ADHD and Internal Restlessness, from Racing Thoughts to Rumination

Restlessness is a recognized symptom of ADHD and can manifest externally and internally. One of the most shared experiences I have noticed as someone who supports psychiatrists with ADHD assessments at Psymplicity  is the internal feeling of restlessness, within the body and mind. In contrast to external restlessness, where it is likely to present as fidgeting or hyperactive behaviour, internal restlessness is not as obvious.

Internal restlessness can take the form of racing thoughts, splitting attention, struggling to fall asleep and deep rumination. These experiences make regulating one’s overall mental health, performance at work and school, and relationships more difficult than someone who does not have ADHD.


Below are five tips that you can try out to help control any internal restlessness and racing thoughts.

5 Tips for Relaxing Internal Restlessness

 1. Education

Once you understand your ADHD diagnosis, it is easier to find strategies that help calm your experience of restlessness. For example, traditional breath work may work for some but not for others. Trialing a technique and it not working for you can be disheartening, but the more in touch you are with your diagnosis, the more you can do to find what works for you. At Psymplicity, we offer a course of Guided Self Help for ADHD, emphasizing the need for a personal approach to managing ADHD symptoms, including internal restlessness.


 2. Re-framing

Re-framing how you view your racing thoughts or internal restlessness can be a big step towards a more compassionate relationship with ADHD. Rather than viewing the thoughts as a hinderance to your life, perhaps reflect on how racing thoughts have helped you in past situations and how you can draw strength from them. Your brain is operating above the norm and that can be an incredible thing. Next time you are frustrated for not being able to sleep, why not try thanking your mind for its amazing uniqueness and focus on your breathing instead to bring about a restful state.


 3. Meditative practices

Meditation looks different for everyone. For some, it can mean listening to guided. For others, it can mean spending some quiet time alone colouring. Whatever the exercise is, it should be away from an electronic screen and encourage your attention to stay on one task that you find enjoyable. For example, crafts, knitting, listening to a podcast, cooking, painting, yoga, prayer, walking in nature, reading are all meditative practices you could try to help calm down mind.


 4. Worry Journal

Sometimes racing thoughts are not random. There may be specific thoughts that are causing anxiety or stress, which is fueling the rumination. In these circumstances, using a ‘worry journal’ may be helpful. To use a Worry Journal effectively, you only need a piece of paper or notebook and a pen and a designated time to write down your worries. View this notebook as a safe place to hold your thoughts when your mind cannot handle them any more. Decide a time you can set aside each day to use your journal. This may be helpful before bed so you can empty your mind to get a good night’s sleep and set up a great bedtime routine.


 5. Resistance does not always help

If you are experiencing multiple racing thoughts and unpleasant or stressful, it may seem like a natural reaction to resist them. Mindfulness experts say that accepting thoughts and mentally washing them away with kindness alleviates anxiety and helps slow down the mind. I enjoy visualizing unhelpful or persistent thoughts as clouds over a blue sky. I watch the clouds pass me by, and it helps my body and mind relax back into a peaceful state.


When implementing any new technique or practice into your life, it is important to take it slow and show self-compassion. Perhaps try one or two of the above tips each week and track your progress.  It is unlikely that racing thoughts or internal restlessness will disappear overnight, therefore, it is vital that you are kind to yourself, acknowledge the wins no matter how small, and make time for self-care.


At Psymplicity Healthcare we offer ADHD assessments, in addition to diagnosis and specialised treatment plans for ADHD and other conditions. If you have recognise that you or a loved one is struggling with ADHD symptoms, do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our experts.


Contact us now to speak with one of our ADHD specialists and begin a personalised treatment plan.

Anna Tank

Anna Tank

Anna is an Assistant Psychologist specializing in CAMHS.

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