wikiHow to Manage Your Fidgeting

Four Parts:Determining the Causes of Your FidgetingReducing Your Caffeine and Sugar IntakeIncreasing Your Physical ActivityPracticing Relaxation Techniques

Fidgeting is a common characteristic of energetic children, but it can last into adulthood, creating a habit that is hard to break. Fidgeting in adults is a distracting habit that can affect performance at work or in social situations. There are some ways to help manage your fidgeting habit; they are to determine the causes of your fidgeting, reduce your caffeine and sugar intake, increase how much you exercise, and practice relaxation techniques.

Part 1
Determining the Causes of Your Fidgeting

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    Recognize when and where you fidget. Is it at work? Is it in the morning or in the afternoon? What social situations does it affect? What parts of your body are the most hyperactive? Understanding how you fidget and how it affects your life is the first step to making a change.
    • Try keeping a log of places and times you tend to fidget in a notebook. This may help you to correlate your fidgeting with various diet habits, such as consuming caffeine or sugar, or determine if it is something else.
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    Consider that some fidgeting in young children is normal. According to studies, young children actually benefit from frequent movement. It helps them to increase focus, decreases anxiety, improves cognitive function, and may help reduce obesity.
    • Many children have what appears to be a lot of energy. Excessive fidgeting is one of the many characteristics of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but don’t assume that your child has ADHD just because he is energetic. If he does have it, other symptoms will appear, particularly in school, and you will be urged to get a doctor’s diagnosis from his teachers or the school psychologist.[1]
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    Rule out hyperactivity-impulsivity (ADHD). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral disorder that is characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with development or functioning.
    • For hyperactivity-impulsivity, the child shows six or more symptoms (up to age 16; five or more for adolescents and adults 17 and older) for six months, and they are inappropriate for the developmental level. Symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity include:
    • Often fidgets or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat
    • often leaves seat in situations where seating is expected
    • often runs about or climbs when it is inappropriate (feelings of restlessness in adults)
    • often is unable to play or take part in leisurely activities quietly
    • often is “on the go” and acts as if “driven by a motor”
    • often talks excessively
    • often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed
    • often has trouble waiting turn
    • often interrupts or intrudes on others (during games or conversations).[2]
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    Get a diagnosis. The onset of symptoms for ADHD occur before the age of 12. Several symptoms are present in two or more settings (ex. school and home), there is clear evidence that they interfere with school, social, or work functioning, and symptoms are not better explained by the existence of another mental disorder.
    • There are different symptoms for the inattention part of ADHD, not included here because fidgeting is not one of them. However, many people who have the hyperactivity-impulsivity part of ADHD also have the inattention part. If you suspect that you or your child have ADHD, make an appointment with a physician.
    • ADHD can only be diagnosed by a physician. If you suspect that your child has ADHD, or his teacher has approached you with this concern, take him to his pediatrician to get a diagnosis. Though it is not the same as a learning disability, your child may be eligible for special education services at school, because ADHD is considered a type of health impairment under disability laws.[3]
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    Rule out an anxiety disorder. Extreme fidgeting is also a sign of an anxiety disorder. The fidgeting that is part of anxiety may be self-destructive (skin picking, nail biting, hair pulling, teeth grinding) or may just be regular tapping, swinging of feet, straightening out items in front of you, or fiddling with objects. If you suspect you have an anxiety disorder, make an appointment with a counselor, psychologist, or your physician. Other symptoms of anxiety are:
    • Avoidant behavior (particularly in social anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder)
    • Obsessive thoughts (particularly in obsessive-compulsive disorder)
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Self-medicating (with food, alcohol, or drugs)
    • Sense of dread
    • Excessive worry
    • Irritability
    • Digestive issues (upset stomach, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea)
    • Shyness (in social anxiety)
    • Perfectionistic tendencies
    • Difficulty trusting[4]
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    Consider modifying your diet, increasing your exercise level, and practicing relaxation techniques. Whether you (or your child) have been diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety, or nothing, everyone can benefit from the information in the following steps to help reduce their fidgeting, particularly if it creates problems at work or socially.

Part 2
Reducing Your Caffeine and Sugar Intake

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    Consider how much caffeine you currently consume. For a week, keep a log of how much coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate you consume each day. This will give you an idea of if your caffeine intake is at an unhealthy level.
    • 400 milligrams (the amount in four cups of coffee) of caffeine per day is usually considered safe for most adults. However, some people are more sensitive to it and should not even consume this much.
    • If you consume caffeine and you have insomnia, restlessness, anxiety problems, fast heartbeat, headaches, muscle tremors, or extreme fidgeting you may be extra sensitive to caffeine and should cut back to little or no caffeine at all.[5]
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    Cut your cups of coffee in half, or cut 1 cup each week. This will allow you to avoid withdrawals or headaches. Caffeine is a drug that creates adrenaline surges, which your body gets used to. It could take a month to wean yourself from caffeine.
    • If you are consuming a very high amount of caffeine, cut back slowly. Quitting quickly will cause withdrawal symptoms, like headaches.[6]
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    Keep track of how much sugar you consume. Too much refined sugar and foods with added processed sugar (candies, pop, cakes and cookies, some cereals) creates energy bursts and troughs, leaving you craving more. During the brief energy bursts, you are likely to fidget.
    • Keep a log in a notebook, similar to your caffeine recordings, of how much refined sugar (candy, pop, cookies, etc.) you consume in a week.[7]
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    Replace your sugary snacks with fruit. Fruit has some natural sugar, and this will help to slowly lower your intake of refined or artificial sugar because if you eat plenty of fruit you will crave other sugars less.
    • Fruit is part of a healthy diet, and you should try to consume 4 servings (a serving is one piece of raw fruit the size of a baseball, or one cup of smaller fruits or 100% fruit juice) of fruit per day.
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    Give yourself healthy diet choices. If you are lacking in energy and turning to caffeine or refined sugar snacks to give you a boost, it may be because your diet is generally unhealthy. Be sure that you are consuming the right amount of a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, and lean proteins each day.
    • You should try to eat 4 servings of vegetables (one cup of raw or cooked veggies or vegetable juice, or 2 cups of leafy greens is one serving), 4 servings of fruit, 6-8 servings of whole grains (depending on age, gender, and activity level), 2-6 servings of lean protein (depending on age, gender, and activity level), and 2-3 servings (one cup) of dairy or dairy equivalents daily.[8]

Part 3
Increasing Your Physical Activity

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    Engage in exercise 30 minutes per day. In general, modern American lifestyles are not as physically active as they should be. The lack of movement in a usual day for someone who has sit-down job may contribute to the tendency to fidget. To get more exercise, you can walk, jog, swim, bike, play sports, or do any other activity you enjoy that gets your heart rate up.
    • If you find yourself limited on time for exercise, one of the easiest ways to get enough is to just walk. Walking can even be part of your chores; you can walk the dog, walk to the market or the post office, or walk around the office or around the block a couple of times during your lunch break. Any amount of walking is better than none, and making it a regular habit helps ensure you are getting enough exercise.[9]
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    Convert your fidgeting hand and leg movements into isometric exercises while at work or school. These will curb fidgeting and strengthen muscles.
    • Rest your hands in your lap. Put your palms together and gently push them together. Hold for 3 to 10 seconds and repeat 10 times.
    • Place your feet flat on the floor. Push down into the floor for 3 to 10 seconds. Repeat until your muscles are tired; your fidgeting will subside.[10]
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    Give yourself breaks. Never sit in one place for over 30 minutes. As well as being good for your back, walking around and stretching during short breaks will reduce your need to fidget and help you to get the amount of exercise you need.[11]

Part 4
Practicing Relaxation Techniques

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    Consider your reasons for feeling restless. Most often, unless it is due to a health problem such as ADHD, people fidget because they have restless energy and feel that they should be, or want to be, doing something else. This is part of why fidgeting in adults is considered rude by many people. Relaxing and calming your mind can help you cope with this restless energy.
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    Engage. Instead of worrying about what else you should be or could be doing, or worrying that you’re not getting things done fast enough, remain focused on where you are and what you’re doing at the moment. This takes practice. Regardless of what you’re doing, tell yourself, “this is what I’m doing right now, and I’m going to do my best at it and pay attention.”[12]
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    Take deep breaths. When you feel the need to fidget, take a couple of slow deep breaths instead. This will help your nervous, restless energy to slowly disappear.
    • If you are feeling incredibly nervous and fidgety, stop what you’re doing and count while you’re breathing. Take a deep breath in while counting to 10. When you get to 10, start letting it out while counting to 10 again. Do this several times until you feel more relaxed.[13]
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    Begin practicing yoga. Research and sign up for local yoga classes. If you already know yoga poses, practice them at home or during your breaks at work. The meditation, deep breathing, and stretching aspects of yoga help tremendously with restless energy and will help you to stay focused.
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    Get enough sleep. Getting enough sleep is so important for managing stress. It allows your brain to recharge and gives it the ability to stay focused and organized. Be sure that you allow yourself 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and if you have trouble falling asleep, try the following:
    • Avoid stimulation an hour before bed. This includes TV, exercise, and time on your phone. For an hour before bed, try enjoyable reading in dim lights, or take a warm bath.
    • Don’t do work in your bed during the day. Let your bed be the place where you are relaxed and ready for sleep, not thinking about responsibilities.
    • Check on your diet and exercise. Lacking of certain nutrients, consuming caffeine, and not getting enough exercise can all contribute to insomnia.[14]
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    Appreciate what you have. Keep a gratitude journal where you write down each day or a couple of times a week the things that you are thankful for. Remembering the things you are thankful for helps you maintain a positive mood and reduces stress and restless energy.[15]

Article Info

Categories: Attention and Developmental Disorders