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ADHD Support: - Active Rest Routine for Relaxation

One of the things I hear most often from my ADHD clients, is that "Relaxation is just such a struggle". They have tried all the neurotypical ways to relax, some with limited success. However they often don't take into consideration the interaction between:-

  1. Dopamine deficiency

  2. Cortisol overproduction.

For those with ADHD they have a deficiency in dopamine so their minds are always seeking ways to get a dopamine 'hit'. Its a bit like a never ending unconscious need and the brain is scanning the environment for ways to meet this, leading to brain hyperactivity. Due to the cycling of the dopamine seeking activities, Cortisol production goes into overdrive. The symptoms of high cortisol production are those we see in STRESS affecting the whole body. So you can see how relaxation is so difficult.

The routine that I have found that worked well is taylored to balance these hormone interactions

  1. During the day, and particularly at the end of the day MOVEMENT! The reason I say this and not 'exercise' is that this stage doesn't require 3 trips to the gym or a 5k run. In fact cardiovascular exercise if done in excess and too regularly can feed the increase of cortisol. The aim is to burn any excess cortisol and increase all the feel good hormones. If you work in a sedentary job, get up at regular intervals and move for a few minutes. Other movement activities can involve DANCE, YOGA, PILATES, even just SWINGING YOUR ARMS. With all these steps try something consistently for a week before assessing if something needs tweaking.

2. BREATHWORK Box breathing works well for this as it can be done as regularly as needed and does not require extended periods of concentration. I do suggest that this is done for 2-5mins before getting out of bed. This is because upon waking our minds and bodies kicks off quite abruptly. Anxiety in particular is experienced at higher levels at this point, Box breathing tricks the brain into thinking we're calm. On my social media accounts there is a guided box breathing video that you can follow.

3. ACTIVE REST There are two elements of this

a) ACTIVE: This refers to occupying the brains activity seeking drive and it gives it something to focus on.

b) BODY REST: This doesn't need to be zero movement but it isn't driving cortisol.

Suggestions: Creativity: Colouring, Crochet, Knitting, Pottery, Painting, Wood turning, low level mechanical tinkering, Cooking

Nature: Gardening (not excessive digging over beds etc), Birdwatching, Houseplant care, Seaglass collecting wander on the beach, Fishing

Water Activity: Water has a unique effect calming our nervous systems. Paddleboarding, Kayaking, Gentle swimming

Music: Listening to, playing musical instrument.

Massage: This isn't something you do but it has been found to produce dopamine, and the touch occupies the brains focus.

In deciding what Active Rest activity to try, think about what you currently find relaxing? Often combination of things also work ie listening to music alongside a creative activity.

Enjoy the exploration of what works for you, no one thing with fit everyone.

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