Relaxing, and even sleeping, doesn’t come easy for me. Because of my Sensory Processing Disorder, the process of unwinding is usually a battle. It’s essential for me to have a quiet place to retreat after work, church, or social outings so I can be rejuvenated for interacting with the world again.
Quiet time is important for everyone though, not just people with special needs. Even Jesus Christ, who had the most important mission on earth, often found time to be alone. This discipline refueled and focused Him for interacting with the crowds He wanted to help, serve and heal. (Mark 1:35-38)
Those of us with disorders like SPD, or who have introverted personalities, need time alone for overall health and well-being. Time to heal and become refreshed is important so we can reengage with the world at our very best. Here’s are a few ideas that have helped me.
Create a Sensory Safe Zone – Make a place that is safe and free from all bombarding stimuli and distractions. If you’re parenting a special needs child, let them have input into how this place, room, closet or cubby hole is set up. Your personal design preferences may actually clash with their ability to find tranquility. What comforts them is key.
I was lucky to have a bedroom of my own as a kid, but it was not a happy place. The walls were busy with plaid striped wallpaper, in pastel colors that I hated. On top of that, a painting of a ballerina hung above my bed and her judging eyes constantly reminded me that I wasn’t the prissy little girl my mother wanted me to be. I could also hear the rumble of the TV from our family room through the wall, which created a lot of anxiety because of my SPD. I had severe panic attacks every single night when I went to bed. The only time I found peace and comfort was in the stillness of the middle of the night when everyone else was asleep. However, staying up all night doing rambunctious things and not getting any sleep created a lot more problems for me. You can read more about my nocturnal shenanigans in my new book.
For me, I also turn on a box fan for white noise and diffuse peppermint oil because these things soothe me. Knowing I won’t have any interruptions or distractions in my sensory safe zone is something I look forward to and it really helps me unwind so I can sleep.
Have a Dedicated Quiet Time – As a child, I never had enough peace and quiet. I usually had to go into the woods behind my house and climb a tree to seek solace, which wasn’t always feasible. Now I plan time every day where I can relax. This gives me the strength and courage to face my everyday challenges. Having a dedicated down time helps me navigate the chaotic world because I know when and where I’ll be able to let my defenses down and relax.
Manage a Healthy Balance – Be careful not to isolate yourself too much if you enjoy solitude. I recommend setting a specific time and place each day. If you have a special event or activity one day you may need to plan extra time afterwards to decompress. But be careful not to hide all the time. The goal is not to become a hermit. The time alone is for a purpose: to become rejuvenated to go back into the world and fulfill your purpose!
Even after Jesus performed some of His greatest miracles, He sought time alone to stay focused and prepared for His calling. If you do the same, you’ll become more effective in fulfilling your specific purpose. Plus, you’ll feel happier and healthier overall.
For more insights about how I perceive the world with a sensory disorder, and how I overcome a world of chaos and misunderstanding, please watch my TED Talk: