I think the best self-care thing I have EVER- like ever-ever- done for myself was installing a locking knob on my bedroom door. Our ensuite had one, but there is still so much sensory overload hiding in a bathroom with sunlight streaming in the window, at least one kids bangs on the door echoing through the tile room, and little sad fingers reaching under the door. Now, I can lock the door and lie on my bed in the dark with a cocoon on blankets and pillows around me. And if the door banging permeates that haven, I can always get behind a second locked door into the washroom.
~I know its not just me: a cocoon muffles all those other sensory inputs while locking your body into place~
My eldest needs breaks, too, to stop the spiral or flailing body, hyped up actions, or cycles of attention seeking aggression. All which, of course, immediately over stimulate me. So, I’m (desperately) hoping that modelling helps teach her this strategy as effective and super acceptable.
Fantasy World: I feel frustration, annoyance, or overload rising slowly.. I tell my kids in a sing-songy calm voice, “Mommy needs a break, I’ll be back in 5!” My children look at me with loving, calm faces, “of course, Mommy.” I go into my room, lock the door, lie in my cocoon, take some slow deep breaths, do mini meditation or visualization exercise. Then, I emerge. My engine is set back to “just right”. I am in the “Green Zone” and ready to interact as the mom I always planned to be. I’ll show them how much I love to be their Mommy.
Reality: Due to the multiple children, desire to keep them both safe and alive- including from each other, and the sleep deprivation of young kids + insomnia; my reactions go from 0-60 before I am fully aware it is happening. My whole body is a burning ball of tension that wants to explode out. I manage some calm but firm words to my kids. No effect. I yell or slam a door to release the uncontrollable tension. At least one kid cries to see me upset. I apologize and comfort the tears while sacrificing my need to reduce physical sensations. The crying and hugs and guilt now only make everything more intense and I feel it all start to cycle in again. Usually one hurts me or gets very in-my-face (which is practically the same thing as physical pain to me). By the time I make it to my room, I’m at more of a “please.. please.. Mommy just needs 2 minutes… I love you.. 2 minutes please..” There is a struggle to get the door closed and then such a satisfaction in that locking mechanism. I usually still need to release the new build of tension from getting through that door. I need my own noise or scream into a pillow to hit the release. Then, I can start my cocoon time… and stumble through some breathing or calming thoughts. And step back out across enemy lines. My engine teeters back down out of the red. My body is heightened and my nervous system is ready fight or flee. I beg myself to just be the mom they need. I wish more than anything that they will remember the loving moments more than these.
My 2021 goal is to learn to identify those early signs in my own body. Take preventative breaks.