I am an evangelist for counseling. Are you in a tough season? Get counseling. Is there something you need to talk thorough? Get counseling. Get premarital and postmarital counseling. Get counseling for parenting. Just get counseling. So that’s one habit we have in our house: frequent counseling.
But the habit I want to talk about today is not counseling; it’s something I learned in counseling. During one tough season in my life, when I was struggling to parent a special needs child, I was looking for advice to keep myself calm. I have a short temper, little patience (we do talk about why this is in counseling) and I wanted to better endure my child’s sensory and neurological tantrums. One practical answer from my counselor at the time was to comfort my five senses in a way is unique and meaningful to me.
Look at something beautiful that’s calming to you. If I’m at home, this is the view out my window of the Pacific Northwest evergreens, tall and swaying in the woods behind my house. If I’m out and about, this is pictures of yarn on Instagram—I follow a lot of knitters, yarn shops, and pattern designers, so my feed is rich with texture.
Listen to something calming. Music has always been something important to me, and in this season of parenting young kids, sometimes all I get is “Mommy’s turn” in the car to sign along to music I choose, but it’s something! Last year, I invested in Beats noise-cancelling headphones and I have no regrets, friends. Our house has a balcony upstairs and I can hear my kids open and close their doors and the bathroom doors even at night, and this is how I can get silence to restore me for the next day. If you have an Apple TV, you can even pair it with your headphones so you don’t disturb their sleep, either, when watching TV. I’m a white girl, so right now I’m loving Sara Bareilles’ new album, Sandra McCracken’s “Songs from the Valley,” and Lauren Daigle’s “Look Up Child.”
This is chocolate, obviously. Good, rich, dark chocolate. Today, for me, it’s a mocha at my favorite coffee shop. I only get this once a week at most, usually every two to three weeks. It’s such a treat. I also keep good dark chocolate in the house. I get a rush from green apple Jelly Belly jelly beans, too. I’ve heard of moms hiding M&M’s in the bathroom. You do you, here!
For me, this is knitting. My whole body calms down when I’m touching spendy mohair-and-silk yarn, or quality wool that still has tiny bits of the sheeps’ hay in it—I just love that. I always have a few projects going, some that I can do while in conversation with friends or during lectures, some that require puzzle-like concentration. I try to always keep a project in my purse. Bonus: When the project is done, I get to wear it and get the same comforting texture!
I love to diffuse essential oils in an aromatherapeutic way. There are a lot of recipes out there for “liquid Xanax,” which is what I keep in my calm-down roller bottle, too. Mine has 6 drops of DoTerra’s Serenity, 14 drops of lavender, 8 drops of frankincense, 4 drops of patchouli, and 4 drops of vetiver.
The reason that comforting your senses is a habit is because it takes some preparation to think about what each of these categories might be for you, and it also takes a lot of self-awareness to stop yourself and turn to these instead of to say, slamming a door (cough, cough).
If you want to make sure you always have these five ideas at hand, you could make a kit to take with you. It could include a postcard of a landscape, ear buds, some dark chocolate bites, something small that you can touch, such as balls of felted wool, and a roller bottle of essential oils. I kept this kit in my linen closet during that tough season.
Once you start practicing it, you’ll notice more and more ways to address these needs. I look forward to bed each night, for example, because I have the best sound machine (sound); the perfect weight down comforter for me and linen sheets that feel cool and cozy (touch), I usually have a piece of dark chocolate before bed and brushing teeth (taste); and a sweet diffuser with Serenity pumping through (smell). Oh, and did I mention those majestic green trees and two beautiful, large prints I have of a rocky Pacific Northwest coast (sight)?
If you’re feeling some big feelings, try these five ideas and see how it helps you stop and get clarity before pressing on. Then, press on, friends.