Quiet Time

For the month of April I’m blogging alphabetically about quick, easy, and practical ways to relieve stress. To see the other posts in this series, click here.

shhhNot too long ago, we used to have quiet time. Every day, from 1ish until 3ish it was mandatory that everyone be quiet. The babies would take their naps, and the older kiddos had to find something quiet to do. No screens, no music, no playing together, just silence. They could engage in any activity they wished, as long as there was no noise. They could read, draw, nap, build legos, do a puzzle, etc. The only rules were it had to be quiet and they had to work alone. It was fabulous. I loved quiet time.

Somehow, with babies being on different schedules, and middle children phasing out of naps, quiet time fell by the wayside. But I’m going to bring it back. Because quiet time was such a gift for everyone in the family. After quiet time, everyone was rejuvenated, in a better mood, and ready to enjoy the afternoon.

For me, quiet time was a great time to reboot and unwind. I often wouldn’t do much of anything. My intention was usually to read, but, a lot of times, I would just sit and enjoy the silence. I would think about what we had done that day and think about what we still needed to do. Sometimes my mind would drift inward and I would end up reflecting on various things about my life. I would evaluate who I am and where I’m heading – think through how my present actions connect to my bigger goals. But even if I didn’t drift into any kind of deep thinking, having the opportunity to sit quietly with just myself and drink a cup of coffee is so good for me.

Taking time away from the hustle and bustle of daily life to just be quiet and calm and peaceful is so helpful. Unplugging from distractions and responsibilities and just being – being myself, being in the present moment, being free – it’s so refreshing. I don’t know if quiet time has a lasting impact on my stress level or not, but I know for certain that during quiet time I am not stressed, and that is a very good thing.

C is for Cuddling

For the month of April I’m blogging alphabetically about quick, easy, and practical ways to relieve stress. To see the other posts in this series, click here.

2014-10-25 07.25.58Did you know that cuddling releases oxytocin? If you don’t know about oxytocin, you should look it up. Our bodies are amazing! Among other things, oxytocin evokes feelings of contentment, reductions in anxiety, and feelings of calmness and security. Research has shown that oxytocin can decrease anxiety and protect against stress! And cuddling releases oxytocin! It seems to me that means cuddling can reduce stress! Sweet!

It seems so easy.

But it hasn’t been for me.

I’ve been trying to cuddle my kids and my husband more leading up to writing this post. I wanted to offer some anecdotal evidence that cuddling can actually reduce stress.

If you asked me, I’d say I really like to cuddle, so I thought this would be super easy.

The problems isn’t so much with cuddling itself, but sitting there feeling like I’m doing nothing. Moments after I sit down and snuggle in, my mind starts racing with all the things I “should” be doing instead. Then, I cut the snuggle session short and get back to my never ending to do list.

So, I can’t tell you yet if cuddling produces a noticeable difference in stress levels. What I can tell you is that I need to create time to cuddle. Then, once I’ve created that time, I need to be content in my cuddling – just enjoy the moment. Clear my mind. Allow myself freedom from my to-do list long enough to just cuddle and enjoy myself.

So that’s my new goal. Every day, I want to create some time to cuddle. I want to clear my mind and be content in the moment. And, hopefully, my body will use all these wonderful “C” words as an opportunity to release some oxytocin and drown out my stress.

Q is for Quiet Time

All April long, I’m blogging alphabetically about Adjusting to Life to Life with Baby Number 5. Click here to see all the posts in this series.
 

2014-04-03 15.30.17

When my first babies were little I could get so resentful of the hours spent up in the middle of the night. I would count the minutes, wondering how much longer until I could crawl back in bed and get some sleep.

Now, I relish those sweet moments in the middle of the night.

There’s nothing to steal either of our attention away from the other.

There’s nothing to listen to except her sweet coos.

There’s nothing else I “should” be doing, so I am fully present with her. I just sit there, drinking in every expression and every tiny, jerky movement. I watch in awe as she wobbles her little head, and, finally, with immense effort, manages to hold it up straight and still.

She opens and closes her tiny fists. Sometimes she catches my finger. She might as well reach in and grab my heart because it has the same effect.

I still don’t particularly enjoy being sleep deprived, but I love those quiet moments in the middle of the night.

Quiet moments with a baby are my favorite.

 

No, Really, I AM an Introvert.

introvert fishI’ve told my husband for years that I’m an introvert. He’s always disagreed. He says something along the lines of, “I’ve seen you be social when you want to be. You’re really outgoing. You’re an extrovert.” Truthfully, until I read the Huffington Post article the other day, I didn’t fully understand what it meant to be an introvert. All I meant was that I often feel awkward in social settings and being around people can be so exhausting. Turns out there’s even more to it that that. While both of those traits do fit in with the introvert experience, there’s so much more about my personality that makes sense now that I’ve read that list. Yesterday, I touched on some of the highlights for me. Today I’m going to add my commentary to each of their 23 points. Maybe it will be enough to convince my sweet husband that, even though I have high energy and do enjoy socializing with people I know, I really am an introvert.

First, I’d like to point out that in the introduction the article states that a lot of introverts can be social butterflies and pass as extroverts. I think this is why my hubby refuses to accept that I am really an introvert. Just because I don’t hide in the corner, doesn’t mean I’m not an introvert. The article says that the social aspect is really only a small piece of this personality.

Next, I find it fascinating that the American Psychological Association considered listing “introverted personality” in the DSM as recently as 2010. I certainly understand what they may have been considering. At times, being introverted certainly can feel debilitating. But, overall, it’s not really something that holds me back. It’s just something I have to cope with and make accommodations for. It’s just part of who I am.

Now for their traits…

1.You find small talk incredibly cumbersome.

Oh my gosh! All I can say is AMEN! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told, “I used to think you were such a b**ch until I got to know you.” Umm…thanks? Glad you took the time to get to know me. I’m really not a b**tch (well…at least not most of the time), but I think this trait is why people perceive me that way. I don’t think I’m better than you, I just really can’t stand having to talk about nothing. To me, it seems like we’re both above that.

This trait is also is to blame for the awkwardness that ensues when random strangers approach me to talk about how cute my baby is. I can tell you all about my baby, but, my guess is, you don’t really care. I just don’t know where else to go from there. You said she’s cute. I said thanks. Now what?

bill lumburg2. You go to parties -– but not to meet people.

You’re having a party? Awesome! I love parties!! But if I could get the guest list in advance to ensure the ratio to people I know to people I don’t know is within my comfort zone, that would be great.

Sure, it’s nice to know a lot of people, but getting to know them is pretty tricky. I think if more people could master good introductions, this would be so much more bearable. You know, when someone says, “Oh! Mary. I want you to meet my friend Suzie. Suzie blah blah blah blah (insert some kind of relevant information about Suzie’s life, career, pet iguana.) Being able to start a conversation with real information helps so much when meeting new people. Otherwise, see # 1 about my dislike of small talk.

3. You often feel alone in a crowd.

I’ve written about this before. I thought this was just the result of my lifestyle choices. Most people treat me like I’m some kind of three-legged freak, so I often feel like one. Maybe there’s more to it than that?

4. Networking makes you feel like a phony.

This is reason # 1 that I couldn’t hack it in Mary Kay. I loved so much about that organization, but I can’t network. I feel like such a fraud when I try. What’s worse is I felt like, even when I wasn’t networking, people would think I was phony, assuming I just wanted to sell something to them rather than just hang out or be friends.

5. You’ve been called “too intense.”

There was a group at the fraternity house where I used to hang out that would sit on the porch and talk for hours. We would talk about all kinds of things: philosophy, books, movies, science, music, history… Everyone always said we were being “too intense.” That we just needed to grab a beer and let loose. We were much more content sitting with our beer and talking about all sorts of things. That’s not to say I never “let loose,” only that I was frequently accused of being “too intense.”

6. You’re easily distracted.

I find this particularly interesting. I have ADHD, which also involves being easily distracted. I’d love to see some work done on how ADHD presents in introverts vs. extroverts. Apparently, I have no hope. Between the two, I’m not likely to ever finish a task, or even a sentence….

Maybe this is why I long for the beach. I get lots of down time.

Maybe this is why I long for the beach. I get lots of down time.

7. Downtime doesn’t feel unproductive to you.

I crave downtime. I need it. If I don’t get enough of it, I can’t function. I just end up breaking down. When I was working at our church, I had to take Thursdays completely off. I worked 10-12 hours on Wednesdays, and it was usually my last day of work for the week. On Thursday, I had to veg out. I worried that I was just being lazy, but I knew that I needed it. The kids loved just having a day to chill. They thought I was being “cool.” I was just trying to stay sane. Now that I’m not working outside the home, I still need it, just not in such massive quantities. This is the added benefit to the quiet time we have each day. I get to sit down with my coffee or lunch or whatever and recharge. It makes for a much smoother evening when I’m running on fresh batteries.

8. Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with those people afterwards.

I talked about this one yesterday. I’ll just sum it up by saying this is so true!

9. When you get on the subway, you sit at the end of the bench -– not in the middle.

Always! Or at church. Or the movie theater. Or anywhere. I need to be able to escape easily. Luckily, my kids make for a handy excuse. “I might need to slip out with the baby, so I should sit on the end.”

I also strategically pick my spot at tables in restaurants. It has to have a combination of a good view (I don’t want to be staring at the wall) and an easy escape. Interestingly, I rarely do escape, but I need to feel that I could. I can’t stand to feel trapped. 

10. You start to shut down after you’ve been active for too long.

Yes, yes, yes! This is part of the reason I had to take Thursdays off in # 7. The same applies to play dates, shopping trips, even vacations. I need a good balance of activity and down time.

That's not me, that's my beautiful sister. And that's my hubby...being an extrovert?

That’s not me; that’s my beautiful sister, Meghan. And that’s my hubby…being an extrovert?

11. You’re in a relationship with an extrovert.

Most definitely. Having read this list, I’d be interested to find a similar list of extrovert traits. I’d love to know what pieces of his personality are tied to his extroversion that I’ve never noticed. Major plus to being in a relationship with an extrovert: I let him handle the small talk whenever possible. I just stand there and smile.

12. You’d rather be an expert at one thing than try to do everything.

So true! There’s so much to learn about everything. You can always go deeper. I can’t imagine being satisfied with surface level knowledge of everything with no deep knowledge of anything. I need to go deep. I need to understand why.

13. You actively avoid any shows that might involve audience participation.

Umm, of course. I would die if I had to be that sap that got called on stage.

On the same token, there’s nothing worse than being in a workshop when the presenter says, “Now I want you to turn to your neighbor and share your responses to these three questions…” Can we not? I came to hear you, the supposed expert, talk, not the random lady sitting beside me. More than that, I don’t really want to “share” anything with her. I don’t even know her.

14. You screen all your calls — even from friends.

Yes! A million times a day. I can’t help it. I hate phone calls. I thought the article described it perfectly. To me, it really feels like you just jumped out of my closet and shouted, “BOO!” I just can’t deal with that. I’ll call you back when I’m mentally prepared to deal with you. Oh, and when none of my children are screaming. Waiting for those two stars to align could take a while. I’m sorry. This truly is a case of, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

15. You notice details that others don’t.

I’m incredibly detail-oriented. I never would have guessed this is somehow correlated with being an introvert.

16. You have a constantly running inner monologue.

When I first read this I thought, “Doesn’t everybody?” Apparently not. I find this fascinating.

The description also mentioned that introverts need to think first and talk later. This is so true. This is why the thought of taking Q&A’s petrifies me. Not because I won’t know the answer, just because I need to process my thoughts for a minute before answering. I can’t just start talking. I need to think for a minute. This is also why I hate being called on in class. I really did do the reading assignment. I just don’t answer very well on the spot. I need a minute to think.

17. You have low blood pressure.

Always. Even when I’m pregnant.

18. You’ve been called an “old soul” -– since your 20s.

When I was a teenager, my friends always told me how wise I was, especially when we were dealing with boy problems or parent problems. I never really understood why. It was usually after I verbalized what seemed to be incredibly obvious. Maybe this is why? I don’t really know. This hasn’t happened to me in years.

Final Four games at the Alomodome in San Antonio, TX. 43, 715 in attendance!

2009 Final Four games at the Alomodome in San Antonio, TX. 43, 715 in attendance!

19. You don’t feel “high” from your surroundings

This is the only one that I can’t immediately identify with. Perhaps, neurochemically (which is what the article describes) this is true. I have no way of knowing. What I do know is that I love huge concerts and sporting events and other ginormous situations. I think it’s awesome to be part of something so big and so exciting where everyone is so passionate about the same silly thing. I love that.

20. You look at the big picture.

Always. Even when I don’t want to. The good news is, this is probably why I never got in any “real” trouble in college. I did a lot of questionable things, but I was never willing to put my scholarship in jeopardy. This ruled out a lot, since getting in trouble with the campus or the police certainly would have done so.

21. You’ve been told to “come out of your shell.”

For as long as I can remember. Usually, my solution is to surround myself with people who are out of theirs. It seems to camouflage the fact that I’m perfectly content in mine. Or maybe this just leads more people to thinking I’m a b**ch? (see # 1) Who knows?

22. You’re a writer.

Indeed. I always have been. I’ve kept a journal since the 7th grade. When I was in 1st grade, I started writing letters to my parents explaining why I was running away. (That was probably a tad dramatic, but I’m just illustrating that I’ve always been more comfortable expressing myself in writing.)  Maybe one day, when the kids are bigger, I’ll make something substantial of it.

23. You alternate between phases of work and solitude, and periods of social activity.

This is so true. I’ve touched on this in # 7 and # 10. I definitely have a threshold of activity. I have to have a balance between work and fun and rest. When that balance gets out of whack, I get very stressed out and very cranky. I don’t think as clearly, and I don’t operate as productively. It’s not just being lazy; I really need the downtime to be able to function as a normal human being.

This need makes weekends challenging for me. I have two days to hang out with my husband, to unwind with him, and to get things done with him. I usually don’t balance it out very well, which leaves me disappointed every Sunday. I always feel as if we wasted the weekend. Maybe now that I’m more conscious of the way I cycle through these things, I can plan more balance, and, thus, get more satisfaction out of our weekends together.

Singing and dancing on stage with the band at my friend's wedding. I think it's moments like this that make my husband doubt that I could possibly be an introvert.

Singing and dancing on stage with the band at my friend’s wedding. (I’m the one in the blue dress, just right of center, behind the bride) I think it’s moments like this that make my husband doubt that I could possibly be an introvert.

The Value of Silence

keep-calm-and-stay-quietI keep promising to write a post on the value of silence, but it just hasn’t happened, yet. I still want to, as I have a lot to say about the topic (perhaps that’s a bit ironic…), but, in the meantime, please enjoy this lovely article from Psychology Today. It sums up a lot of what I will say, if I ever really get around to writing about it.

“In order for the sounds of life to have meaning, we need to consume our minimum daily requirement of silence.”

~ Galen Guengerich, Ph.D., Psychology Today

For the full article, click here: Getting Your Minimum Daily Requirement of Silence

As an interesting side note, it was really difficult for me to find an image for this post. When you google “silence” or “quiet” most of the images that come up are really quite loud. 

Mass: It Fits in the Schedule!

massWhen I first imagined myself homeschooling, one of the perks was the ability to take my kids to daily Mass. Three years later, that is finally becoming a reality. As with so many other areas where I feel called to grow, I had a list of excuses of why it just couldn’t work. My most prominent excuse was our schedule.

If only Mass were earlier. Or later. Either would be more manageable. How could I possibly go to Mass at 9AM and have any semblance of a reasonable daily schedule? How would we ever get anything done?

While visiting with a friend recently, we were chatting about the unreasonable expectations we place on ourselves in the context of our homeschools. In the course of this conversation, I discovered that one of my unspoken expectations was that we must be done with our school day by lunch time. Why? I don’t really know. Other than for bragging rights. You know, something along the lines of, “Oh look how efficient and productive we are. We finish school by lunch and then have the whole day to play and enjoy childhood.”  Yup. That’s about how my thought process went.

Discovering this was a major revelation for me and, best of all, released me from my scheduling hang up. Granted, it took me a few days to come to terms with this revelation, (Yes, I’m ever so graceful when it comes to change.) but once I did, our whole day opened up! I love our new schedule and the icing on the cake is: so far, we haven’t gone past lunch time with our book work! It is so true that when we make time for God, he allows everything else to fall in to place.

Just in case you’re curious, this is what our day looks like right now. I know my family well enough to know that there are many areas I can’t put tasks in order or schedule them into 15 minute increments. In these instances, I simply schedule blocks of time. The routine in that area may vary some each day, but I allot enough time for us to get it all done. This flexibility is also incredibly useful for the days when we’re not exactly “on schedule.”

6:00AM – Mommy’s alarm goes off. Ideally, I get up and exercise, but, unfortunately, I have a rather strong tendency towards sloth. Some Most days I just hit snooze.

6:30-8:30 AM – Everyone gets ready. We get dressed, I shower, nurse the baby, serve breakfast, etc.

9:00 AM – MASS!! Truly, the highlight of our day. Sometimes, thanks to my not-so-angelic children it’s also the low point. Thanks be to God, even when it’s the low point, it’s still the highlight!

10:30ish – We get home from Mass. It just depends on how long we chat afterwards.

10:30ish-12:00 – Formal lessons and bookwork.

12:00PM – We stop to pray the Angelus and sing the Salve Regina.

12:05 – 1:00PM – Lunch and free time.

1:00-3:00 PM – QUIET TIME! (It’s almost as good as Mass.) The little ones (and cranky ones) nap. Other options are reading, praying, or quietly working on a project that requires no assistance. No group activities allowed. In the future this will also be a great time for studying, test taking, researching, etc. (This concept may seem odd. One day I really will write a post about the value of silence to further explain why I find this so important!)

3:00PM – Those who are awake pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

3:15-5:30PM – Finish lessons (if needed), art or science projects, chores, free time.

5:30ish – Dinner.

6:00-9:00ish. Family time. Baths. Prayers. Goodnight!

9:00-10:30PM Mommy and Daddy time.

10:30PM – Lights out everywhere. Sweet dreams!

Despite having our day planned out, I am certainly not opposed to impromptu water gun fights or trips to the park or visits to/from friends. This flexibility is one of the many things I love about homeschooling and one of the reasons our family chooses to school year round. But that’s a topic for another time…