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When You Need Silence and Serenity–But a Sabbatical from Life isn’t Possible

water, Julian Böck

Some days everything just feels so loud. And so intrusive. The random thoughts screaming inside your mind. The tension sitting inside your body. The frustration sticking to your skin like glue. The laundry that needs to be folded. The 80 unanswered emails. The 80 other things that need to be done. When? When?

Especially for us highly sensitive souls, the noise, crowds, lights, do-it-now! thoughts, razor-sharp sensations can be too much. It can make us want to retreat into our dark bedrooms and not leave for a month. Because we simply want (need) to hibernate.

But what do you do when there’s still work to be done? Kids need to be fed. Your big project can’t wait. Neither can those important commitments. Retreating for a month inside that bedroom, or to some fabulous destination simply isn’t an option right now.

And that’s OK.

When I need silence and serenity, while still needing to tend to my to-do list, this is what helps, which might help you, too:

Putting on headphones: This somehow helps to shut out the world both outside and inside my mind. When I’m writing, I use OmmWriter, which is how I composed this post. The repetitive music and light background colors are soothing and clutter-free. They’re the opposite of loud! Big! Now! Overwhelming!

Reading poetry: Poetry (gently) forces us to slow down, moving from the roaring thoughts inside our minds to the poignant words we’re reading. I recently bought Alison Malee’s breathtaking collection of poetry, Shifting Bone, which I’ve been reading every day. (And I don’t say “breathtaking” lightly.) Here’s just one poem, and here’s another.

Turning off everything, including cell phones: This is so obvious. But it’s hard. What if there’s an important text or email we must return right now, right away? There might be. There might not be. Remember when texting, even cell phones, simply didn’t exist? It’s funny to think of it now. But we managed just fine. Maybe even better in some cases.

Technology is wonderful, and so is taking a break. Even an hour without our phones can feel luxurious. Yes, luxurious, the serenity spreading throughout our bodies. Because we’re not constantly wondering, “Did something come in?” We’re not constantly staring at the screen or refreshing our inbox. We’re less scattered. We aren’t scrolling, images and words flashing before our tired eyes.

It also helps to put your phone in a drawer or in another room. Hopefully, out of sight, out of mind.

Writing it out: Jot down what’s frustrating you. List all your complaints. Let yourself whine, and get out your grievances. And do so without judging yourself. Without calling yourself ungrateful or a jerk for complaining. Simply make your list. Let your frustrated feelings spill all over the paper. Maybe you even use this list eventually to reduce or eliminate these irritations.

Appealing to the senses: I’ve talked about this recently, because feeding our senses can be a direct path to whatever we need: nourishment, calm, creativity. What kind of calm can you feed your senses? Maybe you light a lavender candle. Maybe you put on classical music or a guided meditation.

Maybe you get up and sway from side to side. Maybe you sip some green tea or have a bowl of soup. Maybe you put on a warm cardigan. Maybe you look at an image of trees, or head outside to the park. (You can always mix technology with tranquility by keeping a collection of images on your phone that you find calming.)

Think about the different things you can do to calm each of your senses.

Digging deep: I think when we yearn for quiet and calm it’s because we’ve disconnected from ourselves. We’ve become out of tune with our bodies, with our core selves. We feel like we’re floating, and everything becomes a frustration. But really everything isn’t frustrating or scaring or overwhelming us. It’s often one thing. One concern or one theme.

What’s really on your mind? What’s really upsetting you? What’s really triggering this need to retreat? Maybe you feel out of control. Why? Maybe there’s a big decision you’re wrestling with. A certain doubt or fear. A big transition. A big change. Explore it. Write about it. Talk to a friend you trust. Or if you’ve been talking to too many people already, narrow your focus to yourself.

The above is by no means a list of antidotes and cures. I still might clench my fists and grit my teeth. But less so. Slowly, I’m able to access some serenity. Some silence and calm. As always, remember that what works for me might not work for you. Find methods, approaches and options that resonate with you.

What helps you access silence and serenity, particularly when taking a long break isn’t available? What helps you to feel calm?

Photo by Julian Böck.
When You Need Silence and Serenity–But a Sabbatical from Life isn’t Possible

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2016). When You Need Silence and Serenity–But a Sabbatical from Life isn’t Possible. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 23, 2019, from


Last updated: 7 Oct 2016
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