How to Relax with ADHD
You wake up. You scramble to get yourself and your family out the door to school and work. Certainly, work is stressful as you try to please your boss and make small talk with your coworkers. You come home to relationships and responsibilities that demand your focus. By the time dinner is over and the kids are in bed, you just want to relax. So, you plop on the couch, turn on the TV and dive into a bag of potato chips.
The cycle starts over again the next day, and despite the relaxation, you feel more drained, more distracted and more stuck in your routine. When people arrive at this point, they begin to find ways to modify home life, or they take a vacation day from work. These measures are largely unsuccessful because the issue is less about the activities and more about the relaxation.
Relaxation is such an important aspect of your life. It is also something that is performed at less than adequate levels. People with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are especially vulnerable to poor relaxation skills. They often seek out video games, TV, movies and computers in the name of relaxation, but the stimuli prevent your mind from slowing down. This causes physical and mental fatigue.
Benefits of Relaxation
Before you have a chance to be successful with relaxation, you must believe in the process. Here are some of the benefits you can find with relaxation:
- Improve your mood and lower your stress.
- Improve your memory and decision-making skills.
- Lower blood pressure and improve your cardiovascular health.
- Help you achieve goals and desired changes in your life.
- Boost your immune system to prevent illnesses.
- Prepare you for an important performance or event.
- Add a sense of self-control and independence in your life.
The positive effects of relaxation are far-reaching and highly desirable. Most of the improvements come from the lowered stress levels that people achieve through relaxation. When stress is low, you will be less impacted by your ADHD since your memory and impulsivity will be operating at higher levels. This illustrates how relaxation’s benefit carries on throughout the day.
Barriers to Relaxation
Generally, people who are new to relaxation will struggle to find the above benefits. Having ADHD, you will likely have more difficulty than others.
When you think about it, relaxation is the absence of stimulation. Typically, people with ADHD are more interested in activities that provide as much stimulation as possible. People with ADHD have many complaints about relaxation, including:
- Relaxation is boring. It’s true that relaxation is not the constant stimulation of a video game, but consider the notion that boring can be good.
- Relaxation is uncomfortable. Many people are constantly engaging in activities to avoid reality or escape from stressors altogether. Escape and avoidance are fine in moderation, but too much builds stress. Relaxation is a rarely-used muscle. You will feel sore for a while.
- Relaxation doesn’t work. Relaxation is a skill that needs to be developed. Could you ride a bike the first time you tried? No. It took practice and hard work. Relaxation is no different.
- I don’t need to relax/I don’t have time. Chances are good that you have many stressors in your life that build up. Relaxation can help reduce the unwanted effects of past stressors while softening the blow of future stressors. Most relaxations can be done in less time than it takes to watch one sitcom.
Since there are barriers in place, you need ways to break through the walls impeding your relaxation. Here’s how:
Use Them More Often
People with ADHD, anxiety or high stress can make up their minds too quickly on relaxation techniques; trying a breathing exercise for 10 minutes on several occasions is not enough.
Like most things worth doing, relaxation techniques are difficult. You may need months to become proficient at even the simplest diaphragmatic breathing technique but with practice comes improvement.
Schedule the Time
Your ADHD makes it difficult to spontaneously think about relaxation in the midst of a busy day. Set reminders on your phone or watch to give you the time needed to relax. What you were doing can wait, relaxation is more important.
Next Page: More barrier-busters, and additional information on how to relax with ADHD.