Mindset

ADHD Restlessness – Sit & Stay Is Not Just For Dogs Anymore

If you’re restless and you know it clap your hands. If you’re restless and you know it stomp your feet. If you’re restless and you know it and you really want to show it, if your restlessness and you know it, do something else!

Doing something else has been the story of my life.

“What are you doing?” someone asks.

“I’m looking for something else to do, that’s what I’m doing”, I say.

I’m not talking about the distractible part of my ADHD brain. I can be completely focused and still have the urge to move on to the next thing. Even when I am interested in that thing I am doing, I still feel compelled to do something else. I can be having fun, a lot of fun for crying out loud, and still be thinking “When is this fun going to be over so I can move on to the next thing?”

This Restlessness has a Siamese twin following it everywhere. She is called Impatience and let me tell you: she is a b*tch. But I won’t get started on her right now. These two hijackers seemed to have permanent residency status in my psyche. Meaning, they are the part of my ADHD I have yet to achieve significant mastery over.

You too?

My ADHD Restlessness… is not what I thought

Recently I had an epiphany about those crazy sisters Restlessness and Impatience. Through talking with my own coach, I discovered a new awareness about myself. This was following a cognitive preference survey I took, and learned a few things about myself I had not known previously. Or paid much attention to anyway.

I am built on forward motion. It is a fibre that is weaved through every cell of my being. This is the H part of my ADHD. It doesn’t always look like it on the outside, but inside that engine is always revving. Always looking forward, always moving forward. I don’t dwell on the past because I can’t go back in time. But I can get to the future if I keep moving, so guess where I dwell?

It’s not necessarily helpful. You can’t stop and smell the proverbial roses in the future because it hasn’t happened yet. And who cares? By the time I reached the roses I would have already started looking for the lilacs anyway.

Mindfulness practice has helped, to a certain extent. But not as much a conversation with my coach did.

See, I thought I needed to master my restlessness. Find a way to manipulate and manage it, the way I have done with my organization skills and attention span. This is a perfect example of how a one-size-fits-all approach will never work, especially when you’re trying to fit the “size” on ADHD.

The logic behind my view of restlessness was that I needed a better “strategy”. Not so. See, it’s not so much that I need to be moving. It’s that I need (NEED!) to be going somewhere. I simply need to be going. And I’m seldom happy for long when I get there, and that’s why I am eternally searching for the next thing.

So in the end, I didn’t need a strategy, I needed a way to re-frame this restlessness. I wanted desperately to be able to sit and play with my kids, be in the moment with them, and not feel the constant urge to tidy up the toys or start a load of laundry. I wanted a way that I could enjoy laying on the beach, without continually thinking about moving on to another beach or wondering if we should have chosen some other outing for the day.

I wanted to be able to sit and stay.

Here was the clincher for me. In order to sit and stay, I needed to honour my need for forward movement, which can also be expressed as “growth” or “making gains”. By focusing on the personal growth I am achieving through sitting and staying, just a little bit longer than I normally would, I have learned to linger.

This lingering is helping me move forward in leaps and bounds on some major personal and relationship goals I have. I am turning my challenge in on itself, leveraging it is a strength.

I needed to see “staying” from a different perspective. With every moment I am able to linger, when old fibres compel me to move on, I am going forward personally – further than I have ever gone before. Because going is really about growing.

Tell me about your restlessness, where it shows up and how you manage it. Have you had any other challenges that you’ve turned in to strengths? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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5 comments on “ADHD Restlessness – Sit & Stay Is Not Just For Dogs Anymore

  1. Hi Andrea, I’ve just recently accepted my 15 year old diagnosis and have been reading everything I could find. I’d like to know more about what you mean when you say lingering. The piece was well written but you didn’t explain your experience with something that has obviously made a difference!

    1. Hi Adam, glad to hear that you have arrived at that great place of acceptance! And thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify myself on this piece. What I mean here by “lingering” is simply the act “staying” – hanging out a bit and staying where I am, doing whatever it is I am doing, without giving in to the urge to move on and do something else. Not for an indefinite time period, mind you, but staying at least a few minutes after the urge to move on sets in. Often, I have found that I am able to enjoy the moment more and get more out of my day by “lingering” longer with a few activities, rather than trying to fit more and more in. Does that make more sense?

  2. I have felt this sense of restlessness all of my life. It was encouraging to find out I’m not alone with this issue; it definitely is helpful to know when other people are experiencing the identical issue. Thank you. This was very helpful.

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