Wednesday, March 20, 2013

ADHD: Taking Your Nervous Energy Out for a Walk

I love walks at dusk.

Never mind that I already went out for a 2 mile walk tonight. My nervous system feels positively oppressed. I need to feel the wind on my face and the ground moving under my feet. The stars fight to be seen above the city lights, but I just tonight found a place to lie down and watch the stars in private. I remember how cool the grass was on my hot skin after my brisk walk, and I look forward to getting worked up like that again. Then I can rest in my new spot, let my eyes adjust to the semi-darkness, and see the stars pop out one by one from the gray sky.

But not for long. Soon I'll need to leave stargazing behind and walk, walk, walk. If I still had nervous energy built up after that, I could work out or dance or climb stairs. Or write. Or clean. Anything but give in to the boredom.

Sleep? I can't do that. I'm too restless.

Hallowell & Ratey list this quality as one of the hallmarks of Adult ADHD.

16. Restlessness

One usually does not see in an adult the full-blown hyperactivity one may see in a child. Instead, one sees what looks like “nervous energy”.

Let's see…

  • ☑ Pacing
  • ☑ drumming of fingers
  • ☑ shifting positiong while sitting
  • ❏ leaving a table or room frequently
  • ☑ feeling edgy while at rest

I experience four out of five of those frequently. I've also noticed that as an adult I am more mentally fidgety than physical. If you doubt me, just catch a glimpse of me from the side. Not svelte by any means.

I have found, though, that there seems to be two types of restlessness. When I am physically restless, like now, a spurt of physical activity calms the mind and soothes the ADHD soul. When I am mentally restless, I seek more sedentary pursuits. I can lose myself in a book or a TV show because it engages my mind, especially binge watching on Netflix. Reading news sites is my binge reading. Above all, I find escapism captures my attention when I'm mentally restless better than more intellectually edifying subjects like documentaries or books on politics.

Still, sometimes nothing beats going out for a walk, run, or bike ride, even if I'm mentally restless. I also enjoy going for a ride in my car at those times. Motion, especially rapid motion, soothes my edgy feelings. It allows me to think and to uncoil from pent up stress. Motion frees my mind. This is likely why I pace when I talk on the phone. It is why sit down jobs are painful for me unless they engage my mind. And this is why an 8am two hour lecture on the subject of drawing almost killed me in college.

How does ADHD restlessness affect you? Have you found remedies? Share them with us below. In the meantime, I'm going out for another walk.