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The Rest Revolution: Nurturing well-being from within

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Rest and relaxation are vital for everyone. Taking time to recharge physically, mentally, and emotionally improves our focus, productivity, mood, relationships, and overall well-being. However, for those living with ADHD, getting adequate rest can be particularly challenging.

Chalk it up to hyperactivity, impulsivity, or difficulty sustaining focus, what it comes down to is rest is difficult. And unfortunelty ADHD'rs tend to need MORE rest than their neurotypical peers. Our brains are often working in overdrive, jumping quickly from one thought to another. This taxes the mental energy and focus stores, meaning more frequent recharging is required.

Defining Rest

So what does rest look like? Thankfully for those of us with ADHD, rest looks like more than just a good night's sleep.

When it comes to managing ADHD, there are three key types of rest to focus on: physical, mental, and emotional.

A person walking in the woods

  • Physical rest - giving your body a break from activity. I.e - sleep, restorative yoga, massage.

  • Mental rest - giving your brain a break. I.e - Walks in nature, listening to music, working on a hobby, or even zoning out

  • Emotional rest - letting your feelings settle and rebalance. I.e - journaling, deep breathing, and meditation. This type of rest in particular helps ADHD'rs stabilize their mood.

Why Rest is Difficult with ADHD

There are several reasons why people with ADHD often struggle to get rest.

The hyperactive and restless tendencies of ADHD mean individuals have a hard time physically settling down to rest. Where a neurotypical person may happily kick back on the couch reading or watching TV, a person with ADHD is likely to fidget, toe-tap, and doom scroll on their phone during downtime. Our brains are wired to constantly seek stimulation, making purposeful stillness uncomfortable.

Mentally, the inability to focus that comes with ADHD can make switching off the mind extremely difficult. Thoughts tend to race from topic to topic, making it hard to achieve the mental calm and quiet needed to rest. Studies show at least 50% of adults with ADHD experience sleep disturbances like insomnia.

A man sitting in his bed late at night

The symptoms of ADHD also commonly lead to behaviors that are counterproductive to good sleep hygiene. Late-night scrolling, TV series binging, inconsistent bedtimes, and caffeine consumption close to bedtime tosses the idea of a good night sleep right out the window.

Impacts of Rest Deprivation

So we know that having ADHD makes rest difficult. Here's the real kicker. A lack of sleep or good rest makes ADHD symptoms significantly worse. And the cycle continues.

A crying woman

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a lack of sleep can impair cognitive abilities and make it difficult to focus and pay attention. It can increase emotional dysregulation, and decrease motivation. Not to mention, toss decision-making abilities right out the window.

Sleep or a lack thereof can negatively impact every facet of ADHD.

Building More Rest Into Your Routine

To get the rest your body and mind need, it's important to make rest a priority and build it into your regular routine. This involves being intentional about scheduling time for relaxation and recovery.

Prioritize Rest

Treat rest with respect. Block off chunks of time for rejuvenating activities and don't allow other tasks to override this time. Be uncompromisingly protective of your rest.

Allow Transition Time

Build in buffer time between tasks to transition your mind and body from one activity to the next. This prevents stress and allows you to fully focus. This could just be a few minutes in between tasks to gauge where you are at. Maybe it means taking a walk between activities. Whatever makes sense in your life.

Try Restful Activities

Test out restorative activities to find what works for you, like yoga, reading, taking a bath, or spending time in nature. I'm a particularly big fan of yoga and walks in the woods behind my house.

Establish a Bedtime Routine

Develop a consistent wind-down routine before bedtime to cue your body that it's time for sleep. This may include meditating, stretching, journaling, or sipping herbal tea. I know this is borderline stereotypical advice here but really try to cut screen time before bed. Having my phone next to me is a recipe for disaster when I inevitably wake up at 3 am and decide it's time to check Facebook. That is not conducive to a good night's sleep.

Take Daytime Breaks

Schedule short breaks during the day to clear your mind, stretch, hydrate, and recharge. Even a 10-minute breather can make a difference. Read more about the Pomodoro technique here.

Grab your free Pomodoro worksheet here

Overcoming Resistance to Rest

Many people with ADHD have an aversion to relaxation. Our busy brains crave constant stimulation, making sitting still a challenge. But giving in to restlessness and avoiding rest only leads to poorer focus, irritability, and reduced productivity over time.

Here are some tips for overcoming resistance to rest:

  • Start small - Even 5-10 minutes of quiet meditation or deep breathing can start providing calm.

  • Reward yourself - Promise yourself something enjoyable after rest, like reading or a favorite TV show.

  • Get accountable - Enlist others to remind you to take breaks and share struggles.

  • Set alarms - Use phone alerts to remind yourself to stop working and rest.

  • Prioritize - Treat rest with higher importance than other priorities.

  • Learn to rest in motion - Light exercises like walking or stretching can provide active rest.

  • Identify patterns - Notice when your energy drops and proactively rest before getting exhausted.

  • Try meditation - Apps like Calm can make meditation more accessible.

Watercolor painting of a woman meditating

The key is to intentionally build rest into your routine, even if your mind resists it at first. Start small and be patient with yourself. Over time, the benefits of regular rest will become apparent (and it will get easier!)


What is your favorite way to rest and recharge? Let us know in the comments below!


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