This Mindset Shift Around Alone Time Has Made Me a Better Mom and Partner
Although alone time is important, it’s all too easy to neglect it — because you’re too busy, you don’t realize that’s what you need, and, often, because it feels selfish. In reality, though, alone time can be a real necessity and carving out the space for it makes things better not only for you, but for the people around you.
I personally need alone time or I will eventually turn into a fire-breathing monster. Part of it is being an introvert. When I first heard one way to know whether you’re an introvert is to answer the question of whether you need alone time to recharge, that rang so true for me.
In addition to being an introvert, I’m a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), which means I’m extra sensitive to sensory input, whether it’s good or bad. Things like loud, sudden noises, persistent sounds, harsh lighting, smells in the environment, and rushing — especially if a few of these things are happening simultaneously — send my brain and body danger signals. My nervous system gets overwrought, and I often shift to a fight-or-flight state. Being an HSP permeates every aspect of my living because it’s part of who I am.
As you can imagine, since I live in a household with five kids and two energetic dogs, I contend with a great deal of sensory input daily. Without being intentional about calming my nervous system down, my “fight” comes out and nobody enjoys that state of affairs! Working on becoming more aware of the tension that builds up in my body before I explode has done wonders for me. Slowly, I’m learning that alone time really isn’t something to feel guilty about, but something I need to practice in order to show up as my best self for my husband and children.
Here are a few tips if you feel like you, too, could benefit from building alone time into daily life:
Notice the times of day that make you feel most on-edge.
Knowing beforehand the types of regular situations and times of day that feel the most overwhelming will help you gear up for them. For me, the morning rush out the door (or any rush out the door) and the pre-bedtime scramble are two of the most challenging times of day.
Make provisions for alone time sometime near those times of day.
I try to have my cup of coffee alone in the quiet before I start breakfast and the bustle involved in getting five kids ready for school. I also try to stick to an evening ritual of a hot bath as a reset that transitions me into quiet time. Whether I’m fortifying or resetting myself, knowing I have these set times to be alone gives me patience and stability.
Communicate your needs to those around you.
Disappearing when things get chaotic can be mystifying for others at home. Communication, both in a general sense and in the moment, is crucial. I’ve explained to my husband that when I tell him things like “I’m overwhelmed,” “I’m done,” or “I need to go to my room for a bit” it’s because my nerves are frayed and I need to gather them. He’s extremely supportive and is usually able to swoop in. I’ve also been trying to let him know before I get to the point of needing to “flee” so we can tag-team. I have communicated my need to “take a little break” to my children, too, and they know that when I come out from a bit of quiet time, I’ll be more relaxed. (They’ve also come to see this as a sign that they should tone down the commotion, if they can.)
Eliminate input when you can’t be alone.
It’s not always practical or even possible to retreat when you feel overwhelmed. So do what you can in the situation you’re in. One thing you can do is eliminate some of the sensory input. You can send the dogs outside, turn off the oven fan you don’t need running anymore, turn off the music, and take out the smelly garbage. If you can’t take an actual breather, focus on your breathing. Remind yourself that you’re safe, that everything is OK, and this is only a moment in time.
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