if you’re working space is filled with knick-knacks, chatty co-workers, loud sounds outside, hide those distractions in a locked door and find the largest pair of noise-cancelling headphones your head can fit, strap it on, and don’t look up.
If you’re working from home, try keeping your phone in another room, turn the TV off, and if you listen to music, make sure it’s instrumental, as lyrical music can draw away your attention from the task at hand. Or better yet, find a spot facing a wall at a local library, and never look up.
7. Take breaks when you need them, or try to the Pomodoro Technique
When you feel your concentration waning, step away from whatever you’re working on for a few minutes. Go for a walk, chat with a friend, or grab a quick snack. A short break can help to refresh your mind and improve your focus when you return to your task at hand.
If you want a tried and true system of breaking up your workday to promote focus, try the Pomodoro technique, which breaks your day into bursts of productivity, then breaks.
8. Stimulate your mind with games and puzzles.
Games like Sudoku and crosswords help to keep your mind active and improve your problem-solving skills.
We won’t know for awhile when the supply of Adderall is back up to meeting the demand of patients who are prescribed it. If you are looking for ways to focus without Adderall or similar prescription drugs, the natural tips above can boost your cognitive function without any, or very limited, negative side effects.
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