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ep.21: Relaxation vs. Laziness

Are you caught in an endless battle distinguishing between relaxation laziness? If so, you're not alone. Many adults with ADHD grapple with this challenge due to factors like a perpetually buzzing mind, an unending to-do list, impulsivity, and less than stellar time management skills.

In this episode, I'll share strategies to help you enhance these skills and encourage you to build better habits, like scheduling time for relaxation and embracing healthier ways to de-stress.

So, let's take this journey together today as we untangle these knotted concepts.

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What you'll learn:

  • Identifying differences between relaxation and laziness

  • The potential root causes behind the struggle to relax

  • How to schedule time for relaxation and find healthy ways to de-stress

  • Crucial executive function skills often found lacking in adults with ADHD

"Your current behavior might look like laziness, but you're not a lazy person. You're simply weak in the skills that would help you more easily get things done right now. Lazy is not who you are."

Useful links mentioned:

Listen to the Episode:

Click here to read the transcript:

Welcome to Learn To Thrive with ADHD. This is the podcast for adults with ADHD or ADHD like symptoms. I'm your host coach, Mande John. I'm here to make your life with ADHD easier. Let's get started.

This week we were talking about relaxation versus laziness. You would be surprised how many of my clients I work with that struggle to relax. This was myself as well, and there are several reasons we have a hard time relaxing. We're going to talk about those. But what if you aren't sure? If you're relaxing or being lazy, what's the difference?

Do you feel that you are, or worry that you might be, lazy? How can you structure your life so that your downtime is rejuvenating rather than stressful? This is what we're here to talk about today. Why is it hard for people with ADHD to relax? Here are some of the reasons I see when working with clients.

Number one, a never-ending-to-do list. Sometimes this is not even an actual list, but just ideas in your head of things you think you should do. There can be so many things in your head and you may have a feeling of always being behind or overwhelmed with all the things there are to do. Overcommitment and perfectionism can be big contributing factors to this. Number two impulsivity engaging in stimulating activities. It's often described as looking for a dopamine hit.

This might be constant phone checking, stem, eating, tv watching, shopping, digital games and much more that thing that makes you feel better, but you seem to need more and more of it and in the end, it actually makes you feel terrible. Number three, fear of boredom is a big one. We hate to be bored. We love a stimulated brain. As we said in number two, sometimes slowing down feels painful, especially if we're in the habit of being on the go constantly.

Number four, poor time management. I think when most of us think of time management, we think of all the things we're managing our time to get done. Yes, that is it, but instead, are you managing time to relax and rest? Do your tasks have a definite end point rather than the opportunity to just go on and on?

First, what I'd like you to do is schedule time to relax. This might be some time during the day. If you tend to get tired or frazzled, then keep in mind scheduling time to relax before bed or wind down, so that you can get better sleep.

Number five, lack of effective coping strategies. You may not have the tools that you need to manage stress and anxiety, yet. Instead you're relying on avoidance and distraction. When you stop and slow down, whatever you're avoiding will surface, and this is a good thing. You want to know what that is so that you can deal with it.

But what are the tools? Are you getting enough exercise, sleep, eating well and just as we're talking about today are you resting or taking time out for activities that de-stress you in a healthy way?

Number six busy brains. I heard someone describe this as a head full of bees. I thought that was such a great description. A constantly busy brain can make you feel restless, anxious or overwhelmed. If you aren't handling it properly, it can make it difficult for you to relax in ways that might require calm or focus.

I'll share with you an exercise I give my clients that has been really effective in helping them figure out exactly what the problem is. I'll warn you that this is not fun. I have them sit and do nothing for about 10 to 20 minutes, whatever they think they can stand, but the point is that you're going to be uncomfortable.

Oftentimes, clients will start to bargain well, can I journal, can I meditate, can I just do something with my hands? And I say no, nothing. Your job is only to notice how you feel, what you're doing, what comes up for you. You might see how this brings up discomfort. By just thinking about it, you may feel uncomfortable. As I'm saying it, I want you to ask yourself why? Why is it not okay for you to stop?

If you really want the answer, try this exercise. I had one client do this assignment and realized that when she was a little girl, if she wanted to do something like relax and read a book, she would have to hide, because if she were caught, she would be given something to do.

Whatever comes up for you is just good information. I encourage you to question it. Why do you always have to be doing something? So, what is the difference between rest and laziness? We're going to go into the actual definition here.

Rest is a noun and a verb that refers to the state of relaxation, refreshment or recovery after physical or mental exertion. It involves taking a break from activity to regain one's energy or composure. Rest is a deliberate, purposeful act of allowing the body and mind to recuperate, often leading to a sense of relaxation and rejuvenation.

Now let's talk about lazy. Lazy is an adjective that describes a person who is averse to work or activity, often showing a lack of effort, motivation or willingness to engage in tasks or responsibilities.

It implies an inclination to avoid exertion and to prefer idleness or inactivity. So basically, lazy conveys a negative perception of someone who avoids work or effort, while rest refers to the intentional act of taking a break to relax and recover, which is considered a healthy and necessary part of maintaining your well-being.

Now that the two have been defined, are you concerned that you're lazy? I would suggest that you don't judge yourself too quickly. It's very likely that you just don't have the tools you need yet. Executive function skills are needed in order to get things done. So, what are the executive function skills? Time management and awareness, task initiation goals and that's getting started on things.

Goal sustainability once you get started following it all the way through impulse control, metacognition that you're thinking about your thinking, working memory, planning and organization, emotional regulation, attention and focus, cognitive flexibility. If any of these are weak, you're going to have some trouble with tasks. It's extremely likely that several of these are weak when you have ADHD.

If this is the case, is it really your fault that you can't get done what you would like to? Of course not, what I'm trying to say here is that your current behavior might look like laziness, but you're not a lazy person. You're simply weak in the skills that would help you more easily get things done right now.

Lazy is not who you are. Sometimes it's actually messages that we get from others that make us think we're lazy. I encourage you to let those go and just focus on what you'll do to strengthen your skills going forward. A great start would be working with a coach like myself, or joining other people like yourself in group coaching like the ADHD Academy.

Alright, so we know the difference between rest and laziness. Maybe you don't feel like you're lazy at all, but perhaps you need to learn to rest. What should you do? Number one, like I said before, schedule time for relaxation. If you don't make time, you won't do it. You just can't hope that it will fit in the cracks of your life. You deserve rest.

We can be so go, go, go either in our brain or our body, or both, that you may have to train yourself to stop. There's always more to do, but you have to decide what's enough and what's reasonable for one day and to stop and rest. Number two, decide what you will do. Create a list of things that give you a break and make you feel relaxed and rejuvenated.

I'm sure this will sound boring for many of you, but I love jigsaw puzzles. As an ADHDer diagnosed hyperactive, it can be really difficult for me to physically stop, so with jigsaw puzzles I actually get to sit down and concentrate on the puzzle and trick my brain into resting.

Honor your relaxation time. When it comes time to relax, you likely won't want to do it. This is completely normal. We resist what we plan, even when it's good for us. Don't make this a problem. Just remind yourself this time is scheduled for relaxation and there's nothing else I'm supposed to be doing right now.

Your brain will want to remind you of all the things that you could be doing, but remember you planned this with your higher brain when you were calm and thinking clearly. Your past self set you up for this moment of relaxation. Take it.

If you struggle to do things for yourself, take this down time for those in your life. When your mental and physical energy is topped off, how much better will you be for the people you care about? Will you be more patient, kind, present? What can you accomplish once you get back to work if you've taken the time to rest, how much better of a job can you do?

The fact is, we don't have to do it all. We live in a world of such abundance you will never get all the work done. You will never read all the books or finish all the projects that you dream of. That's okay. That is the way the world is designed today. We have to learn to constrain and be good with what we do get to do.

This would probably be a great place to talk about how I've been doing my to-do list lately. First, I'll share that the most important things on my list get put on my calendar with a specific day and time that they will happen.

That being said, the problem I was running into was getting to the end of the day, feeling busy all day but also feeling like I didn't get anything done. If you're not a list person, that's okay. You might pull a concept out of this that works for you. On my list, when I would do things not on the list, I would add it and mark it out. This is the same for unexpected things that pop up during the day.

So, at the end of the day, I have a real account of everything I got done that day. This really helps when my brain wants to lie to me and say I didn't do anything that day. Also, anything that doesn't get done on the list can transfer to the next day if it still matters.

Let me know if you try this. It's made a big difference for me to have a reality check in what I'm accomplishing every day.

Thank you for your time, and especially for your attention today. If you haven't looked into the ADHD Academy, you'll want to do that. This is my membership, with binge-able courses, weekly life coaching, new courses every month, a community of like-minded people and more.

Be sure to head over to to get the details. See you next week.

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