So, here I am. In my fortress of solitude, finally. The kids went to bed. My husband went to the shower. It’s finally quiet. Except that I can hear the dog crunching on his food. Crunch-Crunch-Crunch… It’s like no matter what, quiet never quite happens. Sometimes I understand the urge to put on a set of noise-cancelling headphones. Sometimes I do put on a set of noise-cancelling headphones. Only then do I realize what my husband has no inclination of–that those headphones do NOT cancel out all the noise. Quiet doesn’t exist. That’s why I understand sensory overload.
All day long, a literally thousands of things go on around us and all of those things make noise. People talking. Steps down a hallway. Pens clicking. Papers rustling. Whispers. A foot tapping. A computer vibrating. A window rattling. The air conditioner humming. That’s just in my classroom, and just the things I can process. The thought of all those noises make my heart race with anxiety because I’m a deeply anxious person and, frankly, noises bother me. I minimize noises as much as possible when they’re not constructive because I know they rattle me (to throw in another sound word), so I recognize how they might throw a student off.
Imagine you’re in the shoes of someone who doesn’t just get overloaded by noise, though. I feel the walls closing in by the end of the day because I’ve held on for as long as I could dealing with all the noises. If I also felt overstimulated by touch, smells, or visual stimuli, getting through the day would feel a bit tricky. Yet, my son has been faced with this all his life and we (as society) expect him to behave as a “typical” child every day.
There are videos where you can “feel” what it’s like to be in the shoes of someone going through Sensory Overload. So, maybe you had to turn that down a little? That’s everyday for some people. Sound, lights, smells, touch…amplified. Everything so overwhelming that you just cannot take anymore. Eventually, every single nerve in your body feels like it’s standing on end to that point where you feel two possible responses (a) Run away from it or (b) Scream at it to stop. Maybe, like in the video, you just shut down because the whole world is the problem and there’s nowhere to run.
Me? I need quiet. But the washing machine is churning now. The light above my head is buzzing. And I should go to bed, which is probably the only quiet I’ll get (in my sleep). But, in answer to what to do when you need a break from the chaos of life? I’ve actually found a website called Happify (and it’s an app now too). I did a review on it a while back and I try to get on it now and then. It now has some relaxation scenes that I’m using to calm myself down. The seashore ones happy to relax me the most. I just take some deep breaths, try to ignore the screaming kids in the background for about 5 minutes (my husband can handle that, right?!), and Happify. Sometimes I even pretend I’m on an actual beach, but without the sand getting in all the annoying places. Quiet doesn’t exist, but the beach does, and I can escape to the beach for about 5 minutes anytime I want…in my mind.