5 Ways to Quiet Your Life

Jan 15, 2014

Our Christmas break didn’t turn out like I thought.

It rarely does. I knew this. But I still held a deep and warm wish for those 17+ days to be full of slowness and play and rest. I needed the holiday.

The holiday came, but the break didn’t. Instead, an extension of the difficult weeks before.

I’m oh-so-careful what I write about my family members. It’s one thing to share my vulnerabilities, another thing to share theirs. But for those of you who likewise needed a holiday and didn’t get it, I simply want you to know …

I GET IT.

Over the last three months of 2013—October, November and December—one of our littles unraveled. We have a few guesses as to “why” and “how.” But our attempts to explain matter not as much as the fact that our child became less and less able to cope with ordinary, daily life. The result? Near constant anger, tears and stress. We waded through countless phone calls and emails with school professionals, doctors and therapists. No matter what we tried, the spiraling continued. It wore us all down, including our sweet child.

At the same time, I noticed my own self unraveling. I’ve learned that emotions are often contagious. When one person is emotional or volatile, it puts the rest of the family on high alert. Everyone is waiting for the next blow up. Each person cringes and tiptoes and does all she can to avoid a potential land mine and the resulting flying debris. As I attempted (unsuccessfully) to quiet my child, I felt my own center of quiet disintegrating, and my health deteriorating.

That’s when I decided we had to do something. Of course, we’d been doing countless “somethings” for months and years. But it was time to think outside of the box, to make radical life-altering changes and try things we hadn’t yet tried. Too much was at stake.

You may not have a special needs child. You may not be deeling with trauma, PTSD or sensory challenges. But I’m guessing a few of you know what anxiety and stress feel like. Maybe you’re even coming apart at the seams.

If that’s you (or someone you love), I’m with you. We’re in a high-stress family situation, much of which can’t be helped. But some things CAN be helped, and that’s what I determined to tackle.

Over the past month we’ve recaptured a measure of quiet. A relief, let me tell you. We’re laughing more, sleeping better, and our precious child is more calm and regulated than we’ve seen in months. Here’s how we did it:

  1. Sleep: I’m a huge believer in the power of sleep to heal the mind and body. Our kids get close to 12 hours of sleep a night. Adults and grown children, around 8 or 9. The more stress, the more sleep. We go to be early. We take naps. And we don’t feel guilty about it.
  2. Diet: This has been our most radical change. After consulting with a specialist, we decided to go completely wheat-free and sugar-free. We started this a few weeks ago, and already notice difference. It seems to be taking the edge off the angst, for everyone. I won’t lie—it’s a huge adjustment. I spent weeks researching specialty diets, collecting recipes, and tracking down ingredients. But you can’t put a price on peace.
  3. Activity: When one family member struggles, it’s time for the rest of the family to circle around, create safety and offer  support. We did this by limiting activity. We slowed our schedule and spent more time at home. We’ve also planned a few fun family events. In all the tension, all the jumping from crisis to crisis, we’d stopped having fun. But that’s exactly when we needed it most.
  4. Noise: A doctor recently told us to be cautious about what radio stations we listen to and what music we play. Music is a powerful means to alter a mood. Especially for sensory kids, music can either make or break an afternoon. For now, we’re listening to classical music in the car, or none at all. We also limit the noise inside the house, and keep the television off more than on. Excess stimilation is poison to someone who is unraveling. Quiet is healing.
  5. Community: We need help. There, I said it. Every single morning I wake up and realize I’m in over my head. As a result, we asked for help. From teachers, school administrators, therapists, doctors, specialists, and friends. Not only does our child need support, but we parents do, too. Healing takes place in community, and we’re determined to allow community to help us through.

What is one way you can quiet your life this week? 

24 Comments

  1. Paul Jolicoeur

    Thanks for this reminder Michele. Over the past few weeks, I have been more intentional about being back on a sleep schedule. This allows me to get up early and start the day the way I want to. This week I want to focus on your thoughts on Noise. I want to evaluate the music I listen to and how it alters my moods.

    Reply
    • Michele

      Sleep is far more critical than we realize. Let me know what you discover about music this week, Paul. It’s been fascinating to watch how my children respond differently based on the noise level. Me, too.

      Reply
  2. Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

    Michele, it’s been some long (and too quiet) years since I’ve had little ones at home, but I remember the feelings of chaos and anxiety well. I was suffering from panic disorder and agoraphobia and well as major depression when they were little, and I was attempting to get them all ready for school and out the door, or trying to have a fun time during a school break or holiday. I was the special needs child! Thank God that’s all behind me (the emotional misery) and they are all grown up and completely sane, and loving adults to their own children.

    But as I wrote before, at the end of this past year I knew something was wrong. I felt all wrung out, completely overwhelmed, and my health suffered. I had to STOP and take a breath for a couple of weeks. I got back on track, but the other day while praying I felt my mind going in a million directions at once. I was thinking of the future and what I hoped would happen in my business and in my life. Then I sensed that still small voice (it’s repeated to me quite often…I need to hear it quite often).

    You only have today. You only need to live today. Just walk through today. Make it your best. Listen to His voice. Follow His path…for today.

    Not that we don’t make plans and attempt to follow them in order to reach goals, But I find that exercise above re-centers me and calms me, brings me renewed peace, and I start again.

    Reply
  3. Kerith Stull

    Creating white space in our lives is SO important. I think decluttering (in ALL ways) and keeping organized is also key.

    Reply
    • Michele

      Great addition, Kerith. Clutter and disorganization are big triggers for a couple members of our family. Keeping the house picked up and organized is a priority for us as well. Not perfection, but minimizing the chaos.

      Reply
  4. JacQueline Vaughn Roe

    Beautifully said … And now to apply. I need to make sleep a priority, not just for my children, but myself as well. I also need to ask for help, which is hard. Thank you for your vulnerable transparency while still protecting your sweet, little one! Your family remains in my prayers.

    Reply
    • Michele

      I’m far better at offering help than asking for it! Thanks for the prayers, JacQueline. Now go take a nap. 🙂

      Reply
  5. Mickey

    I LOVE this blog post – it REALLY hits home. It is SO important for everyone and especially those of us that struggle with input overload. God himself said “BE STILL and know that I AM” (Psalm 46:10). I have that verse hanging in my bathroom to read every morning. Almost daily I listen to the song “Still the Cross” by FFH. These types of ‘inputs’ are critical to our daily surrender to Christ and his care. As an adult who struggles with Asbergers I have found a LOT of help using high grade essential oils – especially in a home diffuser. Maybe that would be another ‘trick’ in your book to help yourself and your family members. Love you as a sister in CHRIST – Mickey.

    Reply
    • Michele

      We’re already using oils, Mickey. 🙂 I didn’t include it in this post, but we’ve found they can help with sleep and bring a bit of calm. Thanks for the suggestion!

      Reply
  6. Megan Hyatt Miller

    Thank you for this. As a fellow adoptive mama with so many of the same challenges, I can attest the the value of your suggestions. We too, have implemented many of these, and have found them extraordinarily helpful. Recently, Joel and I realized, however, that one area we hadn’t looked at was TV/screen time. We’ve allowed that to be a crutch, hoping for just a minute of quite, or a few moments to unload the dishwasher. I think the creep, has been overstimulating, as you described. Thanks for the reminder to dial the noise down.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Limiting screen time is tough to do … especially when you’re in desperate need for a moments reprieve! Some days I’m better at it than others.

      Reply
  7. Gillian Marchenko

    What thoughtful, great suggestions. Will attempt to adhere to your advice. Our family is totally strung out after the holiday break.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Boy do I empathize, friend. I’m sorry you’re exhausted. Praying God pours into you and fills you up head to toe.

      Reply
  8. Suzanne

    Great post! This is the third article I’ve read this week about stillness. Do you think God is trying to tell me something?

    Reply
  9. Leslie

    We are living quite the parallel universe over in my neck of the woods with a precious sensory little one and the desire for simplicity to quiet the chaos of a large family with alot going on. I am reading a wonderful little book called Amish Peace by Suzanne Woods Fisher. It explores different aspects of a peaceful life and boils it down to the principles of achieving it. Very, very insightful, and has great Biblical wisdom. We have tried much of what you suggested, but I am SO convicted in the area of sleep. Our littles get it, but we DON’T. Thank you for such a timely reminder!! So much of what you write about, we are experiencing, too. Wish we lived close enough to meet for coffee!! Best wishes with you little one, and know that someone else out there understands at least a little and is rooting for you and saying a prayer.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Loved reading your comment, Leslie. Nice to know I have a sister out there somewhere who shares so many life similarities!

      Reply
  10. Pat Avery

    Thank you Michelle for sharing this. As a Father of six I remember what it was like when they were all at home. I am so glad that my wife and me were young they are all grown and have started their on families now except one that is a senior in high school. You have hit the nail on the head Michelle, I agree with each of your points, it all makes sense. I believe it is harder now than ever before to raise children and I pray for people like you and your family that God will help you. Even though our children are grown my wife and I still have stress in our lives and can be helped by following your advice. One thing we always did with our children was no TV during the school week, and early to bed and normally in the car we talked and shared and did not even listen to music. Thank you for your blog.

    Reply
  11. Cindy Finley

    Michelle, thank you for sharing this! What a blessing you are to your family to do what it takes to bring health! I’m going to bed early tonight. Thanks for the encouragement!

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Did you make it to bed early and sleep well, Cindy? I value my sleep more and more the older I get!

      Reply
  12. Debra Delulio Jones

    Excellent in every way! Wish every parent on a hard journey with kids from “hard places” would practice this. Love your wisdom, insight, and willingness to share. Praying for your little one who is unraveling in this season and for her mama that loves her so….. May God intervene and restore in ways that WOW you!
    Deb

    Reply
  13. Karla Akins

    As a mother of twins with autism (now 18) and caring for my mother-in-law in our home who has Alzheimer’s, I sure do know what it’s like not to get a “vacation” during Christmas break. All of your advice here is spot on. Especially the part of not doing it alone. I was an extremely self-reliant mother and prided myself in my ability to run a home clickety-clack but boy did autism teach me humility! I had to step up and admit I needed help and that wasn’t easy. But you MUST. And God has been faithful to provide me help whenever I felt like I was at the end of my rope! You are an amazing Mom. Be patient with yourself. You’re doing a remarkable, amazing thing! And I promise, it’s worth it! Gentle hugs.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Thank you, Karla. I think you might be reading my mind, just a smidgen. 🙂 I’m painfully self-reliant, and will probably always have to work on this one. We really do need community. The together life is so much better (and richer) than the solo life.

      Reply
  14. Tawna

    Michelle,
    I found your site when I was reading through Michael Hyatt’s information. I saw that you are from Colorado, as I am, and that you have worked with the Women of Faith team. I was curious and came to your site.
    I just wanted to reach out and offer prayer and support for your struggles you are going through. I am an educator of 23 years – high school teacher, elementary and secondary school counselor, college administrator, and university adjunct faculty. I am near completion of my doctorate degree in education. I am currently working as an elementary school counselor in a school that is based for autistic students. I understand special needs children, and I have worked with them for many years in many environments.
    I commend you for reaching out for help from the teachers, resource personnel, medical community, and school administrators. Thank you for sharing.
    Tawna

    Reply

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