“9 Calming Strategies for a Racing, Restless Mind.”
“Although it can be exhausting to live in my head, I now feel so much more in control after learning and implementing techniques that help calm my racing mind. Here’s the formula I’m constantly tweaking, ensuring that the daily dance with my thoughts is a mostly positive one.”
Prior to my diagnosis, I assumed that my inner chatter, curiosity, questioning, hypervigilance, and overthinking were pretty normal. I wondered why no one else seemed so completely drained by the end of the day, but I did not yet appreciate the extent to which people with ADHD dwell inside their particularly busy heads. Yes, I am always taking in other people’s thoughts and opinions, but the real exhaustion came from contending with my own, disruptive inner chatter.
The ‘H’ in ADHD, I learned, doesn’t just refer to physical hyperactivity (although sitting for long periods isn’t easy for me). It is also very much connected to ‘internal restlessness’ and a fired-up nervous system – in itself connected to emotional burnout. When my diagnosing psychiatrist explained this to me, it was like the heavens opened, and I could hear the angelic echo of ‘hallelujah.’ Finally, I understood the cause of my frequent mental exhaustion, and why I often prefer to listen, rather than talk.
Don’t get me wrong – having a busy brain that runs at x 1.5 speed can also be a huge asset. I’m the queen of ideas, from brainstorming to problem solving to matchmaking (I have a mental Rolodex of single friends and have orchestrated four successful relationships to date).
But an ever-running mind has caused some major headaches over the years. With four children (one already diagnosed with ADHD), overthinking and catastrophizing doesn’t help much. Years of working in public relations had me convinced that one oversight on my part could mean the end of an entire business. True insight into how my mind works could have spared me years of anxiety and worry.
Before I was diagnosed with ADHD, I thought I was just a neurotic killjoy, sapping the fun out of most situations with my anxiety-ridden ‘what if’ and catastrophe-setting scenarios. Now I recognize that overthinking and ruminating are common to the ADHD experience.
Although it can be exhausting to live in my head, I now feel so much more in control after learning and implementing techniques that help calm my racing mind.
So here is my formula that I’m constantly tweaking, ensuring that the daily dance with my thoughts is mostly a positive one.
How to Relax Your ADHD Mind
1. Take action — any action.
If we know that we have the tendency to live in our heads, then sometimes taking the smallest step forward can be enough to quiet our thoughts, worries, and anxieties.
Staying in the rumination zone leads to procrastination, perfectionism, guilt, imposter syndrome or believing we’re unable to do anything. But taking any action often leads us out of this zone. Action, in many ways, is the antidote to a busy mind. When our focus is away from our automated thoughts, we can pour more focus, love, patience and creativity into the things that matter. The more we access this, the less space we have to overthink negative thoughts.
2. Try to be more intentional with your thoughts.
Guard your headspace, and pay attention to where you’re focusing your mental energy; set clear boundaries for emotional wellbeing. When we’re not intentionally choosing the right thoughts, the negativity can quickly become our reality and we begin attracting relatable scenarios to match what we’re energetically absorbing. Try this EFT tapping video to help you overcome your anxious thinking and ruminating.
3. Dismiss the thoughts that do not serve you.
Just because it’s in your head doesn’t mean you have to believe it. Make a conscious effort every day to return your brain to a neutral thought and avoid getting sucked in by the negative. Take five minutes in the morning, before you check your phone, to do some meditating, breathing, or tapping to ground yourself and decrease reactivity. No matter what, don’t allow a negative narrative to pull you off path and limit your success – whatever that may look like.
4. Notice your triggers.
Create mental boundaries to protect yourself from certain thoughts or beliefs that aren’t serving your highest good. The TV shows or channels we watch, the podcasts we choose, the people with whom we engage, and the books we read can all inform our self-beliefs – sometimes in the negative. These combine to play a feedback loop to our brains, potentially making our ruminations even scarier.
Take notice of the activities and people that align with your values and contribute to inner peace. Magnetize yourself to only the stuff that creates positive energy, action and change. If the other stuff fills you with dread, unpack it and decide if it’s there to serve you or shame you.
5. Commit to what makes you feel best.
What makes you feel good? What would improve your day? Whether it’s a yoga class, singing, baking, exercising, dancing, or chatting with a friend, try incorporating one element of joy into your day to keep your mind in a more positive state.
If you’re unable to commit to a feel-good activity, think deep about where the push/pull is coming from, and what areas of your life can be adjusted.
6. Resisting isn’t always the answer.
Embrace and accept the way your brain works. Trying to put a full stop to your thoughts will never work; that resistance often contributes to our internal battles and anxiety. In understanding our brains more, we empower ourselves to make conscious and aligned thought choices every day.
Try EFT tapping, which helps the brain step out of fight or flight mode and instead activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is associated with calm and stress reduction. Taking an opportunity to pause and consciously breathe can also do wonders to quiet the mind, as can meditation – being conscious of our thoughts with no judgement.
7. Relax the body.
Try this powerful technique of noticeably softening your body by recognizing where you’re holding tension. This grounding exercise allows the body and mind to simultaneously relax and become more present. You can do this reset as many times as you need (I do it up to 20 times a day) to help recalibrate and regulate your emotions.
Physically shaking it off is another way to jolt your system “out of it.” In all, any form of physical movement you enjoy is great for disengaging the brain from overthinking.
8. Attend to your restlessness.
Could your inner restlessness be trying to tell you something? Do your thoughts and worries follow a pattern? Consider gently inviting them in for a change. Learning to sit with your thoughts and reconnect with your intuition can be especially valuable with ADHD in the picture. Our hypersensitivity and emotional dysregulation can sometimes lead us off course and plague us with self-doubt, which is why it’s important to train the skill of recognizing when something feels right or wrong.
9. A sense of humor helps.
Being able to laugh at ourselves can be a powerful tool toward self-compassion and kindness. A sense of humor removes the heaviness of a situation while offering commonality and interconnectedness. Develop your sense of humor and lightness by embracing your truth, learning to open up with vulnerability, and speaking with honesty.
How to Relax Your Mind: Next Steps
- Read: How to Feel Carefree When You Have ADHD
- Read: “Why Do I Assume the Worst-Case Scenario?” How to Stop the ADHD Mind from Worrying
- Download: Make Mindfulness Work for You
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