Highly sensitive parents need down time. It’s not a luxury. It’s an essential, in the same way you need lunch and plenty to drink during the day. If you want to stay sane you need to realise this. It took me years to get it. The second challenge, which is an even bigger hurdle than the first, is carving out the down time you need whilst your children are at home.
Here are some tips to help you create space for yourself – to carve out time to empty your own bucket.
1. Learn to understand yourself.
If you know what calms you and how much down time you need after certain activities then you can plan accordingly. Learn to understand what drains you. Does noise bother you? Busy environments? Tasks that need extreme concentration? Then you will know when down time is important to prevent you melting down. This is the biggest lesson we as HSPs need to learn.
2. Ditch the guilt.
This was (and quite likely still is) my biggest enemy. I always feel like I should be doing something more productive when I take time to do very little. I’m learning (slowly) just how essential quiet time is to me as a person but also as a mother. Just lose the guilt.
3. Ask for help.
Enlist the help of family and friends to give you time alone – even if it is half an hour in the middle of the day.
4. Don’t over schedule.
In the same way you need to keep activities under control for your child make sure you do the same for yourself. Running around with your child(ren) from one after school activity to another and then honoring your own commitments in the evening can be incredibly draining. Take a look at your schedule and see what can be dumped.
5. Use nap times.
Whilst the baby naps make sure you grab some quiet time. Leave the household, the errands and chores and take time for yourself. Trust me – the world won’t stop turning because the vacuum cleaner wasn’t run around the living room that day. Make it a habit to use moments when the house is quiet to recharge.
There are fantastic meditations around which can even be done in a few minutes (see Calm or Headspace for example). Lie on the sofa or the floor with some headphones and grant yourself anything from 5 minutes to half an hour to listen to a meditation. Learn to tune in. Learn to breathe your way to a feeling of calm.
7. Take a bubble bath.
If you have the house to yourself, or someone else is looking after the children, lock yourself away in the bathroom and take to the tub. Don’t underestimate how calm even 15 minutes in a bubble bath can make you feel.
Get your thoughts onto paper. Scribble out your worries and fears. Celebrate your victories and joys. Clear your mind by emptying it onto paper.You can use a notebook or make your journal something special (my personal favourite is Katie Clemons who has a journal for almost any occasion!)
Take yourself away from the real world and put your feet up and read a book or magazine. Not only is it relaxing, you are a great role model for your children. You can also calm your own mind by reading to your children – story time is good for everyone.
10. Plan activities at off peak times.
If you are planning to take your child to the cinema avoid the busiest performances of the day. If you have a trip to the zoo in the agenda plan away from the busy days. The same applies for hairdresser appointments or commuting times.
11. Play music.
Put some music on that either soothes you or gets you dancing around your kitchen. Get those emotions out – dance with your child.
12. Play with your schedule.
If you know you are most drained in the evening limit your appointments after the kids have gone to bed. If you need to recoup at the weekend give yourself permission to make one of the days a quiet day and keep it free.
13. Schedule quiet time.
If you can’t quite seem to get around to granting yourself down time then write it in your agenda, just as you would any other appointment. Label it down time, quiet time, me time – whatever you like – but put it in your calendar and honour it.
14. Use opportunities at work.
If you are a working parent and are on parent duty the moment you arrive home find time in your day to quiet your mind. Use your journey home to calm your mind with soothing music in the car or a good book if you travel by public transport. Check whether there are quiet rooms at work (my husband has access to a fantastic relaxation room that many would envy but he forgets about it) you can use to clear your mind when you need to. The emptier your bucket is when you leave work, the more ready you will be to enjoy your family when you walk in the front door.
15. Noise reducing headphones.
Just like I encourage my HSC to wear headphones in school there is no reason why you can’t use them too. Put them on and drown out the noise around you for a while.
16. Use a system.
Develop a way to communicate to your partner and children when you need time out without an endless discussion every time. In my family the words, “My bucket is full” is enough to know where we are at.
17. Use your creativity.
Doing something creative often comes naturally to a HSP. Use that creativity to calm your mind, whether it be painting, drawing, knitting, crochet, crafting or playing a musical instrument use your creativity to shut out the world around you.
18. Give yourself a time out.
If the children are rowdy and you feel like you don’t have control then walk away (assuming the children cannot come to any harm of course) and allow yourself a reset by counting slowly to ten (or one hundred if necessary). Stand outside in your garden or on your balcony or escape upstairs – anywhere to get yourself out of the immediate situation that is overwhelming you. A few seconds can be enough to be able to go back in and handle things effectively again.
19. Ask for help.
For many (and I am as guilty as any) asking for help is not easy but sometimes someone else taking the reins from you for half an hour can be the make or break of getting through an intensive day with little ones in the house, particularly if you have a highly sensitive baby or toddler in the house.
20. Let it go.
You just sang that didn’t you? But there is a good lesson to be learnt from Elsa in there – let the emotion go. When it all gets too much, and it will, find a harmless outlet for the pent up emotion. Punch a pillow. Scream into a pillow. Stomp your feet. Get the emotion out in a way that doesn’t mean you taking out your emotions on your children. Let it go.