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How to be a student?

  1. Jan 13, 2013 #1
    It seems like any goal I try to make in life will involve being a student and passing exams. But I can't, I've tried for many years, I can't study like a normal person. I will tell myself (after the fifth time taking the same exam), this time I'll study a month or two in advance, but I will always leave it until several hours before the exam, everytime without fail. This is because even if I take away distractions, and no matter how interested I am in the subject, I can only concentrate, at best, a couple of hours. I will always slip into daydreaming (won't realise this until I catch myself daydreaming and pacing back and forth), or I'll say 'I'll go out for a walk and then I'll work', "I'll watch an episode of x and then I'll work', 'I'll research into this for a while before I work' etc etc. And when I do get down to work on questions, my mind can't focus on the question, and it can't come up with creative ways of solving them, not unless I'm pumped with adrenalin and it's a few hours before the exam, and suddenly I can focus better than usual. I've tried building study habits, I've tried making detailed study plans of what exercises/past papers I'll do and set deadlines. I just can't do it.

    For example, tomorrow morning I have an exam that I entered myself in (don't go to school) that I should have been preparing for since september. Haven't even touched the textbook since september. Luckily I've been entered into this exam before and have done a few all nighters over the years to prepare for it, and I've got tonight as well, so if I go through the past papers and mark schemes, and make a few flash cards I reckon I can get a D, maybe even a C or a B if the paper's easy.

    But I can't keep going on like this or I'll be stuck in limbo for good. How do I fix my major procrastination issues and how can I focus on questions like real students can? I just wish I could study like everyone else
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 13, 2013 #2
    Have you seen a psychiatrist about this?? This might be worthwhile.
  4. Jan 13, 2013 #3
    No, for two reasons. I didn't think it would be worthwhile as something like adult ADHD is rarely diagnosed and GPs don't generally diagnose you with it, and also I have some things that I do involuntarily that I really don't want a doctor to see, in case they come to the wrong conclusions and I get sectioned (in which case I can forget about having any sort of decent career in life). I basically involuntarily slip into daydreams a lot without noticing (as I said I find it hard to focus for a long time), and while daydreaming I'll involuntarily pace back and forth, make faces, talk to myself (well, mime, rarely do I blurt something out), make gestures, laugh or cry if a character cries in my head (I know they're not real), and especially to music that I like, that really gets me going into a daydream. I also have matted hair because I'm so disorganised and such a procrastinator that I never get round to brushing it, if they see that they might think there's something seriously wrong with me, and then I will forever be marked as mentally ill. I can never be sure I'm not doing it, I looked up once in a class a year ago, and the teacher looked at me as if I was strange, so I must have been doing it, but I couldn't tell. I've also been doing this since I was a kid (although much less)

    So that's why I can't just bug someone for adderall or whatever it is that makes people focus and be on my way
  5. Jan 13, 2013 #4
    To me it sounds like you have problems with self-discipline and confidence. If you really would like help with your issues, I second micromass's advice. A single doctor can't just call someone and have them take you away to an insane asylum (or whatever it is you daydream about). There are many people who are extremely disorganized which can be caused by a variety of things (laziness, unresolved issues, etc.).
  6. Jan 13, 2013 #5
    Well, it's a legitimate possibility they can refer you to a team who will then decide you need to be sectioned. But I'll consider going to the GP about it, thanks for your advice
  7. Jan 15, 2013 #6
    I have often been distracted easily, and I have also been a bad procrastinator in the past. In fact, depending upon what you are using as a reference of measure when you say you are not like "normal students," daydreaming and procrastinating might well be the "norm"--at least for mandatory education, for example.

    I would start by evaluating how interested you are in the subject matter and how much you really want to master this or that subject. You mentioned that you think you might be able to get a D or a B on this exam--that's a pretty wide range. Perhaps you procrastinate because you have been able to do so and have been able to do reasonably well to some greater or lesser degree in the past, etc. If this is the case, perhaps you are simply not interested in the subject matter but making yourself go through the motions anyway, in which case, like I said, you might reevaluate where your interests really lay.

    Once you have an idea of what specific fields of knowledge genuinely interest you, if you find yourself procrastinating, take a look at your eating habits first. This might sound out of left field, but people tend to consume a lot more sugar these days than they used to, and I tend to think this can have a great effect on concentration as much as it can affect rises and falls of energy levels. Obviously, I don't know anything about your eating habits, but it's a thought.
  8. Jan 21, 2013 #7
    Yeah, but I'm sure the severity of my procrastination isn't typical (not that it's anything to be proud of)

    I'm actually very interested in the subjects, I don't think that's the problem. Yes that's mostly true, I've been able to get by all this time, I got through my GCSEs with a few A's, B's, C's, D's and F's/U's (sacrificial subjects if the exam is on the same day as a maths or science one) by studying the night before. I got an A in GCSE maths by going through it all (two years worth of stuff) the night before and not doing any work at all during classes, but of course you can't get away with this in a-levels and beyond unless you're gifted. So I've hit a barrier where my old approach doesn't work anymore but I haven't learned how to properly focus and study properly over a prolonged time rather than in a sprint. I'm certain I'm completely fascinated by the subjects I'm supposed to be studying

    Ah, well I do have a pretty horrific diet with far too much sugar/carbs and I haven't eaten a vegetable since I was 8. It's an interesting suggestion, might be a factor but my complete lack of worth ethic is probably not all down to diet

    Thanks very much for the advice
  9. Jan 22, 2013 #8
    I think you are looking at this all wrong.

    What sort of chance of a decent career in life do you have if you *don't* get your issues addressed?

    Go see a psychiatrist.
  10. Jan 24, 2013 #9
    random thoughts--because i do intend to get some work done tonight:

    sugar absolutely does have an effect on your energy levels, ability to concentrate, even your daydreams.

    aside from that, your issues are more anxiety and attention/focus related. you're not likely to get sectioned for those. nothing you've described has indicated the possibility of self-harm.

    to me, your anxiety has a lot to do with your patterns. you seem to avoid things so you don't have to do the work/go through the motions. if you succeed, you skate to the next thing. if you do not, you have a built-in excuse to blame.

    as for not seeing a doctor, i think you really dont want to "do the work" required to sort through your issues. you've come to a message board where you can ignore the thread or the board entirely if you hear something you don't like, or when it becomes stressful, but if you're under a doctor's care, that's something that requires ongoing interaction that you can't just run from or put off.

    i do understand being worried about not saying the right things to the doctor, but you must trust the fact that they've worked with cases just as severe and likely more so than you. medicine is a science of course, and nothing is perfect but the process of psychological evaluation is designed around avoiding the things you've discussed. your doctor may not have a full solution on the first day, but things will come together as you begin to implement his/her suggestions.

    anxiety is a bi-itch. combine it with all of the random conditions that tend to come along for the ride and its pure hell to get past. however, it's all possible.
  11. Jan 24, 2013 #10
    There has been some pretty sound advice so far, in my opinion, going off the situation you (the OP) have described. Some of it has resonated with me and the things I have had to deal with as I learn to become a better student.

    The day-dreaming:
    This happens to me all the time, my mind wanders. It feels like times that I can sit and focus intently on a subject stand out because normally it is challenging to do. I have found that a short time spent meditating to clear my mind helps with focus. Set a timer (5/10/15/etc.) sit comfortably, try and let all the negative things bugging you leave, tell yourself that you are here to clear your mind. Spend these few minutes quietly breathing and trying to get yourself to think about nothing. For me, it's very challenging, but also sort of euphoric when I experience several minutes in a row that my mind actually feels like its under my control rather than aimlessly thinking about random thoughts that pop up. I do this with my eyes closed, and focusing on my breath entering and leaving my body seems to help with 'not thinking'.

    The diet:
    I found similarities here too. I typically don't eat many vegetables, my normal diet consists of lots of carbs, and sugars, I used to not drink water much (coffee, soda mainly). I think making small changes over time seems reasonable here. If you don't drink a lot of water, try to. I've had a good experience recently when I realized how little water I drank. I started drinking water a lot, all day long. It has gotten me to eat less, I believe I generally feel better, and you can pretty much drink as much as you want without consequences. If you're a soda drinker, cutting back on them will greatly reduce you're sugar intake, which is purely beneficial.

    I think being anxious about seeing a physician is normal, I haven't been in quite a while to a doctor and I'm a little worried just because no one likes to be given 'bad news'. That's not really a good reason not to go though. If you do in fact have issues you are incapable of dealing with on your own, a physician can help. They aren't there to make you feel guilty about your life, they devoted many years of hard work to become doctors because they have a passion for helping people achieve a quality of life they deserve.

    I hope I don't sound too opinionated, I know very little about you. But the advice in some of these posts sounds like good advice, and some of what you have described makes me think of myself. I just thought I would share a couple of things I have done that have helped me deal with issues similar to yours. One important thing I think you need to know is that no matter how discouraged you may feel at some point, there is most likely an answer. Things get better, you learn over time how to deal with inconveniences, you develop positive habits, etc. Making changes in your lifestyle takes time, try small things for a while, don't try and switch up everything at once. You do have the ability to change the way you feel, sometimes it's as easy as writing down three or four things that you are thankful for in your life, think on those for a few minutes and see how your mood feels before and after that.

    Try to go to bed each night just a little smarter and more organized than you were the day before. Think of where you'll be in a year.
  12. Jan 24, 2013 #11
    this needed to be repeated.
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