The clinking of dishes;
The “Mom, I’m hungry.” “He’s hitting me.” “Can you play with me?” “What’s for dinner?”
The piles of laundry;
The overflowing dirty dishes;
The crying infant;
The endless varieties of ketchup;
The shoulder tapping;
The blaring of the television;
If you are a parent, you might be laughing (or crying) right now, because this sounds like typical things encounter all day long. If you aren’t a parent, though, I am sure you can still relate to the concept that we are constantly barraged by stimulus of every kind all day long. Everywhere we go, we are we are seeing, hearing and touching things. In good health, all of this stimuli is just part of the daily routine and we may not even take note of it. When dealing with severe emotional pain from depression, however, this constant assault on our senses can take our symptoms from bad to worse.
As a mother, I have 4 built-in sources of almost constant auditory, visual and tactile stimuli which originate from each of my 4 children. I also have the visual stimuli of my environment, which often is in one of the varying stages of getting messy or getting clean. All of this input was too much for my ill mind but I didn’t really have much choice–I had to live with it. I learned, therefore, that it was essential for me to be very selective in what additional stimuli I was allowing into my life in order to survive the worst of this mental pain. I also found ways of doing what had to be done, in the easiest way possible to limit the load on my delicate mind.
If you are in a similar situation with your mental health, I hope some of what I share here will be helpful to you. Remember, the key here is to lighten the load on our minds by limiting the stimuli our brains have to process.
Here are some things I stopped doing in my life to give my brain a break:
- I didn’t initiate many interactions with my children, I would let them come to me for the most part. (They did come to me, often–trust me).
- Along with this, I learned to listen and interact without emotionally extending myself, or in other words, not getting emotionally involved. I learned to be more emotionally passive in my interactions. This was essential due the high volume of interactions I had to participate in everyday.
- Situations where I had to be physically present (such as going to church meetings) I would do my best to tune out whatever I didn’t absolutely have to listen to.
- I limited my social interactions because these would always increase my pain.
- I limited time spent listening to loud music as the added noise would often increase my pain.
- I stopped multi tasking. This was much too taxing for my brain.
- I eliminated any media that was really action-packed, intense, or loud as this would increase my distress. In fact, I reduced my media consumption in general.
- I limited time in “busy” environments, such as the grocery store.
Here are some things I started doing to help give my brain rest:
- I set aside about an hour each day for quiet alone time. When the kids were home from school for the summer, this meant all of my children had to participate in quiet time when I did. When my older children were in school, I did this while my baby napped. I cannot stress enough how essential this was! It still is, in fact.
- I had my children do a large share of the family chores. They were all old enough to help. This improved the stimuli from my environment without me having to do it all myself. (We still do this in our family).
- I would remove myself from a situation when I started to feel an increase in pain. For example, this meant that sometimes I didn’t eat dinner with my family, because I needed a break in the quiet.
- I got rid of a lot of possessions, with my husband’s help. I found it difficult to tune out my environment when it was a mess or when excess “things” were constantly assaulting my eyes. I actually went so far as to take most of the pictures and decor down in my house. I just really needed to see blank, empty space. This helped me a lot.
These are not exhaustive lists by any means and many of these of individualized to my circumstances, but hopefully this gives you a starting point from which you can form your own plan to decrease the load on your mind by limiting the stimuli in your life.
Does this make sense? How have you coped with mental pain from depression? I’d love to hear your suggestions.