6 Relaxation Techniques for People With ADHD

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Setting aside time for relaxation is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Chronic stress can contribute to heart disease, depression, anxiety and obesity, according to Harvard Health. For people with ADHD, relaxing can be as much of a challenge as other well-known difficulties such as remembering small details or getting through the day’s to-do list. Have you ever been instructed to “clear your mind” or “let your thoughts drift past” and wondered if that’s even possible with a racing ADHD brain? Here are six relaxation techniques for people with ADHD.


1. Exercise

Exercise is important for everyone, but it’s especially vital for reducing the everyday symptoms of ADHD. Moving your body promotes the release of dopamine, the “reward chemical” lacking in the brains of ADHD people. Burning off extra energy can help you focus on the rest of the day’s tasks.

2. Reading

Reading is an excellent stress reliever that keeps the ADHD brain active and occupied. While it may seem difficult to read in large stretches at first, it’s possible to train your brain to focus on a book over time.

Start with a chapter before bed and choose a book that honestly interests you instead of what your friends are reading or what book happens to be popular right now. This can help you enter a hyper focused state. Getting engrossed in a work of fiction is one of the best ways to unlock all of the benefits of reading, such as increased empathy and critical thinking skills. 

3. Short Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises don’t have to be a half-hour gauntlet in which you try and fail to keep your brain focused. You can reap relaxation from breathing exercises that are only one or two minutes long.

If you feel stressed during the day, try putting on a two-minute timer. Breathe in on a count of five, and then out on a count of five. After the timer goes off, you’ll have activated your body’s relaxation pathways and made a noticeable change in your stress levels.

4. Moving Meditation

Sitting meditation works excellently for some people, but many people with ADHD struggle with it. Luckily, sitting down and closing your eyes is not the only way to meditate.

Moving meditation, such as athletic vinyasa yoga or precise tai chi, provides the same benefits while giving you physical activity and movements for your brain to focus on. Repeating the same routines may also strengthen your working memory.

5. Miniature Massages

Weekly full-body massages go a long way to combat stress, but not many people have the funds or time to afford them. Tiny massages during the day can both relieve stress and function as a productive fidget gesture. Simply work your thumb along the creases of your palm for a few minutes for a miniature hand massage. You can also give yourself a quick foot massage during an exercise routine’s warmup or cooldown. 

6. Visualization Techniques

The brain of a person with ADHD has boundless creative potential. Visualization is a great solution for ADHD people, especially inattentive type ADHD people who are natural daydreamers. 

The classic visualization technique is to picture a place where you feel most at peace. This can be a warm beach with waves lapping at the shore or a more personal place, such as a childhood hideaway or the setting of an important positive moment in your life. As you visualize your “happy place,” focus not just on the sights but also on the sounds, smells and other sensations in the setting. 

You can also use visualization to deal with unpleasant emotions directly. People with ADHD are prone to rejection sensitive dysphoria, or feeling intense anxiety about any perceived rejection. Picture this anxiety as a dark cloud in your body and use deep breaths to break up and exhale the cloud. 

People with ADHD frequently need different solutions to common problems than neurotypical people. Relaxation is no exception. Cycle through techniques and exercises until you find the combination that works for your brain.