With adult ADHD, it can sometimes feel as if both our mind and body never stop moving. Not all people have hyperactivity as a symptom of their ADHD, however, it doesn’t mean your body isn’t free from some of the physical tolls of this disorder. Even quiet people who often seem like they are off in dream land can find themselves holding a lot of physical tension.
I have struggled most of my adult life with muscle tension, migraines, and tension headaches. I have often been told by doctors, physical therapists, and other health professionals that for me, these have been caused by anxiety and stress. I believe this could be true for others as well.
From the American Psychological Association, “When the body is stressed, muscles tense up. Muscle tension is almost a reflex reaction to stress — the body’s way of guarding against injury and pain. With sudden onset stress, the muscles tense up all at once, and then release their tension when the stress passes. Chronic stress causes the muscles in the body to be in a more or less constant state of guardedness. When muscles are taut and tense for long periods of time, this may trigger other reactions of the body and even promote stress-related disorders. For example, both tension-type headache and migraine headache are associated with chronic muscle tension in the area of the shoulders, neck and head.”
One of the ways that I know I am being emotionally and physically consumed by stress or worry is by evaluating my dreams. I rarely get a good night’s sleep, but when I internalize stress I tend to have very vivid dreams. For example, I don’t often speak up at work, where I do as much as I can to avoid saying things that I believe will upset people.
Somehow I believed that if I was cool and calm on the outside, I was not truly bothered by something and I was handling situations like a good Christian woman. Don’t’ speak up, remain silent, be a “yes” person; and this will help you to remain a good woman. If I wasn’t fidgeting, or day dreaming when I should be paying attention, then that meant, to me at least, that my ADHD symptoms were under control. Boy was I wrong. The truth was in my increased muscle tension, and pain in my neck and shoulders, and the headaches that left me in need of few long afternoon naps.
Scripture advises us not to let the day end with us being angry and upset with others or the trials that life brings us. God knows that stress and worry are bad for our mind and hard on our bodies. His son tells us to cast all our cares onto him and lighten our loads.
Maybe you’re not sure if you have been carrying around the physical stress of having ADHD and a dual diagnosis (e.g. Depression, Anxiety Disorder, OCD), check out some of these symptoms and see how often they occur for you.
Symptoms of physical tension caused by stress:
-Headaches (often starts in the back of the head and above the eyebrows)
-Muscle tension in the neck and shoulders
-Lower back pain
-Muscle spasms and ticks
-Grinding of teeth
Although I engage in different practices to prevent or decrease stressors in my life, I still have times when stress takes a toll on my body. For me personally, the best methods for managing the symptoms have been tension releasing stretches throughout the day time, secular yoga movements, meditating on God’s word, and short leisurely walks in the afternoon during breaks or immediately after work. It’s important to find methods that work for you.
Some easy ways to ease and release muscle tension include:
-Having an Epsom salt bath in warm water
-Deep breathing exercises
-Basic yoga moves (or yoga alternatives)
-Going for a non-brisk, leisurely walk (remember to stretch afterwards)
-Finding a quiet place to sit and relax without engaging in any activity
-Going for weekly massages
“Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil…. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”