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Fidgeting and Restlessness in ADHD and How to Manage

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

Restlessness, fidgeting, and difficulty remaining still for long periods of time is a part of ADHD some people experience. In my practice, I often hear about the challenges that come with fidgeting and restlessness. These issues can cause some people to sometimes feel frustration, embarrassment, or even ashamed, but they are a natural part of ADHD and can be managed with the right strategies and support.

First, it is important to understand the connection between fidgeting and restlessness and attention. If you have ADHD, your brain's executive function, which is responsible for regulating attention and impulse control, is working differently. Restlessness can also come in the form of racing thoughts, which can make sleep difficult. This can lead to a feeling of constant nervous energy, as your body and mind are constantly looking for something to focus on. Fidgeting and restlessness can serve as a coping technique for this, allowing you to release some of your nervous energy and provide a distraction from your difficulty with focus.

In adulthood, fidgeting and restlessness can manifest in different ways than it did in childhood. Children may be noisy, climb, jump, fidget, or get easily bored. By adulthood you may find yourself tapping your foot, shaking your leg while sitting at a desk, feel the need to constantly shift or change positions, play with a pen, doodle, twirl your hair, or play with your necklace. You may find that you need to get up and move around frequently, or feel the urge to take frequent breaks during tasks. These symptoms can be particularly challenging in professional settings, where they may be perceived as unprofessional or disruptive.

But, it is important to remember that fidgeting and restlessness are not necessarily negative behaviors. In fact, they can be helpful in some situations, such as during physical activity or creative tasks. The key is to find ways to channel this energy in a way that is productive and manageable.

One strategy for managing fidgeting and restlessness is to incorporate movement into daily routines. This can include taking frequent breaks to stretch or walk around, or engaging in physical activity before or after work. Even small changes, such as standing up and walking around during phone calls or meetings, can help to reduce restlessness and improve focus.

Another strategy is to use tools or objects that allow for sensory stimulation. This can include items such as stress balls, fidget spinners, or textured objects, which offer an outlet for nervous energy. You may find that listening to music or using noise-cancelling headphones can also help to reduce distractions and improve focus.

In addition to these strategies, it can be really helpful to seek support from a counsellor or coach who is experienced in working with individuals with ADHD. Counselling or coaching can provide a safe and non-judgmental space to explore and address the challenges that come with ADHD, as well as to develop coping strategies and tools for managing symptoms. You can also work to develop a better understanding of your specific triggers for restlessness and fidgeting. For example, you may find that you are more prone to these feelings of restlessness when you are stressed or overwhelmed, while others may notice an increase in restlessness during certain times of the day. By identifying these triggers, you can work to develop strategies to manage their impact and prevent symptoms from becoming overwhelming.

Fidgeting and restlessness can be challenging for people with ADHD, particularly in adulthood. However, with the right strategies and support, it can be managed. By incorporating movement into daily routines, using tools and objects for sensory stimulation, seeking support from a counsellor or

fidget item for people with ADHD
Fidget toy

coach, and developing an understanding of specific triggers, you can learn to manage your symptoms and improve overall quality. If you would like to learn more about ADHD counselling or coaching, visit the contact page for a free 15 minute consultation.

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