Man running hand along grass as he walks

Episode 24 – ADHD and Stimming, What is it and Why Does it Matter?

Jenna: Hello happy people and welcome to Office ADHD. Well, hello and welcome back to Office ADHD. Today we're going to talk about Stimming and what it is. Why does it relate to ADHD and why is it important to you? Just before we get started, make sure that you've checked out in the links in the description about the five days for five ADHD. Superpowers. It's just five emails sent to you. One a day actually, because it's six, because you get the introductory email, first of one email a day. Superpowers. You also have the option to sign up for the water cooler club where I send out tips and different information and actually some fun random memes and things for ADHD. So let's get into talking about it. First of all, what in the world does this Stimming word mean? Some of you guys know this because you've been researching different things, but Stimming is actually something they talk about a little bit more with autism generally, than they do with ADHD, even though we both have issues with it. Basically, it's our way of stimulating our nervous system. It's often seen as kind of a tick. I know for me, a lot of the times I bounce my knee is one of the things that I do. And actually not people just with ADHD or autism do this. Even people with what you might call, quote, normal brains do this as well. It's something that you do to calm yourself down. You may notice, like you hum to yourself or whistle to yourself, or maybe it's something like biting your nails. Different things that you do that are kind of fidgety twitches that you use to calm yourself down. Or just like I said, to activate your nervous system is one of the main things that you're doing. This happens for a lot of different reasons. For those of us with ADHD, it can be when our attention is wandering or when we're bored, especially if you've noticed. If you have to sit in one place and whatever's going on is not interesting to you, then you are going to start some of your Stimming behaviors. So I just want you to stop. And even if you have to pause this for a second, stop. And just imagine right now you're sitting in a meeting, you can't actually leave because it would look really awkward. So for social reasons, you can't leave and you just have to be there. What is your body doing? Or what is it that you want your body to be doing? Even if you can't, because you also can't just stand up and sing necessarily in that situation as well. And those are your Stimming behaviors. You also use them as a form of self soothing. So if you are really nervous, anxious, stressed, that's something that tends to be on the top. You start biting your pencil or tapping your foot or whatever it is that you do. And hopefully I'm not triggering you all. I can just see all of these weird, fidgety, twitch, ticky things you guys are all doing right now while I'm talking, just because I'm reminding you to do them. I mean, I've scratched my eye like ten times anyway. That's just one of my things. That's why I love this. We're all in this together, you guys, and they aren't necessarily all bad. Another thing that we use it for is to release energy. We tend to build up a lot of energy and a lot of it's energy for different reasons. We're either just really excited about something or we just sometimes have a lot of energy. We want to go do something. I remember even in college, literally figuring out that I could climb the doorframe by putting my back against it and walking up the doorframe. Just because we see things, we do things, we want to be moving. It depends also whether you're primarily inattentive, primarily hyperactive, or you're combined what sort of energy you're trying to release. Sometimes it's not just physical energy, sometimes it's mental energy. Sometimes you're trying to release the fact that you have so many thoughts in your head and so you just start humming or whistling or singing, just something along those lines. Another reason you'll do it is for sensory overload. Babies do this, there's a lot of times. So a lot of these things that we talk about, obviously ADHD and then autism is very related to ADHD. In fact, some people are diagnosed with both, but they're just somewhat related to each other. They're both things that you're born with. They're both genetic. There are very rare cases where it can be triggered by different accidents or different things that happen. But in general, they're things that you are born with. And oftentimes babies that have especially autism, but babies even that have ADHD a lot of the times too, they are very easy to overwhelm and they will cry a lot to release that. They tend to be babies that don't necessarily like crowds and like to be kind of in their special space. I know when my son was a baby, he liked to be in his carrier with a blanket over it when we were in big crowded areas. And that was just his happy comfy place. He was okay hearing all the sounds, but he didn't want to hear it and see it. And obviously he could breathe, everything was fine, but he wanted to be in his happy little comfy place because we can see everything all at once. That's what your ADHD brain wants to do. It wants to literally see and take in everything. Your focus is not narrow. Your focus is on everything. Anything that starts to move, anything with color. Your focus is everywhere. And that can become overloaded, can become overwhelming, and your brain can become overloaded trying to take that all in very easily. So a lot of times we'll do these stimming activities to kind of release some of that. It's just kind of like if you think of if any of you cook with an instant pot or any sort of pressure cooker. If you think about when you click that unseal before it's released all of its pressure naturally and the steam comes off so that then you can open the lid. That's what you're doing. When you're stemming, you are letting some of the steam out. You're cooling off the grill so that you can touch it literally as you bounce your knee or do whatever it is you're doing. You can almost just visualize to yourself steam or that stress, physically steam from your body. You can see it almost as a thing and that's what you're doing and stimming. A lot of times people will be like, oh no, we have to fix this. It's not necessarily a bad thing. There are cases where it's a bad thing. So number one, if you are doing something that gets to the point that it's painful. So like for example, if you pick at your fingernails to the point that they bleed, that's a problem. Or if you're scratching and doing things that can harm you, then that's where we need to work on stuff. The great thing is you can actually train yourself to stem with something else. So you don't have to keep the twitch that you were born with, if that makes sense. There's different ways sometimes if your twitch is so ingrained, then sometimes you are going to have to go talk to counseling or to a coach or something. But that's one of the number one reasons that we adore fidget toys. I cannot tell you how many times I've been in a Zoom meeting and I have just been fidgeting it out below the camera. Like seriously, even right now. I'm sorry. If you hear the swish of my spinner, sometimes even while I'm talking, I play with my fidget spinner. It's just the way it is. A really cool one. I have to show you the picture of it someday and that's one way that you can still release that stimming and be okay. It's really okay to accept that this is just your twitch and laugh about it. One of the biggest things about ADHD and one of the biggest things that I hope that I'm getting across in all of these interviews and in all of these podcasts, is that it really is okay to accept yourself for who you are. That you don't have to be something different. You don't have to conform to some idea that you have put in your head of normal. Because that idea that you have in your head of normal is really a figment of your imagination. Nobody is actually that way. There's going to be an interview coming up soon, probably the next episode, that is going to be with a neuroscientist and I hope you all tune into that. One because he really talks about that with all of the brains that he's studied. He's really amazing. And he has an Australian accent, too, so rock on. But one of the big things without giving away the entire interview before you've listened to it, is that I just want you to know that it really is okay to accept yourself where you're at and then to just decide, okay, well, here's just one little thing I'm going to work on. I don't want to bite my nails. But the thing is, too, anytime you're trying to stop doing something, you can't just tell yourself not to do it, because all your brain hears is to do it. If you're saying to yourself, don't stand up, don't stand up, don't stand up, all your brain is hearing is, stand up, stand up, stand up, stand up. You can ask anybody that does lifeguarding for children, especially. They will never tell a child, don't run. Because all the child hears is run. You tell the child walk. You tell them what to do. And that's the same thing if you're trying to overcome an addiction, if you're trying to change your habits, if you're trying to change or do anything. And that's what the messages you want to put into your brain, anytime you're trying to develop anything at all, any sort of goal or anything at all, you want it to be a positively phrased message. So, for example, let's say I bite my nails and I want to change that stimming habit, and I have decided that it is okay for me to tap my toe, because you're just going to have to choose something that it is okay for you to do. So based on your situation, you have to pick a stimming habit that's okay, because the idea of not stimming is just seriously not going to happen. That's not going to happen. I'm sorry. It's okay. We're just built this way, and that's fine. You're going to stim. So pick a habit you can live with. All right. It's just the way it is for me. It helps me remember stuff to snap my fingers. If I'm stuck and I can't remember and think of a word, I start snapping, and then it comes to me. But I've chosen that kind of I started doing it and it worked. So I keep going with it, and it doesn't really hurt anybody's feelings. So anyway, if biting your fingernails, you want to stop doing that, choose something you're going to do instead. And if you choose tapping your toes, then just every time you go to grab your hand, you say, I'm tapping my toes. I'm going to tap my toes. I'm going to tap my toes. Just remind yourself what you're going to do and tell yourself to do that. That's where you start, is you have to choose what you're going to do. Another thing that I actually find really interesting is that one of the things that is a big Stimming thing, I've kind of mentioned it a few times, is singing, humming, chanting, and actually you can even gargle for this. One that I'm going to talk about here is you've maybe have heard a lot about the vagus nerve and it's this nerve that they've been it's kind of a big thing right now. It's been coming up in a lot of different areas that it goes clear from your brain to all of your organs. It's a big thing to try and calm and stimulate your vagus nerve and make sure that it's happy and healthy. So actually singing, humming and chanting is one of the ways that you stimulate your vagus nerve. It's one of the ways that you calm yourself. And I think that that's interesting that a lot of us with ADHD, we just naturally do that. I know that. That's actually one of the ways I've talked about before, that I remind myself what I'm doing, and I don't forget what I'm doing is I will start singing what it is I'm doing so that then I don't forget as I walk. Because, you know, the doorway of forgetfulness that people talk about that as, like, happening sometimes. It happens to us all the time, obviously. Or you're going to walk into the garage. The garage with all of its many things to look at and find. It's the treasure trove of distraction. And you're going to go look for one thing that you were supposed to look for that you remembered you were supposed to look for when you were standing in the other room. So oftentimes before I walk into the garage, I will start singing about what it is that I'm looking for so that then I'll just continue to sing about the thing I'm looking for until I find it. So not only do I use it as a Stimming thing, but I use it as kind of a mental helpful reminder thing. But again, this is a thing where it's okay. Stimming is a thing that is natural. Children, babies of all, whatever their mental status is, they all do it to some degree. And then just as we get older, we find more and more socially acceptable ways to do this. It's just a little harder for those of us that have a little more anxiety, stress and energy that we need to release. And so we just tend to do it a little bit more and that's okay. This is also one way that sometimes we can be misdiagnosed is having autism, even if we don't. So like I said, just kind of take note. I think one of the biggest things is that you can ask your friends or something if there's something funny and quirky that you do, probably they've already told you about it. Number one is we need to step away from the embarrassment. You need to step away from this idea that you have to be something other than you are. That it's okay. That's all right to just be like, there we are, bouncing my knee again up there. I just started humming while we were walking and it's like, yeah, hum along with me. That just own it. Own who you are. Be who you are. You're amazing and love it. And if there is something that you're doing again that is maybe it really is causing problems for somebody, then that's okay. Figure out something that you can do. Be like, listen, I'm going to be twitchy. That's just the way I am. So let's figure out a twitch that I can do, that we can both live with and then work on just incorporating that twitch into what you're doing. Which actually reminds me, we need to talk about one of these days, the pros and cons of what we call ADHD masking. Or trying to hide your symptoms from those around you and how and when to tell people things, which is honestly a whole discussion. And it really depends on you and what you're comfortable with. But you can always start out in pieces. And like I said, it's okay to just start out with, you know what, I'm a fidgety twitchy person and I just really like fidgeting, so that's who I am. And just own it. It's okay. The people who love you are still going to love you, and they already probably know you have ADHD. Like we talked about in some of the interviews with people with ADHD already, most of the people around you have already guessed it. We're not necessarily that good at hiding what we do. We are a lot better than people think. But you got to be you and that's okay. Think about how much you would accept them and it's going to be all right. Anyway, I don't want to make this episode too long because I assume that this is probably at the limit of pretty much all of our attention spans. So pro tip for today, look at your hand and see that you have five fingers. For each of your five fingers, tell yourself something absolutely amazing about your life. Because I mean, if nothing else, you just look down and you have five fingers. Woo. And have an absolutely amazing day because you are awesome. Side note for those of you that don't have five fingers, I just thought of that. I'm really sorry. Do you have an elbow? I bet that's cool. I have elbows. Or maybe you have five hairs or five keys on your keyboard. I bet there's five of something in your room. I'm really sorry. I love you too, and you're still a beautiful, amazing person. Ed hope you guys all have a wonderful day and love y'all. Thanks so much for listening. To learn more about anything we talked about today, head over to Remember to like subscribe and share and have a great day. We'll see you next time.

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