We look at some of the common causes and what you can do to help ease yourself.

| By Sukriti Wahi | Wellness

5 Things You Can Do Right Now If You’re Feeling Restless, According to a Psychologist

We look at some of the common causes and what you can do to help ease yourself.

Have you ever been so excited for something - say, an overseas holiday, or a big celebratory event - that you felt as though your whole body was ‘buzzing’ and you couldn’t think straight? Enter: restlessness.

On the flip side, have you ever felt so anxious about something - perhaps waiting for a job offer or the outcome of an exam - that your body felt like it was… well, the same? You guessed it: restlessness strikes again.

As it turns out, while restlessness can stem from positive feelings of excitement, negative anticipation and periods of anxiety can also spark the same uneasy energy that can make it difficult to focus and feel calm.

“Restlessness is often thought of as being very fidgety or having lots of energy in the body. Excitement and anxiety can both feel similar in our bodies, and both can lead to restlessness,” says Christina O’Connell, clinical psychologist and founder of Dating With Purpose.

“This can feel like you just want to go for a run, or you struggle to sit still or perhaps you simply can’t relax. It can also make it difficult to focus and concentrate.”

Struggling with restlessness? Keep reading to uncover some of the common causes and five psychologist-approved things you can do right away to help ease it.

What Causes Restlessness?

Restlessness can stem from a number of causes, and figuring out yours is key in reducing it. Per O’Connell, anxiety is one of the biggest drivers of restlessness in people.

“Anxiety is the most common mental health condition affecting people in first world countries, and restlessness is a common symptom of anxiety,” she tells Bed Threads Journal.

“Restlessness, constant movement, and difficulty relaxing can be very uncomfortable when experienced over prolonged periods. It can lead to sleeplessness, which exacerbates the anxiety symptoms further.”

While it’s normal to experience some restlessness and anxiety from time to time, it’s important to note that ongoing restlessness can also be a symptom of depression, anxiety disorders and some medical conditions. It is also a common experience for those with attention hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and in all of the aforementioned scenarios, professional medical support is immensely helpful, O’Connell emphasises.

“If your restlessness is less anxiety or mood-driven and feels more like a ‘body response’, please visit your GP. With a diagnosis of ADHD, medication can be extremely beneficial,” she adds.

How To Overcome Restlessness

1. Exercise

“Exercise is absolutely the best antidote to restlessness,” O’Connell advises.

“It is recommended that medium to high intensity exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes, three times a week, can make a big difference to the cortisol (stress hormone) levels in the body.”

2. Mindfulness and meditation

Taking out as little as five minutes a day to engage in some form of mindfulness and/or meditation can help you feel more grounded and settled in your body, O’Connell notes.

“Mindfulness can be structured, for example, listening to a guided audio, or less structured, such as going for a mindful walk through nature and noticing the micro details of what you are seeing, hearing, touching, feeling, smelling or even tasting,” she says.

3. Box breathing

Box breathing is another simple strategy to help reduce restlessness. Also referred to as ‘square breathing’, this deep breathing technique works by distracting the mind as you focus on counting, inhaling and exhaling.

“Box breathing involves breathing in for four seconds, holding for four seconds, breathing out for four seconds and holding for four seconds, and repeat,” says O’Connell.

“Slowing down your breath, deepening your breath and focusing on it, can reduce anxiety, improve mood, and help with restlessness.”

4. Good sleep hygiene

Good sleep hygiene comes with a whole host of benefits, not the least of which is its capacity to decrease restlessness in the body. In addition to aiming for around eight hours of shut-eye each night, there are few small tweaks you can make to ensure your nightly bedtime routine enables solid slumber and mental rest.

“Aim to go to sleep at the same time every night and wake at the same time every morning,” O’Connell says.

“No screens for a minimum of one hour before bed, and if you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, then get out of bed, have a stretch, drink some water/milk/tea, and try again.”

Have a tendency to work from bed? O’Connell recommends taking any non-rest related activities out of the bedroom, making it purely a sanctuary for sleep and sexy times.

“Bed is for sleep or sex, and nothing else. Let the brain only associate it with sleep time, not with work or study,” she adds.

5. Rest

When it comes to reducing feelings of restlessness, it’s vital to carve out time in your busy schedule to slow down, engage in various types of rest and find a sense of balance.

“Be conscious to have a balanced lifestyle, where you have opportunities for regular periods of rest and relaxation,” O’Connell emphasises.

“Make sure to have some time to socialise and have fun. Life is not only for work, but for rest and enjoyment. Get outside, enjoy nature and surround yourself with people who make you feel good.”

Christina O’Connell is a Sydney-based clinical psychologist and the founder of Dating With Purpose.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualised mental health or medical advice. If you are concerned about your wellbeing or suspect that you have anxiety, depression, ADHD, or any health condition, please speak to your GP, who will advise on the correct treatment plan. You can also call Lifeline 24/7 on 13 11 14.

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