Relaxation Techniques for ADHD, Stress and Anxiety

Dr. Kenny Handelman, a Canadian psychiatrist and ADHD specialist, writes a lot about brain waves, neurofeedback and biofeedback in treatment of ADHD.  His book about parenting kids and teens with ADHD, Attention Difference Disorder: How to Turn Your ADHD Child or Teen’s Differences into Strengths in 7 Simple Steps, is lauded as an excellent resource.  In an article titled Brain Waves and ADHD, Dr. Handelman explains:

“The brain is capable of producing four different frequencies of waves. The highest frequency is the beta – that’s what we use when we’re busily caught up in an activity that truly interests us. And that’s the brain wave that doesn’t necessarily appear for those with ADD/ADHD

“The second highest is the alpha wave which is what you’re experiencing when you have just completed a task and you sit down to rest. When you sit down to reflect or meditate you start experiencing alpha waves. Taking a leisurely stroll through a garden also induces this state.

“The third type of brain wave is the theta, which is dominant in our brains when we perform repetitious tasks. The repetition can be defined in any number ways. Even driving the same stretch of freeway on your commute to work every day can create these waves in your brain.

“And that brings us to the slowest brain wave, the delta. This is the wave that dominates when we experience a good deep – and dreamless – sleep. These are also the same brain waves that are produced in abundance when you reach that trance like state in meditation.”

Read the full article from Dr. Handelman here.

Another article in Practical Neuroscience posted today discussed different ways to change the brain state to combat anxiety and stress,  The symptoms of ADHD being similar and often co-occurring, it is no surprise the techniques outlined in this article are among the top coping skills for ADHD.  I suggest you review and try all of these techniques from Managing Anxiety and Stress: Coping with Modern Life.  Check this out:

Different kinds of relaxation techniques exist that you can use to reduce anxiety, stress or panic attacks by decreasing Beta and increasing Alpha wave acticvity. Some of the well-known and effective relaxation techniques for anxiety include regular exercises, meditation, massage, deep breathing, and music and so on. While one or two of these will work for you, the others may not. What might work for a friend, may not work for you. Hence, it is highly recommended that you read this entire article in order to know the relaxation techniques that will work for your anxiety.

“Meditation is one of the best and effective relaxation techniques for anxiety and stress. Meditation involves the conscious effort of channelling your thinking away from what is causing anxiety to positive ones. In order for this form of technique to work effectively against anxiety, stress or panic attack, it is recommended that you do it in a quit place and ensure you’re alone.

Relaxation Techniques for Anxiety and Stress

“The Here and Now  - Mindfulness
The simplest meditation is to find a relatively quiet place, close your eyes and focus on the sounds of the environment around you. Do this without processing them or putting them in context. When thoughts arise, push them aside and refocus on the sounds, smells and temperature of your environment. This will be difficult at first, especially if you are very aroused by stress or anger. These feelings will dissipate over time. Allow yourself at least 10-15 minutes to reconnect with the here and now. By doing this when you are stressed or upset (within reason, not a good idea to do this in the middle of a meeting) you will retrain yourself to decrease Beta waves and slow them into the Alpha range.

Breathing
“It is very difficult to breathe calmly when you are highly stressed or anxious. This is why it is advisable to breathe in deeply through your nose and try and fill your lungs with fresh air and release it through your mouth. Do this in a quiet place with your eyes closed. After a few initial deep breaths, begin to breath normally and focusing on your inhalation and exhalation separately. This will act as a type of mantra and will result in intrusive thoughts popping into your awareness. When this occurs push them aside and refocus on your breathing. 10-15 minutes and you will feel more relaxed and less anxious.

Music
“Listening to music is another well-known technique for relaxation. Most people have favourite music they like to play at certain times. As music helps to induce moods, a good technique is to make play lists of all the music you find relaxing. Take that music to a quiet place where you can sit for 15-20 minutes and focus on the music. Again, when stressful images or thoughts occur, push these to the side and refocus back on the music. There are many relaxation CD’s on the market that claim to aid relaxation. The rule of thumb here is, if YOU find them relaxing, they will work, there are no miracles here. Music you already find relaxing will work just as well if not better the tailor-made relaxation music.

Exercise
“Studies show that exercise can help improve mood temporarily in individuals who are stressed, anxious or depressed. In fact, for people with mild or moderate depression, 30 minutes of intense exercise can be as effective as medication for improving mood. People who do not respond to medications may also show improvement in mood when they exercise. Exercise can be cathartic, meaning that pent up energy or feelings can be released by physical exertion. During exercise, we activate our sympathetic nervous system. Blood levels of beta-endorphins have been found to increase to as much as five times their resting levels during prolonged aerobic exercise (over 30mins). This measurement varies from person to person and is affected by how regularly one exercises. However, the benefits are clear; exercise can reduce the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety. AND its great for your waistline too!!!

“To help aid stress relief you can add in visual imagery while exercising. Imagine that with each foot-fall (while jogging for example) pent up aggression, energy and frustration is leaving your body through your legs and into the ground. I find it helpful to imagine that pent up stress is like mud on my trainers and I leave a little of it behind with every step or that it is like electricity flowing through my legs and into the ground. This might sound silly, but if the imagery is relevant to you, it is more likely to be effective and it does work.

Keeping a Journal
“Writing down your anxious or stressed thoughts is one of the best ways to deal with the problem of anxiety and stress, especially if it is a reoccurring one. When you write them down, you are letting it all out and this is very good for your mind and body. It also helps you to think constructively and perhaps see the situation/issue from a different perspective. This is especially helpful when you have just finished the breathing technique as you will have a clearer mind as a result. By doing this you will be able to put a more rational/logical perspective to the situation/issue and will be better able to find solutions.

“The above list of relaxation techniques for anxiety is not exhaustive. Many other techniques may be effective in reducing stress and anxiety. Consult your doctor for further advice. The correct treatment for you depends on your own needs and requirements and what suits one person may not suit you. Learning meditation and yoga are generally effective techniques if you enjoy the experience.”

Read the full article from Practical Neuroscience by clicking here.

Which of these are your favorites?  How often do you remember to use these techniques?  Share any others that work for you.  We’re listening . . .