how to stop fidgeting
July 11, 2018 4:45 AM   Subscribe

I am a fidgeter. I don't think this has any underlying psychiatric cause, it's just how I am. I worry that I'm annoying or distracting to my co-workers. How can I fidget less, or are there ways of fidgeting a little less obviously when I am working?

I am something of a fidgeter. I like to bob to my music when on the move, and at work I also bob or tap my feet when I've got my headphones on, constantly readjust myself, and when I'm really concentrating hard on something I pick at or bite my nails (gross, I know).

I have seen this previous question, but I don't think it's completely relevant to my situation. The poster linked their fidgeting to their OCD, and while I do have some stress/anxiety issues, I don't think the fidgeting is a manifestation of psychiatric symptoms so much as a... release of excess energy? I say this because when I force myself NOT to bob, tap my feet etc, I feel a build up of energy/restlessness inside me that needs to be discharged in some way. Usually I fidget most when I am concentrating hard on something, or when I feel happy or positive.

I am sure it looks really odd and in an open-plan office. I'm fairly sure it's distracting and annoying to others. I should say that no one working around me has ever complained, but I feel self-conscious about it nonetheless. No one around me moves constantly the way I do. Why can't I just keep still? What are some ways of fidgeting in a low-key manner, without looking odd or distracting people?
posted by Ziggy500 to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I try to minimize externally visible fidgeting (spinning chair, tapping feet) and go with things like sequentially flexing the muscles in my legs or flexing my toes inside my shoes. Anecdotally I work around tons of people who fidget. That being said, I agree that being the dude who adjusts himself constantly is not what you want to be known for in the office.

You don’t mention if you have a fidget spinner, but maybe something like that would be useful to you.

You might also benefit from an app like Headspace or other mindfulness exercise, which will help train you to sit quietly. You don’t have to learn to be a Zen master but if you find yourself getting all twitchy, you could take a moment to re-center and take a pause.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:24 AM on July 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

What about trying something that doesn’t involve repetitive noise? I think that’s the thing that bothers people the most in an office environment. I use a stress ball sort of thing - it’s pricey for what it is, but I really like this one. Way better than the cheap foam ones, or the sand in a balloon kind.

Also, consider trying breathing exercises. Start with just a few minutes. Being still and calm is a skill like any other and can be practiced.

Also, a lot of people fidget, so I doubt people are annoyed by you. 🙂
posted by machinecraig at 5:27 AM on July 11, 2018

If you have the option for a standing desk, you might find a balance board is a good option for fidgeting/movement in a relatively low key way. A lot of people at my office have them and are constantly moving on them in small ways that doesn't seem to bother people around them.
posted by spindrifter at 5:37 AM on July 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

I tap & jiggle my feet and slightly swivel my chair; but we have carpet at work (so it's all soundless), and no one has ever commented on it. If you can keep the restless energy to just your toes, that helps a lot, although if you are female and wear heels, take them off; you can wear out the heel taps/ruin the backs of your heels with fidgeting. (why yes I have lost several nice pairs of shoes to this)

I did get called out early on in my career for flipping my pen around during a meeting; don't do that. Fidget spinners away from someone's desk also have been called out for being childish; but at your desk who cares. You should only really adjusting your clothing/yourself if you are standing up, or in the bathroom; figure out why things aren't fitting they way they should and fix that to eliminate a distraction.
posted by larthegreat at 5:48 AM on July 11, 2018

I quit a fairly serious nail biting habit long ago by putting nail polish on them. It only took a few weeks to retrain my brain. If you don’t want colors, they have clear matte ‘top coat’ polish that nobody will notice unless they are staring at your hands.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:04 AM on July 11, 2018

I flip coins across my fingers, spin pens, twirl a rubix cube.

For a stress-ball type thing, a set of zen magnets was really nice too.
posted by bbqturtle at 6:06 AM on July 11, 2018

Also, in case it helps: in my world of academics, it’s stranger to see someone who doesn’t fidget a bit when concentrating hard. Twirling hair, flipping a pen, stroking a chin/beard etc., all par for the course.
As long as it’s relatively low-key and not all the time, I’m tempted to say you don’t really have a problem, unless someone tells you that you are bothering them.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:07 AM on July 11, 2018

As people commented on, whatever you do make sure it doesn’t make noise and I promise you that if you tap your feet or jiggle your leg and think it’s fine because no one ever mentioned it you’re very wrong.

Check out fidget spinners or other fiver devices at your desk and for the love of god don’t start with a click pen
posted by raccoon409 at 6:14 AM on July 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

I do the picking at nails thing too. To combat that, I have a tin of Thinking Putty and a Fidget Cube out on my desk that I use when I'm reading or concentrating without needing to type. They're both pretty quiet and low-key. (Some of the fidget cube options do make noise, but they're easily avoided)
posted by Fig at 6:17 AM on July 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yup, quiet at-desk fidgets are the way to go. You might look at Stimtastic for some options. Personally I like some squishy stress putty or a spinner ring, but YMMV. A fidget cube is also great if you stick with the quiet options.

While this wouldn't work for me because my fidgeting isn't so much about excess energy, since yours seems to be, does it help at all if you take some regular breaks to walk around the block or around the office or something? Might be worth a try, anyway, see if you can get all the excess energy out in a burst and then be calmer for a while.
posted by Stacey at 6:22 AM on July 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Walk, run or exercise before work, and at lunch or breaks if you get a chance. If you are still fidgeting after that (which I doubt), make sure your area is cool and comfortable and you are wearing comfortable clothes.
posted by serena15221 at 6:33 AM on July 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't know you or your office, but what you've described sounds totally normal and unremarkable to me. Maybe ask your manager if this is actually something that needs correcting, or if it's all in your head?

That said, I use a balance board and fidget cube (way better than the spinners). The balance board is awesome. So much better than standing static.
posted by hishtafel at 6:37 AM on July 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Switch your office chair out for a balance-ball chair. Work out/run before work. Take regular breaks where you are active - run the stairs, walk around the building, do planks. Practice mindfulness.

But also, ask your nearest coworkers if your actions or the noises you make really are distracting. Most people in open-plan offices get good at tuning out the regular movements and sounds in their environment, so you might not be as distracting as you think you are (even if you didn't have stress/anxiety issues).

Nail biting in public is gross though, IMO. That *snap* is such a distinct sound.
posted by headnsouth at 6:51 AM on July 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm a person who fidgets and the balance ball for a chair is a game changer. My trick is to brace one leg against the desk and do teeny subtle leg movements to remain on top of the ball. It focuses the movement without having to think and because I'm not bouncing, it doesn't create more energy, which happens if I start bouncing.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 7:25 AM on July 11, 2018

I find chewing gum helps me release some of my restless/fidget-y energy, and it seems generally pretty non-annoying for anyone nearby, assuming you're not doing it really loudly or blowing bubbles or something. I would avoid chewing gum in a meeting or during a presentation or whatever, but at your desk, I assume it would be fine in most work environments.
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:21 AM on July 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Spinner rings are discreet and fun. I have one from this store, they have an impressive variety.

One fairly unobtrusive fidget motion is running the tip of your forefinger over the edge and cuticles of your thumbnail. I find it provides a variety of sensations, textures and pressure.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 9:38 AM on July 11, 2018

The only fidgeting that annoys me in an office is stuff that shakes my desk (leg jiggles) and stuff that makes a persistent noise, like clicking a pen over and over. I wouldn't worry about bobbing, tapping your toes (as long as it's not loud) and chewing on your nails.

I think I read somewhere that fidgeters are healthier than non-fidgeters because they're always moving--so that might be a reframe to consider. It's healthy to move!
posted by purple_bird at 9:40 AM on July 11, 2018

Is CBD oil available (in one way or another) in the UK? It can definitely help smooth-out the nerves in a way that could help reduce the fidgeting.

The problem I've noticed about fidget toys is that they really just redirect the fidgeting into a different outlet, but it's still relatively noticeable fidgeting, and not a reduction in the habit at all. YMMV, of course.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:51 AM on July 11, 2018

I was like you, until I was 25, when I caught mono. Sickest I've ever been, for days on end. Somehow, as the symptoms faded away, new reservoirs of calm became available to me, and for the first time in my life, and ever since, I could sit still.
posted by Rash at 9:56 AM on July 11, 2018

I find that when I start to fidget, I need to release energy by doing something with my whole body (i.e. short walk, going up and down stairs, desk stretches, etc). This releases the energy and I fidget a lot less.
posted by LinneaJC at 10:13 AM on July 11, 2018

Meditation cut down my fidgeting way, way down. It has other benefits too.
posted by Dmenet at 11:46 AM on July 11, 2018

Just get some quiet fidget toys, like squeezy stress balls. I wouldn't stress about breaking the habit entirely. Fidgeting is harmless as long as you're not making a lot of noise, making things vibrate, or making large noticeable movements like actively bouncing up and down. Breaking habits completely, as opposed to substitution with something more benign, takes a lot of sustained mental effort that is honestly probably better spent elsewhere in your life.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:54 AM on July 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

Check out this selection of silent fidgets if you are worried about distracting others. For the nail-biting, you could try a chewable fidget.

For toe-tapping, there are foot bands instead.

Lots of people fidget. It's not a big deal.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:13 PM on July 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

I’m a lifelong fidgeter due to ADD. I also tend to be distracted by the fidgeting of others due to the same ADD. I’m a treat!

Nonobtrusive fidgets are generally those that don’t make noise and aren’t directly in the line of sight of others. Silly Putty/therapy putty, a stress ball, tangle toys and Koosh balls are some of my favorites. As others have mentioned, there are chewable fidgets—Stimtastic is a great place to look for these.

Most of all, if nobody’s mentioned being bothered by you, try not to think too much about it. As long as you’re being aware of how much noise/vibration you’re making, you’re doing your part. Fidgeting quietly is a-ok.
posted by epj at 3:05 PM on July 11, 2018

I find that my fidgeting at this point is most connected to two factors: lack of sleep, and lack of calming pressure/ “weighting” or “pressing” physical stimulation. The first is pretty straightforward.

For the second, I realized I have some kind of mild-moderate sensory issue where I’m bothered by a total lack of pressure against my body (to the point that low pressure weather systems make me really physically anxious!) What helps: sleeping with a weighted blanket, wearing things that provide pressure against my body (maxi dresses, jackets) without getting too hot, wrapping my feet together and squeezing the tops against each other (apparently I’ve been doing this to self-sooth since I was a toddler!) If this resonates with you, perhaps experiment with more ways to get doses of this constant relaxing pressure through your days? Good luck!
posted by elephantsvanish at 4:12 PM on July 11, 2018

Do you drink caffeine? If so, cutting back may be another angle of attack for reducing restlessness.
posted by Construction Concern at 4:22 PM on July 11, 2018

No one will know if you're doing kegels
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:24 PM on July 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

Part of my job is counseling and I was and can still be a huge fidgeter.

Honestly I practiced being still. It took alot of mental energy to focus on how my body was presenting to others. AND I hated it, but I've got the 45 minute still listening time down. Though I practically do jumping jacks afterwards because it is a ton of work for me.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:12 PM on July 11, 2018

Other people have minimized the irritation of the chewing nails thing, but I can assure it's way more annoying to me than anything else you mentioned. I was trapped next to a nail cruncher in a series of meetings and it just grossed me out to the point of desperately wanting to leave the meetings. That would be what I would prioritize in terms of minimizing. They sell yuck spray you can put on your hands so it's bitter when you chew on them and that's what worked for me when I was a kid and chewed on my nails.
posted by Kimberly at 7:28 AM on July 12, 2018

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